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President Barack Obama swept to victory on Tuesday night, sparking celebrations across campus among Harvard students thrilled to see the president reelected.
Cheers rang from the dorms around Harvard Yard, and members of the Harvard University Band marched out in freezing weather to play the national anthem in front of the John Harvard statue. One student ran through the Yard draped in an American flag.
Students—more than three-quarters of whom supported Obama over Republican opponent Mitt Romney in a recent Crimson poll—rejoiced at watch parties in many Houses and campus hangouts.
In the steamy interior of the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub, packed with students munching on wings and following CNN on a big screen, election viewers stood on tables and hugged the nearest friend. As the room erupted into chants of “U.S.A.” and “Obama,” Matthew L. Maxwell '15 enthused, “I don’t have words. I have syllables. Sweet baby Jesus.”
Another student embraced her friend and shouted, “It’s over. It’s over.”
Obama’s victory marks the triumph of an administration that championed health care and immigration reform, crafted the bailout of the auto industry, and poured billions into an economy struggling in the wake of the 2008 recession.
The economic concerns of American voters shaped the progression of the campaign, as candidates parried over the lukewarm economic climate. Romney campaigned on a platform to shrink the government, ultimately failing to craft a message that could unseat the incumbent president.
Adan Acevedo ’13, president of the Harvard College Democrats, called the result “a resounding endorsement of President Obama to keep fighting for the middle class.”
News outlets announced as election night went on that Obama had carried the crucial swing states of Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, enough to reach the necessary 270 votes to win in the electoral college. Florida and Virginia remained too close to call when newscasters announced Obama’s victory.
Until Tuesday, the polls showed Romney and Obama within a few points of each other. During the first debate, Romney’s unexpectedly strong performance narrowed the previously significant gap between the candidates to thrust Romney ahead. Since then, the candidates ran neck-and-neck as the weeks wound down until Election Day.
As the candidates devoted the final weeks of the campaign to canvassing, Harvard students also hit the streets, venturing to New Hampshire and Ohio to try to push their chosen candidates over the edge.
“Campus has been very energized,” Zak T. Aossey ’14 said. “People can make a difference.”
During the weekend preceding the election, 203 students—a record high for the—showed up to campaign in New Hampshire, according to Acevedo.
Harvard rallied around Obama financially as well. Obama, who graduated from Harvard Law School, raised $579,865 from Harvard-affiliated donors by the end of September, dwarfing Romney’s $60,636, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
Their contributions formed part of the rush of money into both presidential campaigns that made this election cycle the most expensive in American history.
As students gathered all over campus to watch the results, the Institute of Politics brought a wide spectrum of Harvard undergraduates together for a watch party led by C. M. “Trey” Grayson ’94, the director of the IOP.
Rachel B. Bervell ’13 remarked that the election had a unifying effect on the student body. “It’s really interesting to see everyone together,” she said. “You don’t see this often.”
During the party, Grayson phoned David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, and broadcasted the call at the forum.
“This is a close race. We’ve prepared for a close race,” Axelrod said, speaking before Obama’s victory was secured. He said the early election returns encouraged the Obama campaign.
Following news of the election result, patriotically hued balloons dropped from the forum ceiling onto students who shouted, “Four more years!”
In Adams House, where students camped out in the dining hall to do homework and snack on popcorn as they watched the CNN returns on a screen above their heads, David F. Sackstein ’14 said, “I’m very excited and very relieved. As always, I’m proud to be an American.”
But others were lukewarm about the electoral evening.
“I can’t wait for all the political statuses on Facebook to end,” said Forrest K. Neill ’15.
The celebration in the Yard was lackluster in comparison to the raucous eruption of joy that followed the president’s victory in 2008.
As the political hubbub dies down, Richard Parker, a lecturer at the Kennedy School, discussed the aftermath of the campaign and looked back on Obama’s first term.
Obama “came into office looking like he would be one of the three major transitional presidents of the last 100 years, along with Reagan and Roosevelt,” Parker said. Yet the President failed to move the country toward a full economic recovery, he continued.
Freed of the burden of a looming reelection campaign, Obama now faces the challenge of crafting a legacy over the next four years.
“It’s up for grabs,” Parker said.
—Staff writer Laura K. Reston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Gina K. Hackett can be reached at email@example.com.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Nov. 8
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the wording of a quotation by Harvard College Democrats President Adan Acevedo ’13. He said that President Barack Obama had received a resounding endorsement to fight for the middle class, not that the middle class had received an endorsement to fight.
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