IN the end, the President’s victory looked almost comfortable.
After the triumphant music and the flag-waving were over and the last of the tickertape had been swept away, the hard numbers were left to tell their own story.
With Florida still too close to call last night, but rendered meaningless by results elsewhere, Barack Obama had secured 303 electoral college votes to Mitt Romney’s 202, having swept to victory in all but one of the key battleground states which both men had always known would decide the 2012 US election.
Mr Obama’s victory in the popular vote was narrow but equally indisputable, the Democrat coming out ahead by a margin of more than 2.5 million votes.
Nonetheless, there was no mistaking the look of sheer relief on the face of the US’s first African-American President as he walked out onto the stage of his campaign headquarters in Chicago to make his victory speech in the early hours of yesterday morning.
No mistaking either that soaring rhetoric which was such a trademark of Mr Obama’s first election campaign in 2008.
“We are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people,” he told the jubilant crowd.
“Tonight, in this election, you the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”
The evening had begun with the result a on a knife-edge, the polls showing the Democrat incumbent and his Republican challenger neck-and-neck.
And indeed the voting proved significantly closer than the final picture suggested, with many of the crucial swing states initially too close to call.
But in the end, the President did just enough to edge in front in Virginia, in Colorado, in Wisconsin. With each close-run victory, Mr Obama surged closer to the all-important victory line of 270 electoral votes.
When the all-important battleground of Ohio – home to so many of the car-industry workers whose jobs Mr Obama saved with his ‘auto-bail-out’ – was finally called his way, it was clear the game was up for the Republicans.
Mr Romney was gracious in defeat, addressing a sombre crowd in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife Ann and running mate Paul Ryan at his side.
“Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field,” the former senator told his supporters. “We have given our all to this campaign.
“I so wish I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader.
“And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”
With the Democrats hanging on to the Senate and the Republicans maintaining control of the House of Representatives, both men spoke of the need for bi-partisan working as the US faces vital decisions over tax and spending and the all-important issue of deficit reduction.
“Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America’s future,” the President said. “We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers. A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.
“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet... That common bond is where we must begin.”
Mr Obama’s victory was celebrated around the world, his remarkable global appeal apparently untarnished by four rocky years in the White House that have left many of his original supporters in the US dissatisfied.
In Britain, where many people stayed awake bleary-eyed into the early hours to watch the first results coming in, a glitzy event was under way at the US Embassy in London attended by high-profile politicans and celbrities.
American ambassador Louis Susman promised those present that the “special, essential relationship” between the US and the UK would continue – regardless of the electoral result.