Editor’s Desk: The Unfinished Work That Lies Ahead

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The headline “Now for the Hard Part” is one of the great clichés in journalism. But there’s a reason it is so familiar: it’s very useful, and in this case it does describe what lies ahead for President Obama. Not that the campaign wasn’t extremely hard for both candidates, but what comes next—the fiscal cliff, a sluggish economy, a GOP rethinking itself—might make the President look back fondly on all those rallies in Ohio and the barrage of negative ads. But this is the job we elected him to do, and no one knows that better than Obama.

This special election double issue, presided over by executive editors Michael Duffy and Radhika Jones, looks back and looks ahead. And it is not just for the half of America that voted for Barack Obama. Our issue is a testament to a hard-fought campaign but also to the great American civic ritual of voting, what historian Teddy White called the mystery of democracy. The hard part for Obama is that he must reach out to those who did not support him throughout the country and to those who opposed him in Washington. That is something both Mitt Romney and the President acknowledged on election night, and we should all hope what they said was more than postelection rhetoric.

The cover story was written by David Von Drehle, and it helps explain how Obama won and what he faces now. David looks at the defining moments of the race and what they tell us about the battlefield going forward. White House correspondent Michael Scherer cracks the code on the Obama campaign’s most closely guarded secrets: how it invested heavily in data mining both to raise $1 billion and to win the swing states. In the final days of the campaign, Michael was in the backrooms of Chicago talking to the number crunchers who found votes and dollars in places where no one else had thought to look. The photography accompanying these pieces was orchestrated by deputy photo editor Paul Moakley, who has overseen our campaign photography for the past year.

The centerpiece of this issue is “A History of the Campaign in 100 Objects,” in which we explore the long narrative of 2012 through the things that became symbols and talismans of the race. You’ll see everything from Rick Perry’s cowboy boots to the fake teeth worn by Jason Sudeikis to portray Joe Biden on Saturday Night Live. Many thanks go to photo assistant Erica Campbell and writer-reporters Katy Steinmetz and Elizabeth Dias, who doggedly pursued every last object and the stories behind them.

“Objects” is followed by a beautiful portfolio of images of the established and rising stars in both parties. All the portraits—from Marco Rubio to Condoleezza Rice—were shot by the remarkable Marco Grob.

By now you might have already seen our special tablet-only election edition, featuring voting results, campaign photos and live Twitter updates from our political team. That was put together by senior editor Tim Morrison and tablet art director Tom Miller. This commemorative issue is also available for download as usual. That’s the easy part.