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United States elections, 2012

2012 United States elections
Presidential election year
Election day November 6
Presidential election
Electoral vote
Barack Obama (D) 332
Mitt Romney (R) 206
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states/districts won by Democrat Barack Obama, and Red denotes those won by Republican Mitt Romney. Numbers indicate electoral votes allotted to the winner of each state.
Senate elections
Seats contested 33 seats of Class I
Net change Democrats +2 (Democrats retain control)
2012 Senate election results map
2012 Senate election results map
House elections
Seats contested All 435 seats
Net change Democrats +8 (Republicans retain control)
2012 House election results map
2012 House election results map
Gubernatorial elections
Seats contested 12
(including a recall election in Wisconsin)
Net change Republican +1
2012 Gubernatorial election results map
2012 Gubernatorial election results map
  Democratic hold
  Democratic pickup
  Republican pickup
  Recall Against Republican
(Republican Hold)
  Republican hold
  Independent hold
  Independent pickup

Elections were held in the United States throughout 2012. These included many federal elections on Election Day, November 6, 2012, most prominently the 57th presidential election, Senate elections (where 33 seats were decided), and House of Representatives elections (to elect all 435 members of the House for the 113th United States Congress). It also featured 13 state and territorial governors' races; state and territorial legislature races, special elections, and various other state, territorial, and local races and referenda on votes held in November as well as throughout the year.

Little overall change occurred on the Federal level. Incumbent President Barack Obama was elected to a second term, with the national popular vote percentage being 51.1% to 47.2%, and the Electoral College vote being 332 to 206, for Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, respectively. The Democratic Party held control of the Senate and the Republican Party maintained a majority in the House of Representatives. Republicans also held on to a majority of governorships.

The election resulted in New Hampshire being the first state with an entirely female congressional delegation and with Wisconsin electing the first openly LGBT member of the Senate. Three state referenda passed legalizing same-sex marriage, while Minnesota became the first state in history to reject a proposed state-level constitutional ban of same sex marriage. Two states approved and one rejected the legalization of recreational marijuana, and one more state voted to approve allowing marijuana for medical use. A referendum was also held in Puerto Rico regarding the future political status of the U.S. unincorporated territory, with voters agreeing towards acquiring statehood.

The 2012 election cycle was the first to be impacted by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.[1] The projected cost of the 2012 federal election races is estimated to be over 5.8 billion dollars,[2] with approximately $1 billion of that coming from "outside" groups (groups not directly controlled by the candidate's campaign or officially controlled by the party).[3] During the elections there was much spending by the lobbies, particularly the fossil fuels lobby.[4] This election season became the most expensive in American history.[5]


  • Issues 1
    • Unresolved issues from 2008 and 2010 1.1
    • Wisconsin collective bargaining dispute 1.2
    • Rape and pregnancy controversies and the "War on Women" 1.3
    • September Benghazi attack 1.4
  • Federal elections 2
    • Presidential election 2.1
    • Congressional elections 2.2
      • House of Representatives elections 2.2.1
      • Senate elections 2.2.2
  • State/territorial elections 3
    • Gubernatorial elections 3.1
    • Other state-wide officer elections 3.2
    • State/territorial legislative elections 3.3
    • Puerto Rican status referendum 3.4
    • State/territory initiatives and referenda 3.5
  • Local elections 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Despite various issues during this election cycle, ultimately little overall change occurred on both the Federal and the gubernatorial level.

Unresolved issues from 2008 and 2010

Many of the major issues of the 2012 election were the same as in both 2008 and 2010.[6] Candidates and voters in 2012 were again focused on national economic conditions and jobs, record federal deficits, health care and the effects of the controversial Affordable Care Act, national security and terrorism, education, and energy.[6][7][8]

Immigration reform and the controversial Arizona Senate Bill 1070, passed by the state in 2010 to enhance the power of Arizona's law enforcement agencies to investigate the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrants, also remained important issues.[6] On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court delivered its decision in Arizona v. United States, striking down three of the four provisions of Arizona's law.

Wisconsin collective bargaining dispute

In 2011, there were a series of demonstrations in Wisconsin, involving at its zenith as many as 100,000 protestors[9] opposing the 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, also called the "Wisconsin budget repair bill." The legislation, passed by the Wisconsin Legislature on June 29, 2011, primarily impacted the following areas: collective bargaining, compensation, retirement, health insurance, and sick leave of the state's public sector employees.

These protests became a major driving force of multiple recall elections, including state senators in 2011 and 2012, Governor Scott Walker in 2012 and a contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court election in 2011.

