Obama wins, Nate Silver wins, Romney and the lawyers lose
Barack Obama defeated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney - but who else won and lost last night?
BARACK OBAMA was re-elected President of the United States last night by a comfortable margin, as his opponent Mitt Romney failed to make any headway in the key swing states that he needed to win to deny the Democrat a second term in the White House.
Who were the big winners and losers on a night of political intrigue?
The President: Although he faced a weak Republican opponent whose campaign was initially characterised by a series of blunders, Barack Obama's achievement in getting re-elected should not be underestimated.
He is the first incumbent to gain re-election with unemployment hovering around the eight per cent mark since Franklin D Roosevelt, and has had to fight against a fiercely partisan Republican House of Representatives that has thrown roadblocks in his way at every opportunity.
With victory under his belt, and no further election to fight, he could now be emboldened to take on more pressing problems for the nation, such as the fast-approaching 'fiscal cliff', when tax increases could send the economy back into recession.
Nate Silver: The New York Times' in-house psephologist couldn't have been better vindicated by the results. His electoral map yesterday predicted state victories that would hand Obama 332 Electoral College votes against 206 for Romney – which is exactly where the final result will stand if the Florida count goes Obama's way today.
On the overall popular vote, Silver predicted 50.8 per cent for Obama against 48.3 per cent for Romney. He could hardly have been closer: with almost all votes counted, the most recent tally shows Obama on 50.3 per cent to Romney on 48.1 per cent.
Silver came in for criticism during the campaign when his computer prediction model refused to back up claims that Mitt Romney was turning the tables on the President, and Republicans questioned the efficacy of his methods. They should be eating humble pie now.
Latinos: The fastest-growing demographic in the US are set to be courted by all sides in future elections after the Democrats understood early on that their votes were essential in this campaign.
By granting temporary legal status to undocumented Latino youth during summer, Obama brought their vote onside massively. Meanwhile Romney continued to refer to undocumented Hispanics as illegals, alienating a core future constituency.
Mitt Romney: Facing an unpopular incumbent who was struggling to recreate the enthusiasm of his first election campaign, the Republicans had a genuine chance to take back the White House.
But the strength of the Tea Party and evangelical factions in the GOP forced Romney to tack right. Had he run as the liberal Republican he was when Governor of Massachusetts - where he introduced the healthcare bill that the president modeled Obamacare on – he might have stood a greater chance with the electorate.
The Tea Party: The hardliners who have taken control of the grassroots of the Republican party suffered two major defeats last night – possibly a third.
In the Senate race, Missouri's Todd Akin lost out to Claire McCaskill after he had claimed during the campaign that there was such a thing as "legitimate rape", while Richard Mourdock's remarks that if a woman was raped and got pregnant it was "something God intended to happen" did for his chances in Indiana.
With Tea Party star Michele Bachmann looking set to lose her seat in the House of Representatives, moderate Republicans will hope that the faction's grip on the party will now loosen.
Donald Trump: The Republican billionaire has waged a dirty war against Barack Obama since he was elected, casting aspersions on his nationality and where he was born.
Trump attempted to spring an 'October Surprise' when he challenged Obama to show his college records and passport details, but his rants inspired derision and mockery. He spent last night tweeting in a state of high dudgeon, saying: "This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!"
The lawyers: As soon as it seemed that there might be a closely run race, teams of lawyers flocked to expected hotspots such as Ohio and Florida, ready to play their part in American democracy.
Unfortunately for them, Obama's uncontestable margins of victory in the swing states meant that the Romney camp had no straws to clutch at and conceded defeat honourably and without recourse to litigation. Even if Florida were to be contested, the result would make no difference. Without the 29 Electoral College votes from the 'Sunshine State', Obama is already a clear winner on 303 versus 206.
Peggy Noonan: The former speechwriter (for Ronald Reagan) and now political analyst wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Monday that she had a gut feeling Romney was going to win the election. "I think he’s stealing in 'like a thief with good tools,' in Walker Percy’s old words... Is it possible this whole thing is playing out before our eyes and we’re not really noticing because we’re too busy looking at data on paper instead of what’s in front of us?" Er, no.