Barack Obama has secured a historic second victory in the face of strong Republican opposition and a deeply divided electorate. Sophia Pellatt reports
Barack Obama promised America “the best is yet to come” as he accepted a second term in the White House, having beaten Republican rival Mitt Romney, securing the crucial 270 votes in the electoral college needed to win the race.
Walking on to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, Obama greeted an enthusiastic crowd in his hometown of Chicago: “Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back … for the United States of America the best is yet to come”.
Obama’s 25 minute long speech praised his wife Michelle and two daughters Malia and Sasha, and Vice-President Joe Biden, before addressing the country, declaring “we are not as divided as our politics suggest”. He insisted that “we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection red states and blues. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America”.
A further victory was scored by the Obama administration as his Democrats retained control of the Senate. However, the Republicans have kept control of the House of Representatives, creating concern that Obama’s second stretch as President will be marred by the gridlock that crippled many of his efforts in his first four years.
Aside from swing state Florida’s 29 electoral votes, which as we go to print are yet to be determined, Obama won by a clear margin of 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. Obama congratulated his opponent Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on their campaign. “The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service”, Obama concluded.
Obama told the crowds he would be returning to the White House “more determined, and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do, and the future that lies ahead”. Obama stated that he would cooperate with Republican leaders within Congress in continuing to tackle America’s deficit, fixing the tax code and reforming immigration policy, pledging that “we are an American family and we rise and fall together as one nation”.
In Boston, Romney congratulated the president, telling the disheartened crowd that he and Ryan had “left everything on the field” and “given their all” to the campaign. Romney also stressed that both his party and the Democrats had to put “people before politics” and refrain from “partisan bickering and political posturing”, a sentiment echoed by Obama.
He concluded his address, “I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction but the nation chose another leader and so I join with you to earnestly pray for [Obama] and for this great nation”.
President Obama won a number of crucial swing states, including Colorado and Iowa, but it was a narrow victory in Ohio that sealed his victory. There were not gains across the board though, as Obama lost his 2008 wins in North Carolina and Indiana to Romney.
Overall, more than $2b (£1.25bn) was been spent on the 2012 election, largely on adverts in the swing states, making it the most expensive presidential campaign in US history.
The US constitution prohibits presidents from sitting for more than two terms, meaning Obama has until 2016 to build on his legacy: to make America a fairer society, and to push through his key passion, healthcare reform. He is also burdened with the daunting task of recovering America’s economy, which will ultimately define the success, or not, of his entire presidency.
The extension of Republican control in the House of Representatives will be the biggest challenge to Obama’s term in office. In 2010, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. This saw the House of Representatives blocking proposals that mirrored their own ideological preferences. As Cass Sunstein puts it, “whatever President Obama was for, they were against (even if they had been for it the day before)”. Such ideological pettiness stands to paralyse the progress Obama is so desperate to make.
In four years, Obama has rescued the US’ automobile industry, created a stimulus package that has saved more than a million jobs, put healthcare reform on the agenda, pushed through Wall Street reform to protect consumers and reduce the likelihood of another financial meltdown, improved educational outcomes nationally and ended discriminatory policies against gays in the military. The next four years will see if he will continue to bring the promised change to America, without the shadow of yet another re-election campaign playing on his mind.