As he faced a tough reelection fight with a struggling economy and a disillusioned electorate, however, this same strategy wouldn’t work a second time. So instead, he used the Rove playbook. Obama set out to destroy his opponent, attacking Mitt Romney’s laudable private sector career and allowing his allies to suggest Romney was a felon and was responsible for a man’s wife dying of cancer. Swift-boating was replaced with Swift-Baining. And then there were the wedge issues. Obama suddenly declared he supported gay marriage, with no tangible change in policy, to woo disillusioned young voters. He created a “War on Women” narrative, equating Republican opposition to forcing religious institutions to purchase products that violate their religious principles with an attempt to ban birth control. Though Obama did nothing on immigration reform during his first term as he promised, in the summer, he did issue an executive order on immigration aimed at firming up the Hispanic vote.

It worked. Though Obama lost among independent voters by 5 points, according to exit polls, he did rally his base, and the electorate was 6 points more Democratic than it was Republican. He carried women and young voters by wide margins and blew away Romney among Hispanics, 71 percent to 27 percent.