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Presidential election year
|Election day||November 6|
|Incumbent president||Barack Obama (Democratic)|
|Partisan control||Democratic hold|
|Popular vote margin||Democratic +3.9%|
|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.|
|Overall control||Democratic hold|
|Seats contested||33 of 100 seats|
|Net seat change||Democratic +2|
|2012 Senate election results map
Democratic hold Republican hold Independent hold|
Democratic gain Republican gain Independent gain
|Overall control||Republican hold|
|Seats contested||All 435 seats|
|Popular vote margin||Democratic +1.2%|
|Net seat change||Democratic +8|
|2012 House election results map|
Democratic hold Republican hold
Democratic gain Republican gain
|Seats contested||14 (12 states, 2 territories) |
(including a recall election in Wisconsin)
|Net seat change||Republican +1|
|2012 gubernatorial election results map|
Republican gain Republican hold (including recall)
Popular Democratic gain Nonpartisan
The 2012 United States elections took place on November 6, 2012. Democratic President Barack Obama won election to a second term, though the Republican Party retained control of the House of Representatives. As of 2020, this is the most recent election cycle in which neither the presidency nor a chamber of Congress changed partisan control.
Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney to win a second term, taking 51.1 percent of the popular vote and 332 of the 538 electoral votes. Romney defeated Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and several other candidates to win his party's nomination in the 2012 Republican primaries.
Democrats won a net gain of two Senate seats, retaining control of the chamber. In the first election held in the House of Representatives since the round of redistricting following the 2010 United States Census, Democrats picked up eight seats but failed to gain a majority, despite winning the popular vote. In the gubernatorial elections, Republicans won a net gain of one seat. As of 2022, this is the last time that the winner of the presidential race provided coattails for their party in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. This was the first time since 1936 where a Democratic presidential candidate who won a second term also had Senate coattails in both occasions (although Franklin Roosevelt won a third and fourth term in 1940 and 1944 respectively, he lost Senate seats on both occasions). This is the third straight presidential election where the winner had coattails in both houses of Congress.
Various other state, territorial, and local races and referendums were held throughout the year. Three state referendums 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 legalize marijuana for medical use. A referendum was also held in Puerto Rico regarding the future political status of the U.S. unincorporated territory. Following the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the 2012 election season became the most expensive in American history.
Despite various issues during this election cycle, ultimately little overall change occurred on both the Federal and the gubernatorial level.
Many of the major issues of the 2012 election were the same as in both 2008 and 2010. 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.
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. 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.
Main article: 2011 Wisconsin protests
In 2011, there were a series of demonstrations in Wisconsin, involving at its zenith as many as 100,000 protestors 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.
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." 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. The comments are also credited for having a larger national effect.
Main article: 2012 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.
Main article: 2012 United States presidential election
Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama was re-elected, defeating Republican former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. This was the first presidential election since the 2010 Census, which changed the Electoral College vote apportionment.
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. 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.
Main article: 2012 United States 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 became the first openly LGBT member of the US Senate.
Main article: 2012 United States 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 Gabby 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.
Main article: 2012 United States gubernatorial elections
12 state and two territory 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.[needs update]
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).
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.
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.
Main article: 2012 Puerto Rican status referendum
A referendum regarding the political status of Puerto Rico was held. Puerto Rican voters were asked two questions: First, whether they prefer the status quo of remaining a 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.
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. 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.
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, whereas voters in Oregon chose to reject it.
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:
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. The projected cost of the 2012 federal election races is estimated to be over 5.8 billion dollars, 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). During the elections there was much spending by the lobbies, particularly the fossil fuels lobby.
See also: Political party strength in U.S. states
Bold indicates a change in control. Note that not all states held gubernatorial, state legislative, and United States Senate elections in 2012.
