America Votes: Election 2012 First Results

As the sun went down on Election Day in 2012, voting polls began to close on the east coast. Thanks to strong Republican support in the Southeast, Mitt Romney jumped out to a strong lead in the Electoral College tally. After a few hours, and as the Midwest states and states on the Great Plains began to close, Romney continued to lead in states that were expected to go Republican.

Focus on Swing States

Throughout the night, the fate of the election (as has been the case in past presidential elections) turned on the results in some of the swing states that were not easily predicted. Florida was a very, very tight race throughout the night as ballots were counted and vote totals were calculated. As in 2000, the margin of the lead between the Republican and Democratic candidates were, at times, between 1,000 or so voters. During much of the night, the percentage votes for Obama and Romney split almost 50 /50. As the larger counties in southern Florida grew closer to finishing their initial vote counts, the outcome in Florida was still too close to call.

In Virginia, Romney had a strong 54 to 45 percent in the early hours of the night. But as the night grew to a close, President Obama began to narrow that gap as well. In Ohio, Obama began the night with his own 55 to 45 percent lead, but that state as well was too close to make a clear outcome prediction before late in the evening.

House and Senate Races

In Congress, the Republican Party was projected early in the night to maintain its majority in the House of Representatives. In the Senate the Democrats were holding a slight edge of three seats. By 11 pm, some broadcast networks were announcing that the Democrats would hold on to a slight lead in the Senate, in part due to Tim Kaine’s win of a Virginia Senate seat and Democrat Elizabeth Warren capturing another Senate seat in Massachusetts.

Projecting the Winner

As midnight approached on Election Day, President Obama was taking the Electoral College vote lead in important states such as Wisconsin, while holding the race tight in Florida and Ohio. The state of California was expected to count for Obama, based on its history of support for Democrats. Tallying California for the president helped push Obama over the 200 Electoral College vote mark. It began to look increasingly difficult for Romney to find enough remaining state wins to close the gap or capture the necessary number of 270 Electoral College votes.

President Obama captured the states in the North Atlantic, the Midwest and Great Lakes regions, and the West Coast. Mitt Romney won across the south and throughout the Great Plains. In general, this map distribution was very similar to the results in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

Late Night Drama

As 11:30 p.m. approached, the state of Ohio was projected as a win for Barack Obama and that put him over the edge to win re-election. And yet, soon after midnight on Wednesday, the difference in Democratic and Republican popular votes in Ohio was still incredibly slim. Governor Romney was not immediately prepared to concede the election as the margins in Florida and Ohio were so tight. But at 12:55 am on Wednesday, Romney first called President Obama to concede the election and then to speak to his supporters waiting in Boston.

Dig Deeper

Take a closer look at the details of the election results. How did women vote? How did the voting totals break down by race or by education? What do you think was the main theme of this year’s election results?