By Stephen Kaufman
After a closely divided American electorate gave him a second four-year term, President Obama called for unity and appealed to a shared hope for the country’s future.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney telephoned the president November 7 to concede defeat. After accepting the call, Obama told supporters in Chicago that he is returning to power “more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.”
According to press reports, Obama won 303 electoral votes, and Romney won 206, with Florida’s 29 electoral votes still undecided.
Under the U.S. Electoral College system, which assigns votes on a winner-take-all basis to states according to their population, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins 270 electoral votes becomes president.
In the November 6 contest, Obama was able to carry important swing states like Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin to help assure his victory, despite lingering American concerns over the state of the U.S. economy.
Obama also won approximately 50 percent of the popular vote, compared to Romney’s 48 percent.
Speaking to supporters in Boston November 7, Romney said the United States stands at “a critical point,” and cannot risk “partisan bickering and political posturing” as it works to solve its challenges.
“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader,” Romney said, and he urged supporters to pray for the president and the country.
“This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to a new greatness,” Romney said.
In his remarks, Obama congratulated Romney and said that they had “battled fiercely” for the presidency “because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future,” and said he hoped to talk with Romney about “where we can work together to move this country forward.”
Addressing supporters, the president said, “Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.”
But “these arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter — the chance to cast their ballots like we did today,” he said.
Appealing for unity, the president said the diverse population of the United States, made up of various ethnic groups, religious communities, income levels, and ideological beliefs, is one “American family” that will “rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.”
America’s greatness, he said, comes from its people accepting obligations to one another and to the future “so that the freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for comes with responsibilities as well as rights, and among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism.”
Both candidates praised their supporters, campaign donors and volunteers who have offered their time and dedication over many months in the U.S. presidential campaign.
“I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years. Thank you so very much,” Romney said.
Obama told supporters they would have “the lifelong appreciation of a grateful president,” and said, “No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together.”