The 2012 Presidential Election
OBAMA RE-ELECTED: President Obama was re-elected on November 6th, getting 332 electoral votes to 206 for Mitt Romney and a 51 percent to 48 percent victory in the popular vote. Additionally, the Democrats added two seats to their Senate majority and will have 55 seats to 45 for the Republicans in the next Congress. The Dems also gained 11 seats in the House, but the GOP held on the majority. In other notable results, Maine, Maryland and Washington state all voted to allow gay marriage, and Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
Romney gave a brief, gracious concession speech, saying he prays the president will be successful in facing the nation's challenges and calling for the two parties to work together. ["I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations. I wish all of them well, but particularly the President, the first lady, and their daughters. This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the President will be successful in guiding our nation."]
The president delivered his victory speech before cheering supporters in Chicago, where he thanked all Americans for voting, graciously spoke about Romney and his family's commitment to public service, and said he's more determined than ever to move forward with the work that needs to be done. ["I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead. Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours."]
'47 Percent' Video: Mitt Romney's campaign took a big blow in September when video surfaced that had been secretly taped at a private fundraiser, where he told big-money donors, that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes will vote for President Obama because they are "dependent upon government" and "believe that they are victims." He also said that 47 percent believe that "they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
Akin/Mourdock Sunk Over Rape Comments: Republican nominees Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock were expected to win their U.S. Senate races in Missouri and Indiana, respectively, relatively handily. But both sunk their candidacies with comments they made about rape. Akin, while speaking about his stance against abortion in all cases, said that if there's what he called a "legitimate rape," it's almost impossible for a woman to get pregnant because her body has, quote, "ways to try to shut that whole thing down." And Mourdock said during a debate, when also explaining his opposition to abortion in all circumstances, about when a woman becomes pregnant as a result of rape: "I think, when when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Trump's 'Big' Surprise & Election Night Rant: Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney in early February and became a surrogate for the campaign, but still did little to tone down his "birther" talk. However, it wasn't until Trump said he had a big announcement in late October that turned out to be an offer to give $5 million to charity if President Obama released his college and passport records that observers from across the political spectrum really viewed him as having jumped the shark. He followed that up with an election night rant after Obama won that called the election a "total sham and a travesty" and declared that there should be a march on Washington. Obama had a humorous answer when asked by Jay Leno in a Tonight Show appearance ahead of the election what Trump had against him: [(Leno) "What's this thing with Trump and you? I don't -- it's like me and Letterman. What has he got against you here? I don't get it." (Obama) "You know, this all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya" (Laughter)]
Pizzeria Owner Gives Obama a Lift: President Obama got a literal lift while campaigning in Florida in early September when pizzeria owner Scott Van Duzer grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up a foot off the ground. When Obama arrived at the pizzeria, he started joking with the 6'3", 260-pound Van Duzer, saying, "Let me tell you, you are like the biggest pizza shop owner I've ever seen. Everybody, look at these guns. If I eat your pizza will I look like that?" The two started laughing and then Van Duzer -- a Republican who said he voted for Obama in 2008 and was going to vote for him again -- lifted Obama up, saying, he was "overcome with excitement." LINK to photo: http://tinyurl.com/cfvdjeh
SUPERSTORM SANDY: Hurricane Sandy slammed into the southern New Jersey coastline with 80 mile-per-hour winds on October 29th, colliding with a winter system from the west and a blast of Arctic air from the north to form what was dubbed a "superstorm," hitting on the night of the full moon and at high tide to make the situation even worse. A nearly 14-foot record surge swamped lower Manhattan, flooding the subway system and road tunnels and leading the city's main utility to shut down power to most of lower Manhattan. The Jersey Shore was devastated, as were parts of New York City, including Staten Island and the Rockaways, and Long Island, with homes destroyed and swept off their foundations. Millions of people were left without power in 17 states, and it took weeks for some of them to get it back. There were at least 125 people killed in the U.S., including 60 in New York -- 48 of them in New York City -- and 34 in New Jersey. The storm also affected the presidential election, with President Obama canceling campaigning to deal with the federal response and Mitt Romney doing so out of respect for the victims. Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was a top Romney surrogate, took some flak from the GOP for his effusive praise of Obama's performance and that of the federal government in responding to Sandy.
SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS OBAMACARE: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 28th to uphold the Affordable Care Act health care law, with Chief Justice John Roberts providing the surprise key vote. It had been expected that if the law was upheld, Justice Anthony Kennedy would be the deciding swing vote, but instead it was Roberts who broke with the other conservative justices and sided with the court's four liberals. However, in his ruling he said he was upholding the individual mandate -- which requires Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a fine -- and therefore the law, based on Congress' authority to lay and collect taxes, even though the administration had presented the fine as a penalty, not a tax. Roberts sided with the four conservatives in rejecting the administration's main argument that the mandate was constitutional on the basis of the Commerce Clause, but still upheld it based on the tax power.
