“While our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up,” Obama told a cheering crowd of supporters in his home town of Chicago early Wednesday morning. “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.”
He said he intends to sit down with Romney in the weeks ahead to talk about how the two can work together.
Obama also made an oblique reference to the hard, negative edge of his campaign, saying that even this bitter election was something to be envied in nations around the world that enjoy fewer freedoms: “These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty.”
His election capped a night of gains for the once beaten-down American left. Democrats Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts won Senate races, as the party kept control of that chamber. Liberal causes also won in several states: Maryland and Maine became the first to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Colorado and Washington passed laws that legalized some marijuana use.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had built his campaign around the single contention that the U.S. economy is battered and adrift because of Obama’s failures, and that his business experience uniquely qualified him to fix it.
In the end, that wasn’t enough, in part because the economy undermined his argument by showing signs of improvement. Just weeks before Election Day, the national unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office.
Voters also did not warm to Romney. Even after many months and millions of dollars put toward trying to make him look good, exit polls showed that just as many voters trusted Obama to handle the economy as trusted Romney.
“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” a slightly hoarse Romney told his supporters in Boston early Wednesday morning. He said he and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), had left “everything on the field,” adding: “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes.”
As of early Wednesday, Florida was too close to call — but also irrelevant, as Obama had passed the threshold of 270 electoral votes.
Romney was beaten by a different Obama than the one who defeated Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) four years ago. Back then, Obama had run as a symbol of limitless hope.
This year, he ran as a symbol of hope’s limitations.
The president no longer pledged to sweep away Washington’s old partisan politics. He had tried that and was unable to do so. Now, he was pledging to plunge into those old politics and fight — battling Republicans whom Obama said favored the rich and waged a “war on women.”