By Steve Howell
A telephone call from Mitt Romney sealed it just before 6am (GMT) this morning – with Florida still to declare, Barack Obama had garnered enough votes to remain as President of the United States for a second term.
It had been a bitterly contested election in which Romney outspent the Democrats and fought hard in a handful of ‘swing’ states the incumbent had won in 2008.
His early campaigning even featured a PR stunt with his wife Ann, who has family connections in Wales, baking Welsh cakes to give the wealthy Romney family a common touch.
In the end, the Republican challenger took only Indiana and North Carolina from Obama. Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and other key states remained loyal to Obama, who was also running ahead in Florida.
A worn-out Romney, who unlike Obama had campaigned into polling day, was gracious in defeat.
“This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray and trust the President will be successful in his endeavours,” he said. “The nation is at a critical point and at a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.”
It will be interesting to see if Romney’s appeal for politicians in Washington to work together is heeded by his Republican colleagues.
The elections leave the US political system divided. In voting for Senate seats, the Democrats made gains and retained control. But the Republicans fared better in elections to the House of Representatives and will retain control of the country’s lower chamber.
Obama may now face resistance as he tries to complete his healthcare reforms and on key election pledges such as greater investment in renewable energy and higher taxes for the wealthy.
He will not be helped by the fact he is unlikely to win the popular vote by a clear margin once all the counting in every state is completed.
Under the US constitution, the President is chosen by an electoral college in which each state is given votes roughly in proportion to its population and then allocates them on a winner-takes-all basis.
In the early hours of this morning, when it seemed possible Obama could win the electoral college but not the popular vote, some more extreme Romney supporters – led by Donald Trump – were making wild calls for ‘revolution’.
“The House of Representatives shouldn’t give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare,” said Trump on Twitter. “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble.
“This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. We should have a revolution in this country.”
Trump’s appeal may go down well with hard core right wingers who see health insurance as ‘socialism’, but it is unlikely to gain much traction among business leaders generally.
Obama has stewarded the US economy relatively successfully since the depths of the recession, bringing unemployment down and expanding the money supply to stimulate growth. His bailout of the car industry was welcomed by both employers and unions and helped him win key states such as Ohio and Michigan.
The view of independents such as New York Mayor Bloomberg is likely to be more typical of business sentiment post-election.
The founder of the eponymous business media empire came out in support of Obama just before the election citing healthcare and climate change as key issues on which he supported the president.
“The increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s (Hurricane Sandy) devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action,” he said.
“We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.”
Renewable energy and the development of environmentally-friendly products are likely to be growth areas in the United States under an Obama administration – presenting Welsh exporters with huge opportunities.
But Obama’s first priority is undoubtedly going to be calming the political waters so that he can secure agreement with Congress on a budget and crucial funding for his healthcare reforms.
Like Romney, the President struck a conciliatory note this morning saying on Twitter: “We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are.”