In Europe, where the U.S. election results became known in the wee hours of Wednesday, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was among the first off the starting blocks, issuing a congratulatory communiqué shortly before 6 a.m., when most of his countrymen were still sleeping.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, speaks with Belgium's Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo during a roundtable meeting at an E.U. summit in Brussels. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert - AP)

"Americans have opted for a more just and more tolerant America," said Di Rupo, whose Socialist Party heads a coalition government in Brussels.

The image of a black leader heading the world's most powerful country, which led to broad support for President Obama after his victory four years ago, has remained strong in European minds. In that light, support for Obama has continued to be widespread, among the public and among government leaders, even though they often disagreed with his advice for economic stimulus measures as a way to overcome the debt crisis.

President Francois Hollande, the Socialist veteran elected as leader of France in May, hailed the outcome as a clear choice in favor of an open, supportive America.

Hollande and his government made no secret of their preference for Obama during the campaign, synching with a French public that, according to a German Marshall Fund poll, was 81 percent in favor of the Democratic candidate.

Jean-Francois Cope, who heads the conservative Union for a Popular Movement that supported former president Nicolas Sarkozy, also expressed satisfaction at the U.S. vote, despite the loss of an ideological cousin in Mitt Romney.

Obama's reelection, Cope said in a statement, bears witness to the confidence that he was able to inspire among his people despite the international financial and economic crisis. "President Obama," Cope added, "undeniably belongs to the category of those who have left a mark, are leaving a mark and will leave a mark in history."