11/13/2012 06:24 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2013

Margins of Error: Election Winners, Losers and "To Be Determined"


Let's start with obvious: Obama. He took on all the negatives -- persisting unemployment, birtherism, Super PACs, the Limbaugh hard-right, Trump, Rick Santelli and CNBC, the Catholic hierarchy, Fox News, the US Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, Bibi, -- and beat them all, with a coalition that held. He won the popular vote by two million along with a clear and decisive electoral vote margin. He may get a once-in-a-100-years chance to remake the Supreme Court majority in his own constitutional image. Still, it was a narrow win for an incumbent historically, and the Republicans again won decisively in the House of Representatives, reflecting both more of rural America and redistricting triumphs at the state level (Democrats will have to focus on how they have failed to run their coalition to profit in the state houses). So no decisive mandate for Obama or the House Republicans, except that the country obviously wants them BOTH to give enough ground to work a deal on the fiscal cliff and the long-term budget.

Next comes John Boehner, Speaker of the House. He's now the functional head of the Republican Party and the second most powerful person in Washington. He may make Obama's second term more like West Wing reruns that we might have thought -- but will he be willing to play Let's Make a Deal? More precisely, does he have the "flexibility" or the self-confidence to deal that Obama has?

The Clintons

They both had Obama's back; now he will have theirs. This will hold true for Hillary first of all -- she will get the time and support she needs to clear her record on Benghazi before leaving the State Department. After that, she gets an open track to the 2016 presidential nomination; or just as a wild thought, if she doesn't really want to go there, maybe a Supreme Court vacancy -- Obama shows no fear of appointing a third woman, especially when Justice Ginsburg retires, and that would be a career resume for her that would rival Bill's: First Lady, Senator from New York, Secretary of State, and Supreme Court Justice. As for Bill, Obama owes him big time for making his convention work far better than the Republicans', and for helping big time in Florida in the final push. Maybe he'll get a new broker's role in the Mideast, or on the fiscal cliff if it goes to extremes.


By and large, excepting only those that were obvious shill polls for the respective parties, they called the election quite rightly.

Social media technology was the driving force behind the superb GOTV campaigns of both parties, but Team Obama had a head start knowledge-wise, and they used it to their great advantage and changed campaigning strategy and closing tactics forever.

Joe Biden

"Stand by Your Man" works both ways -- he was smart enough to handle Paul Ryan, which was unexpected, and he helped make Pennsylvania a fantasy for the Romney campaign. But this does not make him a frontrunner for 2016: That's his fantasy.


They called the tune of the outcome again. They won four or five new Senate seats and a governorship. And Amy Klobuchar is a rising star: If Mrs. Clinton is not the presidential nominee, the Minnesota senator could well be the VP choice.

Planned Parenthood

It will survive. So will Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley and PBS (as well as most of the Bush tax cuts).

Marco Rubio

He, not Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush, will emerge as the frontrunner for the 2016 nominationz; Ryan, because he ran and lost (although he remains the main budget power in the House); Bush, because he never gave his views a shot and may have missed his time -- he may become the Bill Bradley of the Republicans -- the best candidate who never made it.


Let's not start with the obvious: Romney is not the biggest loser. He did what he could do to win given the constraints of his party's fare, and came pretty close until the hurricane shifted focus at a critical time. His concession was gracious; he stood alone for the finish, and Obama would be smart to use his talent in an area they agree on.

Prime Minister Netanyahu

He tried to bully the president in the middle of an election campaign, and Obama backed him off. He'll continue to govern Israel, but he'll no longer be a threat to govern America.

Rush Limbaugh, Dick Morris, and Karl Rove

Limbaugh is becoming a spent force. Even Fox News may stop putting that buffoon Morris on the air as a serious pundit. And when a numbers guy like Rove gets the numbers wrong, he has nothing left.

The Tea Party

They're still big in the House, but they have cost the GOP four Senate seats at least, which may be the difference between majority and minority status.

Fox News, MSNBC and their main-line commentators

Right and Left: The bet here is that hyper-partisan "news" networks have peaked out in viewership and are wearing thin with the public -- just like "Point-Counterpoint" did years ago. CNBC should watch its ultra-partisan step too. Despite the annoying Wolf Blitzer ("this just in -- breaking news -- the sun came up this morning, we have a confirmed official scientific source who spoke exclusively to our reporter" ), CNN did a fair and balanced job on the campaign along with the old networks ABC, CBS and NBC. And their polling was spot-on.

Donald Trump, Jack Welch, Rick Santelli, Ken Langone, the editorial writers of The Wall Street Journal, the Koch Brothers and angry rich white guys in general. And their homecoming queen, Michele Bachmann, even though she won reelection by a hair. And, oh yes, Peggy Noonan, who got it wrong ("It's Romney").

Mitch McConnell

He didn't make Obama a one-term president, as was his stated objective, and now he'll probably not get another term himself as Minority Leader in the Senate!

The Catholic Hierarchy

They bet on the wrong horse. Obama even won the Catholic vote (again).


Chris Christie

He may get blamed by some Republicans for Romney's defeat, but the guess here is that he saw which way the wind was blowing, in more ways than one, and positioned himself to win reelection and a shot at 2016 as a genuinely bipartisan Republican who can have a beer with gays, Hispanics and even Muslims, not to mention East Coast women. And Obama even patched things up between him and The Boss!

Jon Huntsman

He did not cave to the Republican hard right, and never had a chance at this year's nomination. Maybe he becomes more relevant in 2016 -- but he probably should have stayed in China and waited till 2014 to come home to run.

Paul Ryan

He lost, but he was effectively muzzled. He'll have his days in the sun via his House position, but he didn't deliver Wisconsin, and he may have helped lose Florida, a state Republicans must learn how to win consistently. (Demographics are tending to give the Democrats three of the four largest electoral states, and even Texas could turn in the next couple decades.)

American Business

A chance to reach out to both parties to promote genuine compromise on the fiscal cliff, and then get genuinely helpful tax reform.