Despite a weak economy and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign advertisements against him funded by unregulated political action committees, Barack Obama was re-elected President of the US, defeating Mitt Romney by at least 33 electoral and at least two million individual votes. Contrary to commentators’ claims that enthusiasm among Democrats was lacking this time around, and the presence of long lines of voters and inefficient election practices in several states, the turnout of pro-Obama supporters was enough to carry his election. No standing President has ever been re-elected with such a soft economy and high unemployment - so how did Obama make it happen?

Non-whites, Hispanics and young people: America’s decreasing numbers of white voters made a big difference. Romney’s immigration proposals called for stricter law enforcement and the “self-deportation” of unlawful aliens, which number about 12 million people in the US. Meanwhile, Obama supported the Dream Act, which gave the children of illegal aliens a path to citizenship, and issued a presidential proclamation to support them. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama as did more than 93 percent of African-American voters and 73 percent of Asians. As the makeup of American demographics continues to change - Hispanics are its fastest-growing minority group - Republicans will have to figure out how to appeal to them. A Republican strategist born in Nicaragua, Anna Navarro, said on CNN: “If we don’t do better with Hispanics, we will be out of the White House forever.” In addition, Obama received 60 percent of the votes of those aged 18-29 and 52 percent in the 30-44 age group.

Winning despite a bad economy: Nevertheless, this was a very close election because the most important issue for voters was the state of the economy, with unemployment still high at 7.8 percent and the value of homes still depressed. In the crucial swing states, Florida (at the time of this writing) was virtually tied and too close to predict; Indiana and North Carolina switched this year to Republican compared to the 2008 election; and Obama’s lead in the crucial swing state of Ohio was just less than 2 percentage points. Perhaps, a somewhat more moderate Republican candidate could have beaten Obama this year, who was certainly vulnerable after a slow recovery from the severe recession of 2009 (blamed on Bush) and subjected to criticisms of his expensive stimulus package that bailed out banks and financial services companies whose executives continued in recent years to receive multi-million-dollar incentives and bonuses.

Sixty percent of those who voted for Romney thought the economy was “not so good or poor”, according to exit polls. However, surprisingly, according tot polls published in the New York Times, 90 percent of Obama voters thought the economy was “excellent or good,” a far greater percentage. The Romney campaign focused almost exclusively on the state of the economy, plus an anti-government stance - all other issues were practically ignored on his website - but those issues alone were not quite enough to turn the election.

In addition, Obama’s well-known tax plan to raise taxes on Americans making over $250,000 also seemed to drive votes along socio-economic lines. Sixty-nine percent of those with an income under $30,000 preferred Obama as well as 57 percent of those in the $30,000-50,000 per year group; those making more tended to vote for Romney.

The closeness of this election is revealed in the results for the House of Representatives, all of whose seats were up for election. Republicans maintained their advantage of about 45 seats. One-third of the seats in the Senate were up for election this year, and Democrats appeared to add just one and now have a still-narrow two-vote advantage. Thus, Obama faces the same divided Congress he had to deal with during the past two years and a Republican Party that opposed him on all major issues; in fact, not one Republican voted for his Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare). So, do not expect major legislative accomplishments to come out of the next US Congress.

The Republican paradox: During Obama’s last inauguration in 2008, a group of key congressional Republicans met and vowed to work over the next four years for his defeat in 2012. In view of this latest defeat, one wonders how they will respond, to what extent they will concentrate on gearing up to take the White House in 2016 and what lessons they will learn to bring their party to power after what will be an eight-year hiatus. Given the party’s inability to win an election in the tough economic climate of the last four years, even when its candidate was viewed as better able to deal with economic issues, it’s logical to assume that Republican dogma will become a touch more moderate next time.

However, the paradox is that it seems remote that Republican presidential candidates will modify their anti-abortion rights stand and still be able win the votes of their highly conservative base that dominates primary elections. And, with the changing nature of American demographics, the Republican path to the White House will be even more difficult. How do they penetrate the Democratic strengths in the northeastern states and California?

The writer is a journalist based in İstanbul. This article has been reproduced from the Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, with which TheNation has a content-sharing agreement.