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SCOREBOARD: President Obama 303, Mitt Romney 206 with Florida's 29 electoral votes still close to call at the moment (but looking increasingly like they will go blue). At last count the president holds a two-point lead, 50 percent to 48, in the national popular vote.
HOW OBAMA WON: John Dickerson: He became a street fighter. And he had a better team that ran a first-rate campaign.
WHY ROMNEY LOST I: Jacob Weisberg: He couldn’t separate himself from the Republican Party’s growing extremism.
WHY ROMNEY LOST II: Tom Scocca: The GOP candidate’s race-based, monochromatic campaign made him a loser.
WHAT NOW?: The Associated Press: "Obama faces a new urgent task now that he has a second term, working with a status-quo Congress to address an impending financial crisis that economists say could send the country back into recession. ... The same voters who gave Obama four more years in office also elected a divided Congress, sticking with the dynamic that has made it so hard for the president to advance his agenda. Democrats retained control of the Senate; Republicans kept their House majority."
ALSO ON THE TO-DO LIST: Reuters: "Obama also faces challenges abroad including the West's nuclear standoff with Iran, the civil war in Syria, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan and dealing with an increasingly assertive China."
MONEYBOX REMINDER: The "Fiscal Cliff" Is Nothing Like A Cliff
LET'S TALK MANDATE: Slate's David Weigel: "Obama ran on one consistent tax promise, in both 2008 and 2012. Vote for him, and you'd see middle-class tax rates stay the same while the rate on income over $250,000 increased to 39.6 percent. In 2008 and 2012, Republicans whaled on Obama for that message. ... Last month, in a comment that Republicans derided for its gaffitude, Joe Biden repeated the claim about tax hikes and leaned into the mic, drawing out his promise: 'Yes. We. Will.' For months, Republican strategists told me that they'd beat Democrats on the tax issue just like they beat 'em in 2010. They didn't beat Obama. Twice, in four years, a majority of voters have picked Obama for president, knowing full well that he'll raise upper-income tax rates."
SOMEWHAT LOST IN THE SHUFFLE LAST NIGHT: Gay rights advocates and their allies posted a string of historic victories at the ballot box, directly in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington state and indirectly in New York, Iowa and Wisconsin. Nathaniel Frank explains how gay marriage finally won at the polls to end its 0-for-32 losing streak.
AFTERNOON WEB LEADS: NYT: Obama Wins a Clear Victory, but Balance of Power Is Unchanged in Washington; WSJ: Tough Loss Leaves GOP at a Crossroads; WaPo: After Obama’s win, tax battle looms; Politico: Obama sees voter mandate on taxes; HuffPo: THE OBAMA ERA; Drudge: OWN IT (below a graph showing Wall Street's rough day).
HAPPY WEDNESDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your afternoon host would like to point out that a mighty Davidson Wildcat (poli sci prof Josh Putnam) came out on top on Slate's pundit scorecard. Clearly today—like every day—is a great day to be a Wildcat. Follow @JoshVoorhees on Twitter or ask him about how his alma mater actually did his laundry for him for four years in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPEAKING OF THOSE PREDICTIONS: Dan Engber: Obama’s big win does not mean Nate Silver is a towering electoral genius.
WHAT IT DOES MEAN: Silver's new book is going to fly off bookstore shelves.
GAME OVER: Sasha Issenberg: "Tuesday night’s results testify to many dramatic changes, particularly demographic and ideological ones, that mark life in Obama’s America. But within the practice of politics, no shift seems more dramatic than the role reversal between the two parties on campaigning competence. Today, there is only one direction in which envy can and should be directed: Democrats have proved themselves better—more disciplined, rigorous, serious, and forward-looking—at nearly every aspect of the project of winning elections."
GOP CONSOLATION PRIZE: Will Saletan: "Dear Republicans, Sorry about the election. I know how much it hurts when your presidential candidate loses. I’ve been there many times. You’re crestfallen. You can’t believe the public voted for that idiot. You fear for your country. Cheer up. The guy we just re-elected is a moderate Republican."
REWIND #1: Watch President Obama's Acceptance Speech
REWIND #2: Watch Mitt Romney's Concession Speech
EXPLAINER: Brian Palmer explains who invented the concession speech.
MORE ELECTION COVERAGE FROM SLATE—
The Slatest: The Five Stages of Fox News Grief
Moneybox: The Risk for Democrats: Californication
XX Factor: There Was a War on Women, and the Women Won
Brow Beat: Obama and His Anger Translator Celebrate
Politics: One Nation, Hungover
CHECKING THE NON-ELECTION TRAPS—
AP: "A nor'easter blustered into New York and New Jersey on Wednesday, threatening to swamp homes all over again, plunge neighborhoods back into darkness and inflict more misery on tens of thousands of people still reeling from Superstorm Sandy."
Reuters: "Syrian rebels fired mortars at President Bashar al-Assad's palace in Damascus on Wednesday but missed, in an attack underlining the growing boldness of forces fighting to end his family's 42 years in power."
NYT: "With a robust defense of one-party rule and a vow to learn from a string of political scandals this year, a senior official on Wednesday laid out the agenda for China’s much-anticipated Communist Party Congress, which gets under way on Thursday."
See you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.