President Barack Obama retained power yesterday after a
presidential campaign which featured vitriolic name-calling
and the largest amount of spending yet on television
Looking at the US electoral results, Mr Obama will realise he
has some work to do if he wants to bring together a nation
divided along clear geographical, gender and demographic
Republican challenger Mitt Romney won well in the south and
central states, with Florida being the standout win there for
Mr Obama won in the northeast and the west.
The sitting president also won clear support from women and
Such is the division in the US that even the two houses
remain divided. The Republicans retain control of the House
of Representatives, but the Democrats made surprising gains
to retain control of the Senate.
Mr Obama will want to create a legacy in this four-year term.
To do so, he needs to, at the least, produce the perception
that he can build relationships to get through some of his
most coveted policies. Whether he can do so in such a
ruptured political atmosphere remains to be seen.
It is possible for a US presidential candidate to win the
popular vote but not the White House owing to the Electoral
College voting system. With Florida and California being
counted so late in the day, Mr Obama trailed Mr Romney for
long periods of the counting.
Tellingly, some of the Republican candidates who were
pilloried in public for their comments regarding rape - and
that babies of rape attacks were "a gift from God" - lost
For a country which prides itself on being the world's
greatest democracy, the voting system in the United States
seems to erect endless barricades against allowing people to
exercise their democratic right.
News feeds through the day indicated incidents of voter
registration and election irregularities throughout some of
the most crucial voting states.
In Florida, hundreds of people were still in line at Ronald
Reagan High School in the Miami suburb of Doral when the
doors shut, even though voters who had arrived before 7pm
were entitled to vote. In some other Miami precincts, voting
was halted when ballot papers ran out. Many voters gave up
rather than weather six-hour lines.
Voters in some poor areas of Ohio were reportedly asked for
their photo identification, even though that was not a
requirement. And the address on the ID had to match an
address book at the polling booth, again not a requirement.
Voting has been extended on parts of the East Coast until
Friday to allow people displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote
by email or fax. There were reports of malfunctioning
election scanners in Cleveland.
Irregularities aside, the world will watch closely as some
important milestones near.
The so-called fiscal cliff arrives on January 1. At that
moment, unless agreement is reached within the fractured
Congress, $US600 billion ($NZ724 billion) of tax increases
and spending cuts are automatically triggered. That amount
alone is expected to cut 1.3% from economic activity, pushing
the US back into recession.
Jobless numbers, although falling, are still high and figures
out yesterday suggested that employers are not hiring. The
job market remains very competitive. With 12.1 million people
unemployed in September, there were 3.4 unemployed people, on
average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy,
that ratio is roughly two to one.
Government debt remains high but the chances of the Federal
Reserve stopping the printing of money soon remains slight.
The US remains the world's largest economy and President
Obama has much to do to provide stability and security for a
nation fractured by a nasty election. He has won his second
term. Now, the hard work must begin.