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“Yet amazingly, the clear and present danger of carbon-poisoned weather remains largely absent from this year’s presidential election.”

On other noneconomic issues, both campaigns found reason to lie low.

On immigration reform, Mr. Obama made a major play for Hispanic voters, but has faced uncomfortable questions from Mr. Romney and from Spanish-language media over his failure to fulfill a 2008 campaign pledge to introduce a comprehensive immigration-overhaul bill during his first year in office. Mr. Romney did not care to revisit some of the stands he took in the Republican primary fight on immigration and the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants.

An Election Day poll by the Spanish-language media firm ImpreMedia found that even Hispanic voters in Virginia and 10 other key swing states rated “create new jobs/fix the economy” over “immigration reform” as their top voting priority this year by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent.

Social issues such as abortion and legalizing marijuana also proved problematic for both campaigns. Mr. Obama referred to his support for Planned Parenthood funding and a woman’s right to choose on abortion, but his stands also led to a nasty battle with the Catholic Church over the birth-control funding mandates in his national health care law.

But gaffes over abortion policy proved costly for Republican candidates in Senate races in Missouri and Indiana, potentially upending what had been considered strong chances for GOP victories in two red states.

Still the economy, stupid

But analysts said the reason other issues failed to gain traction this year was because the cloud cast by the bad economy — and voter fears about their jobs, their incomes, their taxes and their retirement funds — overshadowed all other concerns. The monthly jobs numbers issued by the Labor Department became so politicized that some skeptics even accused the Obama administration of cooking the books when the jobless rate fell below 8 percent in October.

Of particular concern to both campaigns were the jobless rates in critical swing states, such as Florida, Virginia and Ohio, which were all below the national average of 7.9 percent on Election Day.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama returned again to jobs and the economy in their “closing arguments” during the campaign’s final days.

“I won’t waste any time complaining about my predecessor,” Mr. Romney told a huge rally in West Allis, Wis. “I won’t spend my effort trying to pass partisan legislation unrelated to economic growth. From Day One, I will go to work to help Americans get back to work.”

‘New economic patriotism’

In his final national TV ad, the president asked voters for more time for his policies to work and for what he called a “new economic patriotism.”

“The Republicans say, ‘You are on your own,’” Mr. Obama said. “That’s given us a country of just rich and poor and the well-connected using their power to get more tax cuts and breaks. Well, we need to make our country work for the middle class again.”

The economic issue has so dominated the campaign this year that political scientists are saying the result will yield new insights into which economic factors are most important in driving voters to the polls.

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