President Barack Obama won his re-election bid for the presidency on Tuesday, eking out a victory over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney to take the White House, after a highly competitive campaign and a tumultuous first term that appeared to stoke the partisanship he vowed to transcend four years ago.
Obama was able to snag crucial battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin to easily surpass the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Exit poll data suggested the economy, the issue on which Romney launched his bid for the presidency, was the main issue driving voters to the polls this year. But polling leading up to the election found more among likely voters said they had more faith in Obama’s ability to lead the nation’s continued economic recovery than Romney, a sentiment confirmed Tuesday night.
The Associated Press called the race when Obama won 274 electoral votes compared to Romney’s 201, even before all states had reported their results. As of 12:45 a.m. Obama had a reported 303 electoral votes, while Romney had 203.
The president's way forward from here is unclear and could be encumbered by the same partisan resistance he encountered throughout his first term. While Democrats retained control of the Senate, Republicans cemented their majority in the House of Representatives.
In addition to presiding over a divided government, Obama will begin his second term without the mandate that propelled him into office in 2008. While he won by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College, Obama only had a slender 100,000 vote lead in the popular vote late Tuesday night.
In recent weeks, statisticians had predicted the 2012 election would close with an electoral college / popular vote split. If that’s the case, Obama could be the only sitting president to take a second term without also securing the popular vote, an event that will likely lead to lawsuits challenging his win.
Obama’s first order of business will be confronting the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a massive year-end budget shift that could throw the economy into disarray if Congress does not act. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire, and the first round of deep cuts to defense and domestic discretionary spending will take effect. Obama has already indicated that he plans to use the swiftly approaching event to strike a broad bargain with Republicans.