Obama re-elected despite shaky US economy

Washington — President Barack Obama captured a second White House term, blunting a mighty challenge by Republican Mitt Romney as Americans voted for a leader they knew over a wealthy businessman they did not.

Obama, America’s first black president, easily captured far more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory and further cemented his place in American history Tuesday.

This despite having his first term dominated by stubbornly high unemployment and Americans’ anxiety about their future.

In the Philippines, the Aquino government expressed its congratulations to Obama and said it would support his administration as part of the shared history and ongoing partnership between the two countries.

Obama’s re-election to another four-year term should guarantee the future of his signature legislative achievement, a health care overhaul, which Republicans hoped to overturn.

Internationally, it means the United States is likely to continue a foreign policy emphasizing multinational partnerships in dealing with issues such as Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program — an approach Romney derided as weak.

Obama’s victory could also come as a relief to China since Romney had pledged to declare it a currency manipulator, potentially leading to sanctions and escalating trade tensions.

’Fought our way back’

Thousands of Obama supporters waving small American flags and cheering athered in the cavernous McCormick Place convention center on the lakefront in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

They hugged each other, danced and pumped their fists in the air when TV networks declared Obama the winner.

Excited crowds also gathered in New York’s Times Square, at Faneuil Hall in Boston and near the White House in Washington, drivers joyfully honking as they passed by.

Obama told supporters in Chicago that the election “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.”

For the United States, “the best is yet to come,” he said.

Romney called Obama to concede, and in an appearance before supporters in Boston, he congratulated the president saying, “I pray that he will be successful in guiding our nation.” Obama said he wants to meet with Romney to discuss how they can work together.

But while Romney and Obama both spoke of the need for unity and healing the nation’s partisan schism, the election did nothing to end America’s divided government.

The Democrats retained their narrow majority in the Senate, while the Republicans kept firm control of the House of Representatives.

Obama’s narrow lead in the popular vote will make it difficult for him to claim a sweeping mandate.

With returns from 94 percent of the nation’s precincts, Obama had 58 million, 50 percent. Romney had 56 million, or 48 percent of the popular vote.

But Obama did have a sizeable victory where it mattered: in the competition for electoral votes. He had at least 303 votes to Romney’s 206.

The election emerged as a choice between two very different visions of government: Obama’s — as a major, front-row player in Americans’ lives, or Romney’s — as a less-obtrusive facilitator for private enterprise and entrepreneurship.

The economy was rated the top issue by about 60 percent of voters surveyed.

About four in 10 said the economy is on the mend, but more than that said it was stagnant or getting worse four years after the near-collapse of 2008.

‘Believe’

No U.S. president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s had run for re-election with a national jobless rate as high as it is now — 7.9 percent.

Democrats cast Romney as a heartless businessman, out of touch with everyday Americans, who would restore policies that helped the wealthy and contributed to the economic collapse.

According to the exit poll, 53 percent of voters said Obama was more in touch with people like them, compared to 43 percent for Romney.

Romney, who would have been America’s first Mormon president, won the nomination after fending off an eclectic series of challengers, including Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction,” Romney said during his concession remarks, “but the nation chose another leader.”

“At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the nation’s work. I believe in America. I believe in the people of America. ... I ran for office because I’m concerned about America. This election is over, but our principles endure,” he added. /AP with an Inquirer report.

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