Chicago: It was a close run thing, but Barack Obama is returning as president of the United States for four more years.
With only Florida left to declare, Obama claimed 303 electoral college votes from the other 49 nine states — enough to exceed the 270 needed for victory.
He did it by gaining support from traditional Democratic areas, women and Hispanics — and taking the key swing states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
But America is a divided nation — Obama won 50 per cent of the popular vote to Romney’s 49. From the northern states to the rust belt and down the west coast, Democrats. But the south, southwest and midwest remain staunchly Republican. And the nation is divided between urban and rural voters.
Obama will have to find a way to work legislation through the House of Representatives where Republicans retained their majority and seem unwilling to work with the White House.
In the Senate, Democrats managed to hold onto their majority, making gains in states where Tea Party conservative Republicans were too far to the right for traditional party voters to support.
Above all, Obama’s victory came from a strategically brilliant campaign, focusing on increasing the vote in urban areas, outpolling Romney and picking up four votes on average to every Republican vote.
Those urban numbers gave him the edge in rolling back strong Republican support in less-densely populated rural areas.
Speaking here, Obama said he is returning to the White House “more determined and inspired than ever” to bring change to the lives of Americans.
“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,” Obama said. “And we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”
The 51-year-old incumbent also said he had spoken with Romney and congratulated him on a hard-fought campaign.
Obama made a point last night of beginning to call for national unity to create jobs, saying that America was more than a patchwork of red and blue states.
His first challenge will come before the end of the year when Congress must deal with the debt ceiling — trying to rein in America’s $16 trillion (Dh58.7 trillion) deficit.
And the federal government must find funds to help rebuild the damage done from Hurricane Sandy.
Technically, voting in New Jersey is still underway until Friday in local races — however, it’s relevance in the presidential race is over.
There, the praise of Republican Governor Chris Christie for Obama’s handling of the Hurricane Sandy irked party officials but brought the president key support and practical endorsement for his leadership.
Florida will be decided later today, but the numbers there are moving in Obama’s favour. He held a 60,000 lead when counting shut down, but large urban counties are yet to be completed.
— With inputs from AP