President Barack Obama was re-elected to be the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday night, achieving a second term presidential victory over new Republican challenger Mitt Romney through a combination of Electoral College votes and the popular vote, surpassing a tough presidential campaign while the American economy is still in recovering mode and awaiting key bipartisan leadership challenges in the near future over trillion dollar deficits and contentious fiscal policies.
Obama surpassed the decisive 270-vote benchmark in the Electoral College with a victory in Ohio. He also endured a last minute campaign blitz by Romney in Pennsylvania and was victorious in the other key battleground states of Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, and Iowa.
During the presidential acceptance speech, President Obama spoke passionately about fulfilling the hopes of Americans during his second term, showing little resemblance to his lackluster first debate performance that culminated in Mitt Romney gaining momentum and surging ahead in the polls.
“Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours” Obama said. “And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do” Obama explained.
President Obama addressed the challenging task that awaits him as he attempts to unite the country.
“Our economy is recovering, a decade of war is ending, a long campaign is now over,” Obama said. “And whether I earned your vote or note, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you’ve made me a better president. I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead” Obama said.
President Obama will face more challenges ahead while attempting to break through the political gridlock that he struggled with during the final two years of his first presidential term after the Republicans in Congress gained majority in the House of Representatives, opposed his political agenda at nearly every angle, and made it impossible for him to extend his economic policies.
Election results from the House of Representative and the Senate from last night showed there was little actual change with the political landscape on Capitol Hill.
The Republicans kept the majority in the House while the Democrats retained the majority in the Senate, easily overcoming far-right Republican challengers during the elections.
The Fiscal Cliff
One of the crucial challenges that awaits a revived President Obama and other political leaders in Washington D.C. concerns the looming “fiscal cliff” which consists of a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that are expected to reduce nearly $600 billion from the U.S. economy.
The individual tax cuts, known as the “Bush tax cuts”, are due to expire at the end of 2012 while billions of dollars in federal spending cuts are scheduled to phase in beginning on January 2nd.
President Obama has no plans to end the Bush tax cuts except for the wealthiest class in the United States, a provision which Republicans in Congress may decide to challenge.
The President only wants to raise taxes on income earned above $250,000.
Major domestic programs, like Social Security, federal pensions and veterans’ benefits, are exempted from the spending cuts.
However, spending for federal agencies and cabinet departments, including defense spending, would be reduced through budget sequestration (automatic across-the-board cuts) and will be split evenly between defense and domestic spending, beginning on January 2, 2013 unless politicians on Capitol Hill decide to act before the deadline and work out a deal.
President Obama faces a challenging task of addressing $1 trillion in annual deficits in the midst of uncompromising House and Senate that has strong ideological differences with fresh memories from a debt ceiling debacle that threatened to lead the United States into sovereign default in early August 2011.
The fiscal uncertainty resulted in a U.S. credit down grade from its coveted AAA rating despite the formation of the “super committee”, a 12 member bipartisan panel of politicians whose task involved finding an additional $1.5 trillion in debt savings over a ten-year period in addition to $917 billion in cuts and the initial debt limit increase of $900 billion through the Budget Control Act of 2011 that helped to avoid a U.S. sovereign default.
On November 21, the “super committee” failed to reach a deficit reduction deal. After concluding their work the committee issued a statement: “After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.”