A triumphant Barack Obama flew into Washington last night to prepare for his second term in the White House after sweeping to an impressive victory in the US Presidential election.
But the President arrived in the capital knowing he immediately faces a fierce battle in Congress over planned tax increases and spending cuts, after the Republicans held on to their majority in the House of Representatives.
Mr Obama’s victory was greeted by warm congratulations from all the UK’s main political parties, and was cheered by MPs on all sides of the House of Commons yesterday.
Prime Minister David Cameron described Mr Obama as “a very successful US President” and said he looked forward to working with him over the next four years.
Deputy PM Nick Clegg said the Government would continue its work with him in “building a more prosperous, a more free and a more stable world”.
Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman offered Mr Obama “our warmest congratulations”.
In an emotional victory speech in the early hours of yesterday at the end of one of the closest and most bitterly contested elections of recent times, Mr Obama promised ecstatic supporters in his home town of Chicago that “the best is yet to come”.
“Tonight, despite all the hardship we have been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I have never been more hopeful about our future,” he said.
“I have never been more hopeful about America.”
After a contest which many pundits said was too close to call, the President was returned with a surprisingly comfortable margin of victory – winning 303 votes in the electoral college compared to 206 for Mr Romney, with results from Florida yet to come.
However the figures belied deep divisions within the country, with the popular vote almost equally split between the two candidates. With returns in from 94 per cent of the nation’s precincts, Mr Obama had 58m votes – 50 per cent of the popular vote. Mr Romney had 56m, or 48 per cent.
Meanwhile the congressional elections saw the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives while the Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate – potentially foreshadowing a further period of legislative gridlock in Washington.
Mr Romney – the former businessman who claimed he could “fix” America’s broken economy – told his supporters that he and running mate Paul Ryan had “given our all” for the campaign, but said it was now time for Republicans to work with the President.
He issued a plea for a level of co-operation between the two major parties which has been lacking during Mr Obama’s first term.
“At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering,” Mr Romney said. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”
Over the coming weeks, Mr Obama and Congress need to negotiate a new tax and spending plan to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaching at the end of 2012, when austerity measures legislated in the President’s first term are due to come into effect.
Stock markets slumped yesterday amid fears the Congressional log-jam may continue, and that the world’s largest economy may be tipped back into recession.
But while Democrats celebrated the knowledge their candidate will spend four more years in the White House, the Republicans face a period of soul-searching as polls showed they were badly beaten among key groups such as young people and ethnic minorities.