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Election results 2012: Does Obama's historic victory give him a mandate? (+video)

An outcome that maintains the status quo in Washington guarantees Obama some important advantages. But the 2012 election results also foretell more gridlock, and the president, by not offering a path out of debt and deficit, lacks a clear mandate for action.

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But by maintaining the status quo, Obama is guaranteed some significant advantages. The Republican pledge to repeal, or at least scale back, the signature legislative accomplishment of his first term – health-care reform – has now been defanged. The implementation of “Obamacare” in 2014 will continue. And in the likely event of at least one and possibly two or three vacancies on the US Supreme Court during the next four years, the president’s chances are solid of gaining confirmation of a nominee so long as the potential justice is not deemed too far to the left.

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Obama may also gain some political breathing room as a demoralized Republican Party looks inward. Romney’s massive deficit among Latino voters – the nation’s largest minority group – is likely to force a rethinking of how Republicans discuss the immigration issue, and could even pave the way for a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. Obama had failed to deliver on the promise of reform in his first term, to the disappointment of Latino supporters. But Romney still scored a dismal 29 percent among Latinos, according to exit polls.

Republicans also suffered from a gender gap that has dogged their presidential nominees in every election since 1980. Some Republicans’ harsh rhetoric toward women – particularly, on the issue of rape – damaged the party’s image and cost them seats in the House (Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois) and Senate (Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana).

Democrats also fielded a strong slate of female Senate candidates. Elizabeth Warren defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts to take back the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D). Tammy Baldwin won the open Senate seat in Wisconsin. Democratic women also won in Hawaii, New York, Missouri, California, Michigan, and Minnesota.

In solidly Republican North Dakota, a strong campaign by Democrat Heidi Heitkamp put her slightly ahead of Republican Rick Berg, though the race was too close to call by Wednesday morning. But even without Ms. Heitkamp, the next Congress will have at least 19 women senators, the most in history.

Even before the results were in Tuesday, Republicans spoke of the challenges ahead for their party.

“Win, lose, or draw, there will be a big fight for the heart and soul of the party,” said Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and a two-time contender for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

“We face big demographic challenges,” he added. “We can’t be the party of old white men.” 

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