Review of the US election in 2012: Oh, the sheer excess of it all!

'The Republicans provided most of the banana peel fun'
  • @dusborne

Was the 2012 US election a bit of a dud, frivolous even? Look at the casting. In 2008, Barack Obama shone, playing the role of aspiring first black president, but this time round he had lost some of his power to thrill. And couldn't the other side have done better than to give us cardboard man, Mitt Romney? And there was no Hillary.

In a few weeks, Mr Obama will be inaugurated for a second time. There will be the speech on the steps of Congress and Michelle will make a struggling fashion designer suddenly famous at the inaugural balls. But while more than a million crammed into the Mall in Washington four years ago to witness the swearing-in, you can be sure there won't be nearly that number this time.

It wasn't just the candidates that created fatigue in the 2012 cycle, but the sheer excess of it all, in terms of time and money. I started reporting the race in earnest in August 2011, when Iowa Republicans held their ritual straw poll in Ames to determine who among a ragged array of possible party nominees they liked the best. They picked Tea Party favourite Michele Bachmann. Memo for next time: don't pay attention to the Ames Straw Poll.

Obama and Romney spent $1.123 billion and $1.019 billion respectively and that doesn't include all the cash raised and spent on their behalves by outside groups, the so-called Super Pacs. Moreover, the vast bulk of it was spent in barely 10 battleground states – the rest of the country was largely ignored by the presidential candidates. That is because the Electoral College system forces candidates to fight to win the White House state by state; the outcome in about four-fifths of them was pretty much predetermined. Texas was never going to flip Democrat.

Meanwhile, what had changed exactly by the time Mr Romney gave his strangely hollow concession speech in Boston and Mr Obama had claimed victory for a second time before delirious supporters in Chicago on the night of 6 November? America was left with the status quo. Same president as before and roughly the same balance of power on Capitol Hill. And of course it was only hours before Washington was bickering about the fiscal cliff.

But I wouldn't have missed a minute of it. Soccer might be your poison but politics is mine and the US presidential elections are the Olympic Games of politics. If the 2008 campaign was all about the peaks – Obama in Germany; Obama's speech about race – this one was about the troughs, the screw-ups. I was at that primary debate in Michigan when Texas Governor Rick Perry vowed to shut down three government departments in Washington and then suffered a brain-fart so severe he could only remember two of them.

I met Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin just days after he said women who suffered "legitimate rape" had mysterious ways of not conceiving. I watched Mr Romney laying out his policy of "self-deportation" as his answer to illegal immigration. And I watched Newt Gingrich, when… well it didn't matter when I watched him, because he was a disaster on an ever-repeating loop.

There was the shocker of Mr Obama's performance at the first presidential debate in October in Denver, but it was the Republicans who provided most of the banana-peel entertainment. Did Herman Cain, the former pizza tycoon and alleged philanderer, really think he could be president? But nothing was more startling than the leaking of that video showing Mr Romney complaining to fat-cat donors in Florida that 47 per cent of Americans were spongers from the government who considered themselves "victims" and who were always going to vote for Mr Obama. If you had to pick any one error by either side that mattered the most to the final outcome then that would be it.

And listen, America did have things to say in 2012. Four states approved ballot initiatives in favour of gay marriage and Wisconsin sent a lesbian to the US Senate. Pot will soon be legal in two states. And it re-elected a president who had not done all that he had promised in the first term, who was unabashedly liberal and progressive in his social and economic philosophies and who had failed to bring unemployment much below 8 per cent.

This may have been the election when America showed itself to be a little less conservative than we thought and a new progressive coalition forged by women, young people, Hispanics, blacks, graduates and gays, suddenly asserted itself. If so, that is good for the Democrats in 2016. Did I mention Hillary yet?f

@BarackObama Four more years

Barack Obama, US President

@russellcrowe Barack Obama has improved the World's view of America dramatically. In times like these, you need a leader who can see the Global picture

Russell Crowe, actor

@sunny_hundal I'm sure there was a time when Republicans were hawkish, but pragmatic and informed on foreign policy. The new gen are straight-out tools

Sunny Hundal, political blogger

@jennycolgan I think probably the thing I am looking forward to the least if Mitt Romney wins the US election is the global nuclear holocaust

Jenny Colgan, author

@BorowitzReport I'd feel more confident about Romney bringing peace to the Middle East if in July he hadn't almost started a war with Britain

Andy Borowitz, comedian

@mrchrisaddison Now it's over, let's be fair to the loser: A lot of stuff has been said about Mitt Romney being a Merman, but he's definitely got legs

Chris Addison, comedian

@realDonaldTrump This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!

Donald Trump, billionaire mogul