Paul Krugman notes that the happiness and well-being of 310 million people is at stake here:
Not The Election They Were Expecting: [I]t’s not the election Romney and the Republicans expected and wanted; but it’s also looking very different from what Democrats expected. What Romney & Co. expected was a simple rejection of Obama because of the weak economy…. [But]voters tend to react to recent trends, not the absolute level — and the economy has gotten better in some ways…. [And] people do remember the crisis of 2008, which they still blame on Bush, and remain willing to cut Obama substantial slack.
But… there’s more going on. The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm…. Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose. Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic….
How did that happen? Partly it’s because this has become such an ideological election — much more so than 2008. The GOP has made it clear that it has a very different vision of what America should be than that of Democrats, and Democrats have rallied around their cause. Among other things, while we weren’t looking, social issues became a source of Democratic strength…. And let me add a speculation: I suspect that in the end Obamacare is turning out to be a big plus, even though it has always had ambivalent polling. The fact is that Obama can point to a big achievement that will survive if he is reelected, perish if he isn’t; health insurance for 50 million or so Americans (30 million from the ACA, another 20 who would lose coverage if Romney/Ryan Medicaid cuts happen) is enough to cure people of the notion that it doesn’t matter who wins…. [I]t looks as if voters are rejecting the right’s whole package, not just the messenger.