Regardless of the outcome, the elections of 2012 will likely be remembered as the most expensive in U.S. history.
The non-partisan research organization opensecrets.org estimates the total cost of the elections could exceed $6 billion. Despite grumbling among the electorate, watchdogs -- and in some cases even the candidates themselves – anonymous, well-heeled donors pumped huge sums of money into this year's federal contests.
To be fair, both major parties raised considerable funds from small donors as well. But donations of $20 -- or even $50 – were dwarfed by those of multibillionaires like Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson - the top Super PAC donor - who reportedly contributed more than $53 million to Republican Super PACs this year.
In the end though, not much has changed in Washington and Adelson’s return on investment appears to be questionable at best. Andrew Batt explains.
More than 115 million Americans cast their ballots in the 2012 election this week, setting the stage for some familiar faces in Washington. President Barack Obama was swiftly reelected with wins in battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and eventually Florida – key states that Republican challenger Mitt Romney hoped to place into his column but he ultimately fell far short of a competitive race. The former Massachusetts Governor’s concession was brief and gracious.
Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney: “I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to renewed greatness. Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign. I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader. And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”
Demonstrating the modern-day power of incumbency, Barack Obama became the third consecutive President to earn a 2nd term, the first time that feat has been accomplished in nearly 200 years.
President Barack Obama: “Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”
President Barack Obama: “You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”
The President, fresh off a 332 electoral vote victory, returns to Washington with a Republican-controlled house but a Speaker willing to publicly extend an olive branch.
John Boehner: “Mr. President, this is your moment. We're ready to be led, not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead. Not as a liberal or conservative but as President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let's challenge ourselves to find the common ground that has eluded us. Let's rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”
Despite the House remaining under Republican control, Democrats avoided a potential sea change in the U.S. Senate. Bolstered by a string of upsets including incumbents, many blue Democrats won in deep-red rural states. In Montana, a race once believed to be razor-thin between incumbent Jon Tester and Republican challenger Denny Rehberg, Tester won by nearly four percentage points. Sen. Claire McCaskill won her race in Missouri by more that 15 percent. After Senate wins in Indiana and North Dakota and the help of two left-leaning Independents, Democrats maintain a 55-45 majority in the U.S. Senate.
A lineup of various ballot measures also ricocheted across the political landscape this week. In Colorado, a measure to decriminalize marijuana at the state level passed.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado: “It is unlikely that the federal government is going to allow states one-by-one to, to unilaterally decriminalize marijuana. But, I have not heard that from Eric Holder. We'll have to see what his opinion is on that. I didn't support the initiative. But, you can't argue with the will of the voters. We are here in a democracy and the sentiment was pretty clear. So, I am certainly going to lobby to say how can we accommodate this. So, in terms of the state we're going to. It's decriminalized. We will not be prosecuting people on a state law basis. But, again, that's the issue is the federal law.”
In California, voters were asked whether or not to label foods that have been “genetically modified.” Prop 37 would have made California the first state in the nation to require labels on some fresh produce and processed foods, such as corn, soybeans and beet sugar, if their DNA has been altered by scientists. Dupont, parent company of Dupont-Pioneer, an underwriter of Market to Market, joined fellow agriculture giant Monsanto alongside a litany of farm groups and local chambers of commerce to heavily oppose the measure with TV advertising.
More than $46 million in campaign contributions were used to oppose the measure. Nevertheless, Prop 37 was defeated 53 to 46 percent on Election Day.
With Campaign 2012 in the rearview mirror, Washington lawmakers have begun public and private deal making on the impending fiscal cliff set to detonate of domestic and military spending at year’s end if a deal is not reached.
John Boehner: “I outlined a responsible path forward where we can replace the spending cuts and extend the current rates, paving the way for entitlement reform, as well as tax reform, with lower rates. Now, 2013 should be the year we begin to solve our debt through tax reform and entitlement reform, and I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us.”
President Obama: “I want to be clear, I'm not wedded to every detail of my plan. I'm open to compromise. I'm open to new ideas. I'm committed to solving our fiscal challenges, but I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced. 'm not gonna ask students and seniors and middle class families to pay down the entire deficit, while people like me making over $250,000 aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes.”