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As CNN projected that President Barack Obama was about to be re-elected, Student Government’s election party erupted with cheers in conjunction with sighs of disappointment.
By the end of the night, Obama had won 303 electoral votes to Governor Mitt Romney’s 206, solidifying his next four years in office.
“I’m not shocked; I expected Obama to win,” said senior Kip Baliach, who attended the election party. “From the beginning Obama was able to include everyone in his campaign. When Romney talked about ‘taking back America,’ many interpreted this to mean taking America back from the young, immigrants, African Americans, (LGBTQs) and the multiculturalism of America. People loved Romney on the economy, but Obama was able to bring people together.”
Not all were satisfied with the initial projection made on Tuesday night, and some students preferred to wait for all of the ballots to be counted or until Romney conceded.
“There’s still a lot to be contested, but so far I’m happy it’s so close,” sophomore Kelsie Wendelberger said moments after the election projections. “I think it shows that voters are well-informed. … We’re going to have a really divided country for the next four years. Whoever wins, we need to hold together and do what’s best for the country.”
After Romney delivered his concession speech late Tuesday night, the presidency was sealed.
“The election has been exciting to watch,” said senior Bethany Pennington. “It will be interesting to see what (Obama) will do without having to worry about re-election.”
Senior Rachel Nerger was also riveted by the election path; however, she was relieved to have the results Tuesday night.
“It will be interesting to see what will happen in foreign policy. I’m hopeful things will get done now that (Obama) doesn’t have to think about re-election,” said Nerger. “But I’m happy the election is over, it gets tiring to hear people argue about politics. It’ll be nice to move forward.”
As the results from Pennsylvania signaled the downturn for the Romney campaign, it was the turning point at the McCormick Place. Senior Peter Court, who was an intern in finance leadership for the Obama campaign since early August, said the mood was ecstatic when the results came in.
“The moment was when we passed 270 (electoral votes) with 274,” said Court. “I remember standing there and there was so much excitement in the room, and so much joy. … It was very powerful to see.”
Court said campaigners knew the race would be close because of the history of incumbent presidents up for re-election versus a new challenger.
Court, who came from a conservative background, engaged in political life after becoming dissatisfied with those who claimed Christianity but acted no differently than others. He decided to explore other affiliations and seeks to approach politics with an independent view.
He decided to work for Obama’s campaign because of personal convictions and said that Christians don’t have to vote one way, but they should be politically engaged. Court plans to become involved in future campaigns after his experience.
“During my time at Wheaton … I (have seen) a lack of involvement among Christians. They’re apathetic, or they’re just not well informed or just don’t care about politics in general,” Court said. “We can have an influence. Voting is one way to do that, but more than that, we can get involved.”
Senior Valerie Wright has interned for Lisa Wagner, the Midwest finance director for the Romney campaign, since early May.
Wright helped organize events and fundraise for the $18 million garnered for the campaign in Illinois.
Tuesday night was one of high anticipation and uncertainty, but there was a point in the night when supporters saw the path to the presidency narrowing.
Wright said there was a sense of depression within the room.
“Once we heard Pennsylvania was in, once we heard Wisconsin was in, we knew it was over,” Wright said.
Though the loss was disappointing for many supporters, including herself, she said being a Christian has offered her hope for the future.
“Some of my co-workers are despairing today over the fact that Obama won. But I feel that whatever happened was supposed to happen, and it wasn’t all in vain. We put up a really good fight,” she said.
Wright sees value in her campaign experience, though she has found some negative aspects of campaign fundraising incompatible with her long-term career aspirations.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I was proud to do it and be a part of the Republican culture,” Wright said. “I (told) myself that no matter what happened this would be an experience that I would never forget. I held that stance with me the whole time.”
Senior Zach Stallard, president of the College Democrats, predicted that Obama would win over 300 electoral votes, with a Democratic Senate and Republican House, early Tuesday morning.
The role of the club however, will not change because the election is over. Stallard said that the purpose of the College Democrats is to provide the campus with an alternative political voice that addresses important issues.
“Whoever wins the election, the College Democrats should be a voice that speaks truth to power and challenges the ways in which our government — no matter who’s in power — doesn’t seek justice and doesn’t care for the marginalized,” Stallard said.
He believes that a second term for Obama will yield movement on immigration reform, protect gains made by the Affordable Care Act, defend the environment and solidify America’s place in the world as a global citizen rather than lead us to “seek particular interests at the expense of human rights around the world.” These things would not happen if Romney were president, Stallard said.
Matthew Arildsen, president of the College Republicans, also thought that Obama would win the election on Tuesday morning, but still held hope for Romney in the popular vote.
According to Arildsen, Obama’s re-election will solidify the pro-choice leaning of the Supreme Court, the ACA will go into effect and Republicans will have to shift away from repealing it, and the shift of the median voter will go to the left.
Although Romney did not win the election, Arildsen said the College Republicans’ primary purpose isn’t to promote one candidate over another, but rather to influence the ideals students believe in.
“It’s really the long game of convincing people of the ideas over time rather than the short game of getting people to vote or phone-banking for Mitt Romney or whoever. That’s our focus,” Arildsen said. “We’ve done work to (promote) Romney, but the real work come(s) after the election.”
Post-election, Arildsen also said that the College Republicans hope to address social issues along with the College Democrats that will promote vigorous dialogue on campus.
Although Obama won the presidency, he will work alongside a divided Congress with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate majority. The popular vote was also very closely divided between Romney and Obama.
Though the next four years will see their share of difficulty, Wright reminds Wheaton students of the bigger picture.
“No matter what, God wins. Obama is in power for a reason and I totally trust that,” she said.
Banner Credit: Allison Freet; Photo Courtesy: @barackobama
Printed in the November 9, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to email@example.com.