Obama re-elected, makes new promise

17:41, Nov 07 2012
US election 2012
Supporters of US President Barack Obama cheer during his election night rally in Chicago.
US Election 2012
Supporters of US President Barack Obama cheer during his election night rally in Chicago.
Obama supporters
Supporters of US President Barack Obama cheer during his election night rally in Chicago.
Barack Obama wins US election
A Romney supporter rubs his head as voting returns are announced at the election night rally for Mitt Romney.
Barack and Michelle Obama
Barack Obama tweeted this picture of himself and wife Michelle moments after winning re-election.
US election 2012
Supporters of U.S. President Barack Obama cheer during his election night victory.
US election 2012
Supporters of US President Barack Obama cheer the news of the president's re-election.
Obama Rally
Supporters of US President Barack Obama cheer during his election night victory rally in Chicago.
Ajay Narayan
Ajay Narayan cheers as the race is called for US President Barack Obama at the Nevada State Democrats' election night party in Las Vegas.
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People celebrate in New York's Times Square after President Barack Obama was projected to win the US presidential election.
	U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves Mitt Romney with his wife Ann alongside Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, right, and his wife Janna after Romney delivered his concession speech.
US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney waves with his wife Ann alongside Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, right, and his wife Janna after Romney delivered his concession speech.
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama celebrate with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill after his election night victory speech in Chicago.
US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama celebrate with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill after his election night victory speech in Chicago.
US President Barack Obama waves with his daughters Malia and Sasha, and wife Michelle, before addressing supporters
US President Barack Obama waves with his daughters Malia and Sasha, and wife Michelle, before addressing supporters
Supporters wave flags and listen to President Barack Obama's victory speech in Chicago.
Supporters wave flags and listen to President Barack Obama's victory speech in Chicago.
US President Barack Obama celebrates on stage as confetti falls after his victory speech.
US President Barack Obama celebrates on stage as confetti falls after his victory speech.

There were three small words Barack Obama's supporters had dared not utter. Yes we can.

Last night, as news came through that the president had been re-elected, they burst forth once more.

Just as all the pundits had predicted, Ohio proved the decisive state. When Obama backers in Cleveland learned he'd secured Ohio, their reaction was rapturous. Cuyahoga County had voted for him almost two to one.

"Four more years" quickly gave way to "yes we can" - the mantra Obama had spread in 2008 but which was nowhere to be seen or heard this time around.

When the man himself took to the stage in Chicago to deliver his victory speech in front of thousands, he made the American people a new promise: "The best is yet to come."

He reiterated his desire to move ahead with plans to fix the economy and fight for equal opportunity.

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But he noted that it would take co-operation from both sides of the political spectrum. "We will disagree, sometimes fiercely . . . progress will come in fits and starts."

Earlier, Republican challenger Mitt Romney also called for the United States to put its political differences aside during his concession speech. "At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing."

It was Ohio and its 18 electoral college votes that tipped Obama over the 270-vote threshold and back into the White House, albeit with a winning margin that looks likely to be smaller than in 2008.

He defended his way to victory, in marked contrast to last time. He staved off Romney in almost all the swing states.

Florida remained too close to call late last night, and Mr Romney initially appeared reluctant to concede a razor-thin result in Ohio. But even without the two largest of the swing states, Mr Obama was safe by virtue of decisive wins in Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire.

Prime Minister John Key responded to the result by saying he would send the president a letter of congratulations today and relay those sentiments in person at the East Asian Summit in Phnom Penh later this month.

"I have enjoyed working with President Obama during his first term as president and welcome the opportunity to continue our strategic partnership over the coming years."

Romney collected a lot of votes from people in despair with their country and its leaders, but missed vital votes in the middle ground with uncompromising or equivocal views on abortion, gay marriage and immigration.

It said a lot that one of the most celebrated Democratic victories of the night was Claire McCaskill over Todd Akin in a Senate race in Missouri. It was as though she had vanquished a dark and sinister force - Akin was nationally known for controversial remarks about rape and pregnancy.

Romney did well enough that perhaps the Republicans will not despair completely, but it was clear last night that there would be repercussions.

Doubling down on conservatism had failed to put a Republican back in the White House, so would the Grand Old Party try to reform itself to reflect an increasingly diverse country?

The Republicans maintained their majority in the House of Representatives and a fiscal cliff now looms, within only a few weeks for it to flex its muscle against Mr Obama. How both parties break from here will have repercussions much wider than domestic US politics.

- John Hartevelt is travelling on a US Government-funded programme.

Fairfax Media