Notwithstanding the jubilation in Camp Obama at its campaign headquarters here, America awoke to the realisation that it had given itself a balanced verdict, not only in terms of the popular vote, but also in terms of the balance of power between the White House and Congress.
Republicans succeeded in maintaining their grip on the House of Representatives as they were said to have won 232 seats, leaving Democrats with 191. In the Senate, the Democrats managed to cling on to a total of 51 seats, while the Republicans faced a slight reduction in their numbers, to 45 seats.
Further, though on Tuesday night Mr. Obama sealed Mr. Romney’s fate when won resoundingly in battleground States such as Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin, Mr. Romney tied with the President at 49 per cent of the popular vote. It is quite likely that Mr. Obama was aware that this possibly reflected significant popular disaffection with his first administration and its policies.
Hinting that he intended to work through such differences of opinion in a spirit of co-operation, he s aid in his Chicago victory speech, “Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get [to our future]. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path.”
Failure to build bridges with the Republican opposition even as the GOP licks its wounds after defeat could blunt the strong mandate that Mr. Obama won on Tuesday, as indeed was the case during his first term.
For example, though Mr. Obama’s dramatic win means that there will unlikely be any further question of repealing his landmark healthcare reform package nationally, he may well have to rely extensively on Congressional support to pass further such game-changing legislation, including comprehensive immigration reform.
He will also find himself in a profoundly challenging policy environment again at the end of the upcoming “lame duck” session, when he will have to sit down with members of Congress to thrash out a solution to the looming fiscal cliff problem that could wreak havoc upon public expenditures and lead to further economic hardships if unresolved.
House of Representatives Speaker, John Boehner seemed to echo this sentiment when said in his reaction to Mr. Obama’s victory, “If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt.”
Yet Mr. Boehner was also keen to stay close to his party’s core principles. He added, “The American people also made clear there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”
However Mr. Obama too put out a clear indication that he would not be backing down from the fundamental values of the Democratic Party, arguing. “We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”