Obama wins, but Americans still wait to see consequence

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After months of stump speeches, three heated debates and more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in campaign spending, the 2012 U.S. presidential race finally came to a close late Tuesday night when President Barack Obama won re-election.

It decided one of the most contentious and divisive campaigns in recent U.S. history, and the first presidential race after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money in political campaigns.

For nearly two years, the presidential campaign had dominated the U.S. news cycle, as donors sank millions of dollars into advertising and grassroots organizers worked tirelessly to get out the vote.

As political pundits had long predicted, the race was very close. Even after Obama had given his victory speech after securing the 270 electoral votes needed, analysts were still trying to figure out if the incumbent president had secured enough votes to take the popular vote title as well.

University of Chicago political science professor John Mark Hansen had always predicted the election would end up neck-and-neck.

"This election was really, really close," Hansen told Xinhua in an interview, adding the numbers were so tight in places like Florida that full results might not be known until Wednesday morning.

Although he had previously predicted an Obama victory, Hansen said the president actually ended up doing a little better than he had thought, especially in competitive states like North Carolina and Virginia.

"I think (Obama) had a pretty good night, and the Democrats tonight had a good night in the Senate races," Hansen said, referring to the Democrats' ability to hang onto their majority in the U.S. Senate by winning key tossup races in states like Missouri and Massachusetts.

Good news came in early for the Obama campaign, as the president decisively won the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where Romney had made a last-stretch campaign effort.

Promising numbers coming after the polls first closed in crucial states like Ohio and Florida also brought cheers from the thousands of Obama supporters that gathered at Chicago's McCormick Place for the Election Night rally, as they watched the results come in live.

Romney's continued strong performance in Virginia and steady gain in Ohio still added a touch of suspense to the presidential contest, and the votes remained so tight that the Republican candidate did not concede the race until almost midnight central time.

However, by that time the U.S. TV news networks had already projected an Obama victory for more than an hour.

When "Obama wins re-election" flashed across screen, a deafening roar erupted from the venue of the election night "watch party," as supporters learned they would have four more years with the president.

In jubilation, rally attendees hugged each other and danced, shouting "Four more years!" and other campaign slogans.

Obama supporter Erica Houghland told Xinhua in a telephone interview that she was extremely excited about Obama's victory, and was going to celebrate by having a drink with her friends.

"Obama deserves this victory. I'm hopeful that he'll be able to take the risks to accomplish some of his most important goals now that he's not worried about the re-election," Houghland said.

With the election finally over, many Americans are anxious to get back to their normal lives, and are hopeful that the country will be able to come together again now that the decision has been made. Like Houghland, many are also filled with hope that Washington will get to work on issues that really matter to them.

But a battle possibly remains in the U.S. Congress, where the legislature again will be divided between the two parties. The Republicans will keep their majority in the House of Representatives, while the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.

Now, the big challenge will likely be how to overcome the partisan politics that has dominated the U.S. Congress, as the two parties continue to remain stuck in a political deadlock.

For all his political expertise, Hansen still remained unsure on how Congress would react to the new election results, as the unpredictable nature of the U.S. legislature had led to such conflicts as the fight over raising the U.S. debt ceiling in 2011.

One upcoming issue for the lawmakers is how to deal with the imminent "fiscal cliff," or deficit-reducing spending cuts due to automatically kick in before the end of the year. If Congress is unable to reach a new bipartisan agreement, the cuts could threaten the recovery of the U.S. economy, and Americans are eager to avoid such a danger.

"There are two directions we can go. One direction we can go is that everyone digs in their heels and we go over the (fiscal) cliff," Hansen said, pointing to the Congressional partisan politics seen during Obama's first term.

"The other way we can go is we return to a presidency with a sitting majority in the Senate, meaning that President Obama is in a stronger position, I think, in his second term actually oddly enough, than he was in his first term," he continued.

In the latter scenario, Obama would likely be more forceful with the Republicans, as he now would not have to worry about getting reelected, Hansen explained.

Meanwhile, the Republicans might finally accept that Obama was there to stay, and be more inclined to work with him after the seeming failure of their strategy during his first term.

Whatever fate awaits the United States during President Obama's second term, Americans are eager to move on to the next task ahead, leaving the election behind them.

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