That vision thing
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Much of the coverage has focused on the strength of Barack Obama's coalition — minorities, women and young voters. But that analysis misses the real point. The contours of the 2012 presidential race were shaped less by the country's changing demographics than by the underlying attitudes and values of American voters, who are always far more complex than they appear to pollsters.
The president's victory was a triumph of vision, not of demographics. He won because he articulated a set of values that define an America the majority of us wish to live in: A nation that makes the investments we need to strengthen and grow the middle class. A nation with a fair tax system, and affordable and excellent education for all its citizens. A nation that believes that we're most prosperous when we recognise that we are all in it together.
From the 2012 campaign's earliest days, analysts focused on historic, economic and political metrics to explain the steep uphill climb Obama faced in his re-election bid: no sitting president had been re-elected with unemployment higher than 7.2 per cent, or the "right track" rating for the country as low as it was.
Such conventional indicators failed to capture the mindset of the American people, who always had a broader view of the nation's economic situation and what had happened to their lives. A national survey of 800 voters conducted by our firm — not for the Obama campaign — during the final weekend before Tuesday's vote, confirmed that a clear majority of Americans viewed this election in the context of the scale of the economic crisis we faced and the deep recession that ensued.
Two key data points illustrate why Americans were always far more open to President Obama's message and accomplishments than commentators assumed. By a three to one margin voters said that what the country faced since 2008 was an "extraordinary crisis more severe than we've seen in decades" as opposed to "a typical recession that the country has every several years." At the same time, a clear majority, believed that the problems we faced after the crisis were "too severe for anyone to fix in a single term," while only 4 in 10 voters believed another president would have been able to do more than Obama to get the economy moving.
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