Millions of Americans headed to the polls to choose who will lead them over the next four years as U.S. President. Also on the ballot in a number of states, voters decided on congressional representatives, state amendments and referendums from the Dream Act to same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Obama, fresh from re-election, has little time to savor win
Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick | Reuters
8:38 a.m. EST, November 7, 2012
But in the cold light of the election’s morning-after, it was clear that even though voters have given their stamp of approval for a second Obama term, he could have a hard time translating that into a mandate to push forward with his agenda.
Americans chose to stick with a divided government in Washington by leaving the U.S. Congress as it has been since the midterm elections of 2010.
Obama’s fellow Democrats retain control of the Senate and Republicans keep the majority in the House of Representatives, giving them power to curb the president’s legislative ambitions.
This is the political reality that Obama – who won a far narrower victory over Romney than his historic election as the country’s first black president in 2008 – faces when he returns to Washington later on Wednesday.
But that did not stop him from basking in the glow of re-election together with thousands of elated supporters in his hometown of Chicago early on Wednesday.
“You voted for action, not politics as usual,” Obama said, calling for compromise and pledging to work with leaders of both parties to reduce the deficit, to reform the tax code and immigration laws, and to cut dependence on foreign oil.
Obama told the crowd he hoped to sit down with Romney in the coming weeks and examine ways to meet the challenges ahead.
But the problems that dogged Obama in his first term, which cast a long shadow over his 2008 campaign message of hope and change, still confront him. He must tackle the $1 trillion annual deficits, rein in the $16 trillion national debt, overhaul expensive social programs and deal with the split Congress.
The immediate focus for Obama and U.S. lawmakers will be to confront the “fiscal cliff,” a mix of tax increases and spending cuts due to extract some $600 billion from the economy at the end of the year barring a deal with Congress.
House Majority Leader John Boehner moved swiftly on the fiscal cliff issue, saying he would issue a statement on it on Wednesday, citing “the need for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt.”
Obama also faces looming international challenges like the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran, the civil war in Syria, the winding down of the war in Afghanistan and dealing with an increasingly assertive China.
Romney, a multimillionaire former private equity executive, came back from a series of campaign stumbles to fight a close battle after besting Obama in the first of three presidential debates.
But the former Massachusetts governor failed to convince voters of his argument that his business experience made him the best candidate to repair a weak U.S. economy.
The nationwide popular vote remained extremely close with Obama taking about 50 percent to 49 percent for Romney after a campaign in which the candidates and their party allies spent a combined $2 billion. But in the state-by-state system of electoral votes that decides the White House, Obama notched up a comfortable victory.
By early on Wednesday, Obama had 303 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed to win, to Romney’s 206. Florida’s close race was not yet declared, leaving its 29 electoral votes still to be claimed.
Romney, 65, conceded in a speech delivered to disappointed supporters at the Boston convention center. “This is a time of great challenge for our nation,” he told the crowd. “I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.
Baltimore Sun: Scenes from Election Day 2012 around Maryland [Pictures]