Obama seeks to heal divisions
US president Barack Obama secured his re-election yesterday through a powerful coalition of minorities that became the majority in the United States.
It included women and young people, African Americans and Hispanic voters, urban dwellers and others across the US willing to support same-sex marriage and a different vision of America than that favoured by a Republican Party presenting itself to the electorate from a base that seems increasingly narrow and at times strident.
Independent, middle ground voters were not won over by Republican promises of a better alternative to the faltering economic recovery.
“The best is yet to come,” Mr Obama said, accepting victory. “We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”
He urged his compatriots to put the bitterness of the campaign behind them.
The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, also struck a conciliatory tone in his concession speech in Boston.
“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” Mr Romney said. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”
Mr Obama said he would sit down with Mr Romney in coming weeks “to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward”.
Addressing the exasperation of the public with partisan gridlock in Washington, Mr Obama said: “You voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.”
He promised to “work with leaders of both parties”.
In the soaring rhetoric typical of his best speeches, Mr Obama said the bonds that held America together made the US exceptional: “The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”
Freedom came with responsibilities as well as rights, he continued. “And among those are love and charity, and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.”
As of yesterday, Mr Obama had secured 303 electoral college votes, compared to 206 for Mr Romney. A minimum of 270 is required to win the presidency. Absentee ballots were still being tallied in the largest swing state of Florida, but Mr Obama led by close to 50,000 of votes already counted there.
Mr Obama’s re-election was welcomed around the world and prompted congratulations from leaders in the far east, Russia, Europe and the EU. President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny both wrote to him wishing him well.
Although Mr Obama won by a narrower margin than four years ago, his victory was nonetheless dramatic. He lost only two states won in the previous election, Republican-leaning Indiana and North Carolina.
Mr Obama won 50.3 per cent of the popular vote, to 48.1 per cent for Mr Romney, confounding predictions of a tie or razor-edge victory.
His midwestern “firewall” ensured Mr Obama’s victory, with the swing states of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin choosing him. His bailout of the car industry won him Ohio and Michigan.
Mr Romney lost all three states he claims as home: Michigan, where he was born; Massachusetts, where he still lives and served as governor; and New Hampshire, where he launched his campaign and maintains a holiday home.
The Republicans maintained their majority in the House of Representatives, with 233 seats to 192 for the Democratic Party. Democrats strengthened their hold on the Senate, winning 56 seats compared to 53 in the previous legislature. Republicans lost three Senate seats, moving from 47 to 44.
Women favoured Mr Obama by an 11-point margin. Nineteen Senate seats went to women, the highest number ever. In New Hampshire, women won the governor’s office and both senators’ offices. Mr Obama won virtually all of the African American vote and 71 per cent of the Latino vote.