WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Nov 7: US President Barack Obama cruised comfortably to a second term in the White House by winning 303 of the 538 Electoral College votes, (although main media outlets projected late in the day that he had also won the state of Florida, with 29 votes, taking his overall tally to 332). However, Obama’s popular mandate remains thin — 50 per cent against 48 per cent of his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Mr Romney won 206 electoral votes against 270 needed to win.
“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,” said Mr Obama in a message he delivered at 2 in the morning from his campaign headquarters in Chicago.
Mr Romney admitted defeat in a brief speech shortly after midnight on Wednesday in Boston. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” he said.
The 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor urged politicians on both sides to “put the people before politics”.
And Mr Obama said that’s what he planned to do to make his second term more fruitful.
Mr Obama remained engaged in a fierce political battle with the Republicans, particularly in the last two years of his first term when his rivals controlled the House of Representatives.
The conflict derailed Mr Obama’s efforts to implement some of the reforms he had pledged in his first election campaign, although he did manage to pass a health plan which promises medical insurance to all Americans.
The health plan, known as Obama-care, did encourage a lot of middle class voters to vote for him in Tuesday’s tight race.
Although some political pundits predicted a divided mandate with both candidates getting 269 electoral votes each, by Wednesday morning Mr Obama had captured 303 electors, with Florida still undecided.
By late Wednesday afternoon, however, several US media outlets also projected Florida for Mr Obama, giving him all 29 electoral votes.
A winner takes all electoral votes in a state and the electors than choose a president if the popular vote fails to give a clear mandate.
Mr Obama, however, won both electoral and popular mandates, although he has a thin margin in popular votes.
The president received a total of 59,725,608 popular votes or 50 per cent of the total cast.
Mr Romney received 57,098,650 popular votes or 48 per cent of the total cast. The remaining 2 per cent went to 10 other presidential candidates from smaller parties.
A closer look at Florida shows how tight the election was in key swing states that won a second term for the president. Mr Obama received 4,144,924 popular votes in Florida or 49.86 per cent of the total polled, Mr Romney received 4,097,511 popular votes or 49.29 per cent of total polled. But the victory gave Mr Obama all 29 electors.
House and Senate
Tuesday’s election also allowed Mr Obama’s Democratic Party to consolidate his position in the 100-member US Senate with a three-seat gain. Democrats now have 54 Senators, Republicans 45 and there’s one independent member as well.
The party also made gains in the 438-member House of Representatives but Republicans retained their control over the House.
Republicans now have 233 members, Democrats 199 while results from some congressional districts have not yet been announced.
Mr Obama, who is the western world’s first black leader, made history in 2008, when he won his first term. But by the end of his term, some political analysts started saying that’s an aberration and Americans will bring back a white leader in 2012.
This reflected in the slogans that a large, and emotionally charged, African-American crowd chanted on Wednesday night outside the White House.
“Four more years, four more years,” they chanted, while beating drums and dancing.
“Barack Obama is no fluke, he is a world-class leader,” said one of them when asked by Dawn why four more years were so important. “Yes, his re-election will change our destiny too,” he said with tears rolling down his cheeks.
The crowd stayed outside the White House all night, braving freezing temperatures.
Early election results explain why Mr Obama’s supporters were so emotionally charged. Since polls in some midwestern and southern states closed early, they were the first to declare results. And most of these states went to Mr Romney, including one or two considered key to victory.
This caused great despondency in the Obama camp, which began to clear up as results from other swing states came.
When Mr Obama bagged Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania, it became obvious that he was heading for a clean sweep of the battleground states. This also meant a clear overall victory.
Mr Romney, who had scared Obama supporters by snatching Indiana and North Carolina from his rival’s 2008 grasp, could not expand his victory to other swing states.
Mr Romney also lost his own state, Massachusetts, and his native Michigan. The Republicans also lost Wisconsin, the home state of their vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
Mr Ryan, however, got re-elected to Congress.
As Virginia, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania fell, Obama supporters started hugging and cheering in the Chicago convention centre where the president delivered his victory speech.
He said he would return to the White House “more determined, and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do”. Mr Obama pledged to work with Republican leaders in Congress to reduce the government’s budget deficit, fix the tax code and reform the immigration system. He also offered to meet Mr Romney to discuss how they could work together.
But political observers pointed out that this promised bipartisan approach would only work if Republican leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, cooperated. The two fought bitterly in Mr Obama’s first term.
And what Mr Boehner said after the results were announced did not sound very encouraging. “The American people want solutions — and tonight, they’ve responded by renewing our (Republican) majority,” he said, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, said voters had not endorsed “the failures or excesses of the president’s first term. They have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do” earlier.
Mr Obama faces his first challenge when Congress returns next week to take up a package of automatic tax rises and cuts to military and domestic spending.
Commentators appearing on various US channels pointed out that the voters gave Mr Obama credit for his 2009 rescue of the US car industry and for the commando mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan last year.
Mr Obama’s re-election also safeguarded his healthcare reform law, which Mr Romney had pledged to repeal.
This was also one of the most expensive elections in US history. The two candidates raised more than $2 billion largely for advertising in swing states.
Preliminary figures suggest fewer people voted than four years ago. With most ballots tallied, more than 117 million people participated, compared to 131 million four years ago.