AURORA MOVIE THEATER MASSACRE: The nation was stunned by a massacre on July 20th at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, where a man dressed head to foot in black body armor opened fire during a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and wounding 58. Taken into custody was 24-year-old James Holmes, who had dyed his hair red and reportedly told police he was the Batman villain The Joker. Police also found that Holmes' apartment had been booby-trapped, filled with explosives, jars of liquids, including gasoline, and chemicals and strung with tripwires. Holmes had been attending the University of Colorado, where he was enrolled in a prestigious graduate neuroscience program, but had withdrawn the previous month. It was later revealed that he'd been under the care of a psychiatrist who'd expressed her concerns about him to a campus threat-assessment team, but no further action was taken because he withdrew from the school. Holmes' attorneys said he is mentally ill.
TRAYVON MARTIN: Florida 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed on February 26th by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman as he was walking back to his father's girlfriend's house from a convenience store, where he'd bought an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman spotted him and called 911, saying he thought Martin looked suspicious, but ignored the dispatcher's advice not to follow the teen. There was a confrontation, witnesses heard screams for help, and Martin, who was unarmed, was shot dead, with the 28-year-old Zimmerman claiming self-defense, saying that Martin had been beating his head on the pavement. Sanford police accepted Zimmerman's story, but after a growing clamor for his arrest, a special prosecutor was appointed. On April 11th, the prosecutor announced a second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman and he was arrested. Martin's parents expressed relief and thanks, including an emotional Sabrina Fulton: ["First of all I want to say Thank God. We simply wanted an arrest. We wanted nothing more, nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say thank you. Thank you Lord, thank you Jesus. Secondly, I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color. It's not black, it's not white, it's red. And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart."]
At his bail hearing a week later, Zimmerman made a surprise apology to Martin's parents, who were in the courtroom. ["I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was, I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not."] He was released on $150,000 bail, but it was revoked in early June by a judge who said Zimmerman and his wife had lied about their finances so he could get lower bail, saying they had limited finances even though $135,000 had been raised through a website set up for his legal defense. Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, was also slapped with a perjury charge. In early July, a $1 million bail was granted by the judge and Zimmerman was again released. He remains out on bail and in hiding.
WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: Although it's rarely in the headlines anymore, the war in Afghanistan continues, with some 68,000 U.S. troops still in the country and the number of American soldiers killed in the conflict passing 2,000 in September. What did make news this year were incidents off the field of battle, as well as an increasing number of Afghan soldiers killing U.S. forces in so-called "green on blue" attacks. Early in the year, video surfaced of American soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters, and then days of deadly, violent protests were sparked in which 30 people were killed, including six U.S. soldiers, when it was revealed that Korans had accidentally been burned in a garbage pit at the U.S. military's Bagram Air Base. Truly shocking, however, was the early morning massacre on March 11th, when U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is alleged to have left his base and gone to two nearby villages, where he killed 16 Afghans as they slept, nine of them children, opening fire as he moved from house to house and setting fire to some of the bodies. Bales had reportedly been drinking, and had seen his friend's leg blown off the day before. Bales is set to have a military trial and could potentially face the death penalty.
LIBYAN CONSULATE ATTACK: The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on September 11th by militants, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Initial reports from the Obama administration said it appeared the attack was carried out by people protesting an obscure anti-Islam film that had led to demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, earlier in the day. However, intelligence later indicated that it was a planned attack carried out by al-Qaida affiliated militants. President Obama vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, but many Republicans were angrily questioning the initial story that the attack had grown out of a demonstration over the film, and particularly pointing the finger at U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who went on the Sunday news shows after the attack saying so. Statements from the administration and the intelligence community saying she was repeating what she'd briefed on because that was what had been believed at the time didn't mollify the critics. A visit by Rice with some of her leading Senate critics, particularly Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, had been intended to help mend relations and possibly smooth the way for Rice's widely anticipated nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. However, it didn't work, with the senators saying afterward that they had more questions than before they met with her.
JERRY SANDUSKY CONVICTED: Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in June of child sex abuse, found guilty of sexually abusing 10 children over 15 years. The 68-year-old Sandusky was sentenced in October to 30 to 60 years in prison, all but ensuring that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Before he was sentenced, Sandusky made a rambling statement in which he denied the charges against him and portrayed himself as the victim.
OBAMA ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR GAY MARRIAGE: In an historic statement, President Obama said in an ABC News interview on May 9th that he supports gay marriage, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to ever do so. Obama used to oppose gay marriage, but more recently had said his views on the issue were, quote, "evolving." In explaining the shift in his thinking, among the things Obama spoke about were gay aides of his who are in committed relationships and raising children, same-sex parents of some of his daughters' friends, and gay servicemembers who can now serve openly because "don't ask, don't tell" is gone, but aren't able to marry. The president stated that he was taking a personal position, and aides said the change would have no impact on current policies.
FACEBOOK'S IPO: Facebook raised $16 billion in a long-awaited initial public offering on May 18th that valued the company at a whopping $104 billion, more than companies like Kraft, Disney and McDonald's. Facebook had priced its IPO at $38 per share, at the top of expectations. But when trading began on the shares, they fell by 11 percent on the first day, which also was marred by technical glitches. The initial drop in the morning was so steep that circuit breakers kicked in a few minutes after the open to restrict short sales. The stock continued to fall over the following weeks and months, getting as low as just under $20 a share, but has now bounced back a bit, and is up in the high 20s.