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The votes are still being tallied, but Barack Obama won a second term tonight in convincing fashion, sweeping most of the battleground states to defeat Mitt Romney. Bloomberg News called the race at 11:14 p.m. EST.
There were other winners: Senate Democrats, who defended a tough slate of incumbents to hold onto their majority and may actually expand it. Independent and Democratic pollsters who forecast this outcome; the mainstream media, which did a laudable job of reporting on the issues that would decide the race, often in the face of hysterical criticism; and don’t forget Nate Silver.
There were also losers, aside from Romney. Republicans who said strange and inappropriate things about rape: Todd Akin in Missouri, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Tom Smith in Pennsylvania. Other losers: Many mainstream Republican pollsters, who confidently forecast a Romney win. The biggest of all may be the flat-earth unskew-the-polls contingent who’d been thundering for weeks that independent polls showing a narrow Obama lead were malicious fabrications designed to obscure an approaching Romney landslide.
The implications of these twin victories—Obama’s and the Democratic Senate majority’s—are huge. Obama’s first-term accomplishments are now cemented. Obamacare endures; 30 million more Americans will have health insurance by 2014. Wall Street reforms will endure, too. Also, newly elected Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts will likely wind up with a seat on the Banking Committee to see that they’re executed in a manner liberals desire. (Another HUGE loser tonight: whoever made the decision to filibuster Warren’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—absent that decision, Warren would never have run for the Senate.)
For Republicans, the implications of tonight’s results are serious and dire. The party will probably launch a civil war over the future direction of the party and who leads it. Republicans will have to confront the demographic reality that they are a white, Southern party badly out of step with a changing U.S. population. That will be difficult and probably messy. One silver lining, though, is that tonight’s verdict is clear enough that the process should be slightly easier than it might have been. If Republicans hope to reclaim the White House and the Senate, they really have no choice.