Top 10 news stories of 2012

From President Obama’s reelection to the debt talks to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the big stories of this year will echo into 2013 and beyond.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 news stories of 2012:

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President Obama wins reelection: Obama got what every president wants: a second term. With his place in the history books secure — and no concerns his initial win will be seen as fluke — Obama, who took 51 percent of the popular vote and won 332 electoral votes, will begin his second term on Jan. 20. Democrats claim his victory is a mandate, but Republicans argue that’s not the case. Either way, Obama will be a leading force for the next four years.

Fiscal cliff: Plan B, sequester, tax rates — the “fiscal cliff” encompassed a variety of political and financial issues whose fallout will be felt far into 2013. In the beginning of the year, about $500 billion in tax increases and $200 billion in spending cuts are scheduled to take effect. How to stop that  and its — profound effect on the struggling economy — has been the subject of negotiations between both parties. The economic and political effects of whatever solution, if there is any, will be long debated. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could end up taking the toughest beating. His counterproposal to Obama, known as Plan B, was pulled from the House floor because he couldn’t get enough support for his own party. History will likely see it as the toughest moment of his Speakership and his leadership in 2013 will be closely watched.

Benghazi attack: The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, derailed the ambitions of one of Obama’s closest advisers and could impact the 2016 presidential race if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opts to run. The attack, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, led to questions about what the administration knew about its origins, became a key moment in the final presidential debate and saw U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdraw from consideration for secretary of State after Republicans charged her with giving misleading information about the attack. Clinton was scheduled to testify before Congress in early December about the attacks but had to cancel because of illness. She is expected to appear in 2013.

Gun violence: The shocking killings in December of 26 people including 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the latest in a string of mass shootings that reopened the national debate over gun control and led Obama to launch a multi-agency effort to curb gun violence led by Vice President Biden. Mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin also made headlines, but it was Sandy Hook that left staunch gun-rights supporters — like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — talking about the need for reform and put the NRA on the defensive. Earlier in the year, the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by a self-designated neighborhood watchman also raised uncomfortable questions about guns and race, and led Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) to wear a hooded sweatshirt on the House floor.

Healthcare law: On June 28, the Supreme Court ruled Obama’s signature legislation was constitutional. It was a major victory for Democrats and, despite Republican threats to repeal it, the law is here to stay. All its provisions are set to go into effect by the end of 2013, although several Republican governors are balking at setting up the required healthcare insurance exchanges in their states.

Mitt Romney wins GOP presidential nomination: Mitt Romney’s victory in the GOP primary had lasting effects: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) became a national figure and 2016 contender after Romney picked him as his running mate; Rick Santorum became a leading conservative voice; and the term “47 percent” entered the lexicon. But it was Romney’s poor showing among Hispanics, 29 percent to Obama’s 71 percent, that will have Republicans examining their election strategy for future races.

Hurricane Sandy: Whether or not Obama’s response to the storm helped cement his reelection, the hurricane made New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) a 2016 contender and an object of criticism within his party. Christie’s praise of Obama in the days before the election, along with reports he turned down an opportunity to campaign with Romney, led Republicans to criticize one of their brightest stars. Whether that will derail Christie’s national ambitions remains to be seen.

Senate shockers: Early on, Republicans were favored to win back control of the upper chamber. And then they had a string of bad luck: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) shocked Washington in February with her decision not to seek reelection, giving Democrats a pickup opportunity; Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) made his infamous comment on “legitimate rape,” boosting vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to a victory; and Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, who defeated longtime Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in the May primary, made a confusing comment on pregnancies and abortion, leading to a Democratic pickup in the state. Democrats, meanwhile, got strong recruits in Elizabeth Warren, who defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and Heidi Heitkamp, who won in North Dakota.

Gen. David Petraeus: The admission by the CIA director of an extramarital affair led to his resignation and ended the career of a man once talked about as a possible presidential candidate.

Facebook IPO: The social medial company held its initial public offering on May 18. But it was plagued by a series of problems and its stock price went on to less than half its IPO value in three months. Facebook, Morgan Stanley, and NASDAQ are facing litigation over the matter.