Rape and pregnancy controversies and the "War on Women"

Starting in August 2012, a series of controversies occurred involving comments made by a number of socially conservative Republican candidates regarding issues regarding rape, pregnancy, and abortion, bringing these issues to the forefront. The first most notable was Republican House Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, who was the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat. He stated that pregnancy from rape rarely occurs as a result of what he referred to as "legitimate rape." Akin's comments had a far-reaching political impact, changing a focus of campaigns across the country onto the so-called "War on Women."[10][11] Another widely covered comment was that of Indiana State Treasurer and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said that pregnancy from rape was "something that God intended". A number of observers later identified Mourdock's and Akin's comments as a principal factor in their respective election losses.[12] The comments are also credited for having a larger national effect.[13]

September Benghazi attack

The major foreign policy controversy during the final weeks of the campaign was the September attack on the American diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya by a heavily armed group. Four people were killed, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and ten others were injured. This was initially blamed on a series of protests and violent attacks began in response to a YouTube trailer for the controversial film Innocence of Muslims, considered blasphemous by many Muslims. According to critics, the consulate site should have been secured better both before and after the attack. Republicans further criticized the Obama administration's response to the attacks, ranging from accusations that they incorrectly attributed the role of anger over the film instead of suspecting it more as a coordinated attack by a terrorist group like al-Qaeda; to complaints with delays in the administration's investigation.

Federal elections

Presidential election

Incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama won enough electoral votes, 332 to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's 206, to secure his second term during this election. This was the first presidential election since the 2010 Census, which changed the Electoral College vote apportionment.[14]

With the advantage of incumbency, Obama faced no major challengers in the Democratic Party primaries. Several candidates competed in the Republican Party primaries; by late April, Romney, a former Governor of Massachusetts, was declared the presumptive Republican nominee.[15] Among the third party candidates, former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson was the Libertarian Party nominee, Jill Stein was the Green Party nominee, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 5th congressional district Virgil Goode was the Constitution Party nominee, and former Mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson was the Justice Party nominee.

Congressional elections

House of Representatives elections

This was the first congressional election using the congressional districts that were apportioned based on the 2010 Census. Elections were held for all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Elections were also held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and five major U.S. territories. Although House Democrats won a plurality of the popular vote (48.8% vs 47.6%), House Republicans were still able to retain a 234 to 201 seat majority.

A special election in Oregon's 1st congressional district was held on January 31 to determine a replacement for David Wu, who resigned in August 2011. Another special election in Arizona's 8th congressional district was held on June 12 to elect the replacement of Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned in January 2012. The winners of these two special elections (Suzanne Bonamici from Oregon, Ron Barber from Arizona) both ran in attempts to keep their seats.

As a matter of convenience and cost saving, the special election in New Jersey's 10th congressional district and the special election in Michigan's 11th congressional district were held in conjunction with the regularly-scheduled general election on November 6, 2012. New Jersey congressman Donald M. Payne died in March 2012 while Michigan's Thaddeus McCotter resigned in July 2012. In both districts, voters were asked on the November ballot to select two candidates: one to serve the remainder of Payne or McCotter's term, respectively, and the other to serve their respective district's full 2-year term beginning in January 2013.

Senate elections

The 33 seats of Class I of the United States Senate were up for election. Democrats were expected to have 23 seats up for election, including 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats, while Republicans were only expected to have 10 seats up for election. The Democrats ended up retaining majority control of the Senate, picking up two net seats. One of the Democratic winners was Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, who will become the first openly LGBT member of the US Senate.[16]

State/territorial elections

Gubernatorial elections

Eleven of the fifty state governorships were up for election. In addition, Scott Walker of Wisconsin survived a recall election on June 5. Only one state governorship changed hands: In North Carolina, Republican Pat McCrory was elected to replace the retiring Democratic Governor Bev Perdue.

The territorial governorships of American Samoa and Puerto Rico were also up for election.

Other state-wide officer elections

In many states where if the following positions are elective offices, voters will cast votes for candidates for the state executive branch offices of Lieutenant Governor (though some will be voted for on the same ticket as the gubernatorial nominee), Secretary of state, state Treasurer, state Auditor, state Attorney General, state Superintendent of Education, Commissioners of Insurance, Agriculture, or Labor, etc., and state judicial branch offices (seats on state Supreme Courts and, in some states, state appellate courts).

State/territorial legislative elections

Many states across the nation held elections for their state legislatures. Ten chambers shifted party control, with seven turning Democratic while three(not including the de facto only control in the WA senate)turned Republican. Republicans had gained many chambers in the 2010 mid-term elections, and this was seen as a modest rebalancing.[17]

Chambers gained by Democrats:

Chambers gained by Republicans:

The Colorado House, Maine Legislature, Minnesota Legislature and New Hampshire House had all flipped to Republican rule in 2010 elections, only to flip back to Democratic control in 2012. The Oregon House regained the democratic majority that it had lost in 2010 elections, which produced a 30-30 party split.

