Barack Obama avoided a pink slip Tuesday, marching to victory against his Republican challenger despite a slow-as-molasses economic recovery and a bitterly contested election that had the U.S. president's supporters fearful he was doomed to the indignity of a single term.
Supporters at Obama's Chicago headquarters greeted the president with euphoria as he strode to the podium to the upbeat strains of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," his 2008 campaign anthem.
"Tonight in this election, you, the American people, remind us that while our road has been hard, while our journeys have been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come," Obama said.
At Romney headquarters in Boston, meanwhile, the mood was grim following an election long considered well within the Republican's grasp.
"This is a time of great challenges for America," a composed, gracious Romney told his supporters after it took him more than an hour to concede after the president clinched the election. "I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation."
Obama's success this year was in contrast to his historic triumph in 2008, when he became the country's first African-American president and won the White House on an inspiring message of hope and change.
In 2012, Obama's rhetoric was decidedly less soaring -- although his victory speech on election night certainly showed a return to form.
"We are an American family and we rise and fall together as one nation and as one people," he said.
But on the campaign trail, it was little wonder Obama chose to remind Americans he understood their impatience with him -- the nation's citizens, after all, are still struggling to recover from a devastating economic recession that took unrelenting hold of the country soon after the president took office.
Obama, indeed, has become the first incumbent president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term with an unemployment rate above 7.4 per cent.
And even though Obama secured a second term, the election exposed bitter partisan and demographic fault lines in the United States that threaten to endure for years to come.
Obama's triumph was the long-awaited culmination of one of the hardest-fought presidential campaigns in recent U.S. history. Indeed, he only narrowly appeared to have won the popular vote over Romney.
But under the American system, presidential candidates compete not for popular vote, but for the electoral college votes up for grabs stateside. Those votes are assigned based on a state's population and representation in Congress.
Eight states, representing 89 electoral college votes, were considered battlegrounds: Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire. Romney won only North Carolina; Florida was too close to call.
Throughout the campaign, Romney insisted the president had failed miserably to deliver on his heady promises of 2008, assailing him in particular for his handling of America's persistent economic woes.
Tuesday night's congressional winners and losers were every bit as important as the ultimate White House victor. Congress, after all, is more powerful than the executive branch in terms of bringing to life -- or snuffing out -- a president's legislative hopes and dreams. The makeup of Congress remained relatively unchanged, with Republicans maintaining control of the House of Representatives and Democrats dominating the Senate.
That means Obama will face a Republican House that's no warmer to his agenda than it has been for the past two years.
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