|State||Before 2012 elections||After 2012 elections|
|State||PVI||Governor||State leg.||US Senate||US House||President||Governor||State leg.||US Senate||US House|
|Alabama||R+13||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 6–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 6–1|
|Alaska||R+13||Rep||Split||Split||Rep 1–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 1–0|
|Arizona||R+6||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 5–3||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Dem 5–4|
|Arkansas||R+9||Dem||Dem||Split||Rep 3–1||Rep||Dem||Rep||Split||Rep 4–0|
|California||D+7||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 34–19||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 38–15|
|Colorado||Even||Dem||Split||Dem||Rep 4–3||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Rep 4–3|
|Connecticut||D+7||Dem||Dem||Split D/I[a]||Dem 5–0||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 5–0|
|Delaware||D+7||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 1–0||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 1–0|
|Florida||R+2||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 19–6||Dem||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 17–10|
|Georgia||R+7||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 8–5||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 9–5|
|Hawaii||D+12||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–0||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–0|
|Idaho||R+17||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 2–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 2–0|
|Illinois||D+8||Dem||Dem||Split||Rep 11–8||Dem||Dem||Dem||Split||Dem 12–6|
|Indiana||R+6||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 6–3||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 7–2|
|Iowa||D+1||Rep||Split||Split||Dem 3–2||Dem||Rep||Split||Split||Split 2–2|
|Kansas||R+11||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 4–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 4–0|
|Kentucky||R+10||Dem||Split||Rep||Rep 4–2||Rep||Dem||Split||Rep||Rep 5–1|
|Louisiana||R+10||Rep||Split||Split||Rep 6–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 5–1|
|Maine||D+5||Rep||Rep||Rep||Dem 2–0||Dem||Rep||Dem||Split R/I[b]||Dem 2–0|
|Maryland||D+9||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 6–2||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 7–1|
|Massachusetts||D+12||Dem||Dem||Split||Dem 10–0||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 9–0|
|Michigan||D+4||Rep||Rep||Dem||Rep 9–6||Dem||Rep||Rep||Dem||Rep 9–5|
|Minnesota||D+2||Dem||Rep||Dem||Split 4–4||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 5–3|
|Mississippi||R+10||Rep||Dem||Rep||Rep 3–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 3–1|
|Missouri||R+3||Dem||Rep||Split||Rep 6–3||Rep||Dem||Rep||Split||Rep 6–2|
|Montana||R+7||Dem||Rep||Dem||Rep 1–0||Rep||Dem||Rep||Dem||Rep 1–0|
|Nebraska||R+13||Rep||NP||Split||Rep 3–0||Rep||Rep||NP||Rep||Rep 3–0|
|Nevada||D+1||Rep||Dem||Split||Rep 2–1||Dem||Rep||Dem||Split||Split 2–2|
|New Hampshire||D+2||Dem||Rep||Split||Rep 2–0||Dem||Dem||Split||Split||Dem 2–0|
|New Jersey||D+4||Rep||Dem||Dem||Dem 7–6||Dem||Rep||Dem||Dem||Split 6–6|
|New Mexico||D+2||Rep||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–1||Dem||Rep||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–1|
|New York||D+10||Dem||Split||Dem||Dem 21–8||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 21–6|
|North Carolina||R+4||Dem||Rep||Split||Dem 7–6||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 9–4|
|North Dakota||R+10||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 1–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 1–0|
|Ohio||R+1||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 13–5||Dem||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 12–4|
|Oklahoma||R+17||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 4–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 5–0|
|Oregon||D+4||Dem||Split||Dem||Dem 4–1||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 4–1|
|Pennsylvania||D+2||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 12–7||Dem||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 13–5|
|Rhode Island||D+11||Ind||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–0||Dem||Ind||Dem||Dem||Dem 2–0|
|South Carolina||R+8||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 5–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 6–1|
|South Dakota||R+9||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 1–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 1–0|
|Tennessee||R+9||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 7–2||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 7–2|
|Texas||R+10||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 23–9||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 24–12|
|Utah||R+20||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 2–1||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 3–1|
|Vermont||D+13||Dem||Dem||Split D/I[c]||Dem 1–0||Dem||Dem||Dem||Split D/I[c]||Dem 1–0|
|Virginia||R+2||Rep||Split||Dem||Rep 8–3||Dem||Rep||Split||Dem||Rep 8–3|
|Washington||D+5||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem 5–4||Dem||Dem||Split||Dem||Dem 6–4|
|West Virginia||R+8||Dem||Dem||Dem||Rep 2–1||Rep||Dem||Dem||Dem||Rep 2–1|
|Wisconsin||D+2||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 5–3||Dem||Rep||Rep||Split||Rep 5–3|
|Wyoming||R+20||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 1–0||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep||Rep 1–0|
|United States||Even||Rep 29–20||Rep 25–16||Dem 53–47||Rep 242–193||Dem||Rep 29–21||Rep 27–19||Dem 55–45||Rep 233–199|
|N. Mariana Islands||CP||Rep||Dem||—||CP||Split||Dem|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem||Dem|
|Subdivision||PVI||Governor||State leg.||U.S. Senate||U.S. House||President||Governor||State leg.||U.S. Senate||U.S. House|
|Subdivision and PVI||Before 2012 elections||After 2012 elections|