November 9, 2012
By David Lindsey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Both sides called it a generation-defining race for the White House: a choice between Democrat Barack Obama's brand of government activism and Republican Mitt Romney's commitment to reducing Washington's role in Americans' daily lives.
Obama's victory, however, did not settle that question.
Instead, the hard-fought battle for the White House exposed an electorate deeply divided by race, age and party.
Tuesday's elections - in which Republicans kept control of the U.S. House and Obama's Democrats held on to the Senate - suggested that bitter partisanship would likely remain very much alive in Washington in the new year. They also revealed that there was no broad mandate for much beyond the broadly shared goals of improving the economy and reducing government debt.
That means that undertaking bold new initiatives comparable to healthcare reform, financial regulation and economic stimulus programs will be a great deal more complicated for Obama 2012 than they were for Obama 2008.
Even so, Obama - now unfettered by not having to face voters again - is in position to pursue an ambitious agenda that could leave his mark on government for a generation or longer, including a move to revamp the nation's immigration laws.
Some analysts believe Obama is likely to spend much of his second term "locking down the achievements of his first term," including ensuring that "we will have a functioning national healthcare system," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. . .
The Republican Party's harsh stance on immigration has hurt its ability to attract Latinos, according to analysts who say the new generation of Republican contenders will need to tone down the party's harsh rhetoric on immigration or risk certain defeat in several states because of Hispanics siding with Democrats.
"We certainly seem to be at the end of something, and at the beginning of another, when it comes to Republican candidates," SMU's Jillson said. "The Republican Party is untenable in its current form and in serious trouble as a viable governing vehicle (because) the Democratic Party is more attractive to growing constituencies — anyone who feels vulnerable and as if they may need support."
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