It was, to a degree, a caricature, but Romney did himself no favors during the presidential campaign by repeatedly showing insensitivity toward those in other income brackets.
From the Republican primary race through the closing months of the general election, he often found himself explaining an impolitic remark.
The most damaging, perhaps, was caught on videotape at a private fund-raiser in May, when Romney asserted that nearly half of Americans saw themselves as “victims” and refused to take responsibility for their own lives.
The self-inflicted damage eroded the advantage Romney hoped to have against a president who had never worked in business. It became more difficult for Romney to argue that his long business career gave him insight into how the economy works, how to create jobs, and how to put the United States on the move again.
“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction,” Romney said through a forced smile in his concession speech. “But the nation chose another leader.”
There were other factors that didn’t fit neatly on a spreadsheet. The president remained well-liked by voters — much more so than Romney. He proved with Tuesday’s election that he had retained their trust, respect, and admiration, and that they were willing to give him four more years to fulfill the hopes and changes he outlined in 2008.
Next up for Obama is proving to those voters that he can achieve results. That remains an exceedingly difficult task in a deeply divided capital, with Republicans retaining control of the House on Tuesday and Democrats staying in charge in the Senate. Latinos who voted for Obama in large numbers Tuesday will demand that he seriously pursue immigration reform. Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects in New York and New Jersey have renewed calls to address climate change.
Most immediately, the president and Congress will have to deal with the looming “fiscal cliff’’ — a set of automatic budget cuts that were put in place by Washington leaders to extract themselves from the 2011 debt-ceiling standoff, combined with the expiration of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.
Economists warn that the nation will slide into another recession if the president and Congress do not come up with a plan to avoid the sudden shock to the economy that would result.
How these fiscal talks proceed will depend on how much political capital Obama is perceived to have gained in the election. He was narrowly winning the popular vote as the ballots were tallied into Wednesday. If Republicans see political danger in continuing to dig in their heels, will they be more willing to negotiate a tax overhaul that includes higher taxes for the wealthy?
Obama pounded Romney during the campaign for proposing a tax plan that did not add up. But Obama himself has avoided specifics that might prove politically inconvenient. He has issued broad statements about the need for responsible deficit reduction, but he has not said how he would reduce the expanding costs of Medicare and Social Security.
Last month as he fought off Romney’s surge in the polls, the president issued a 20-page blueprint for a second term — which he called a “New American Patriotism.’’ It is mostly a repackaged list of initiatives that never gained traction in Congress, combined with some of the broad goals he issued in his speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The section on protecting retirement programs for the elderly makes no mention of how to control costs.
Chris Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeRowland. Scott Helman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @swhelman.