The transition in the Wisconsin Senate was notable since it undid a brief period of Democratic control following contentious recall efforts in 2011 and earlier in 2012. The Arkansas chambers had been under Democratic control since the end of the Reconstruction Era.

Puerto Rican status referendum

A referendum regarding the U.S. unincorporated territory—a majority (54%), rejected the status quo. The second question asked whether they prefer statehood, independence or free association—a majority (61% of votes cast) supported statehood for Puerto Rico.[18]

However, one-third of all votes cast left the second question blank. Governor-elect Alejandro García Padilla, who had been critical of the process, then sent a message to President Obama, asking him to reject the results because of their ambiguity.[19] On November 8, 2012, Washington, D.C. newspaper The Hill published an article saying that Congress will also likely ignore the results of the referendum due to the circumstances behind the votes.[20]

State/territory initiatives and referenda

Vote for same-sex marriage initiative by counties in Maryland, Maine, and Washington:
Vote for same-sex marriage ban by counties in Minnesota:
  70% – 80%
  60% – 70%
  50% – 60%
Vote against same-sex marriage initiative by counties in Maryland, Maine, and Washington:
Vote against same-sex marriage ban by counties in Minnesota:
  60% – 70%
  50% – 60%

Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same sex marriage by popular vote, the first time any states have done so, bringing the number of states that allow same sex marriage from 6 to 9 states. In Minnesota, a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage was defeated, the first time such an amendment has not passed.

A measure in Massachusetts resulted in that state becoming the 18th US state to allow medical cannabis. By ballot measure, voters in both Colorado and Washington chose to legalize cannabis outright, the first states to do so,[21] whereas voters in Oregon chose to reject it.[22]

Local elections

Nationwide, cities, counties, school boards, special districts and others held elections in 2012.

Some of the major American cities that held mayoral elections in 2012 included:


  1. ^ DAVE GRAM, AP (November 7, 2012). "Despite Citizens United decision, Vt. officials say money and TV don't win political campaigns". The Republic (Columbus Indiana). Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Money Behind the Elections". OpenSecrets. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ MICHAEL KIRKLAND (Nov 11, 2012). "Karl Rove, using post-Citizens United funds, comes up a cropper".  
  4. ^ Fossil Fuel Industry Ads Dominate TV Campaign September 13, 2012
  5. ^ "Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors". The New York Times. November 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "For Voters, It's Still the Economy: Energy, Terrorism, Immigration Less Important than in 2008". Pew Research Center. September 24, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Why it matters: Issues at stake in election". Associated Press. The Durango Herald. October 19, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Economy is Top Issue Among Latino Voters". Fox News Latino. September 18, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Most Popular E-mail Newsletter". USA Today. 2011-02-27. 
  10. ^ Robinson, Eugene (August 20, 2012). "Todd Akin’s comment brings ‘war on women’ back to prominence". The Washington Post. 
  11. ^ SCHULTHEIS, EMILY. "Rape comments bring down Mourdock, Akin". Politico. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Black, Jeff. "Rape remarks sink two Republican Senate hopefuls". NBC News. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "President Obama's reelection: 12 takeaways". Politico. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "Table 1. APPORTIONMENT POPULATION AND NUMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES, BY STATE: 2010 CENSUS". December 21, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  15. ^ "'"RNC officially names Mitt Romney the party's 'presumptive nominee. Los Angeles Times. April 24, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Election 2012 results Liveblog: In Senate, Democrats ward off challenges". April 23, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  17. ^ John Celock (November 7, 2012). "State Legislative Elections: Democrats Gain Control Of Eight Chambers". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (September 28, 2012). "Puerto Rico’s voters endorse seeking US statehood but ballot results raise questions". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  19. ^  
  20. ^ Kasperowicz, Pete (November 8, 2012). "Congress expected to ignore Puerto Rico's vote for statehood".  
  21. ^ "Gay marriage, marijuana backed in historic votes". Businessweek. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  22. ^ "All Results Statewide". Oregon Secretary of State, Elections Division. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 

Further reading

  • Barone, Michael, et al., The Almanac of American Politics 2014 (2013), detailed coverage of every election for Congress and governor excerpt
  • Nelson, Michael, ed. The Elections of 2012 (2013) excerpt and text search; topical essays by experts

External links

  • - United States Elections, 2012
  • United States elections, 2012 at DMOZ
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