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Obama deserved another crack

Barack Obama’s re-election as President of the United States is a considerable achievement considering four years of modest economic growth and high unemployment figures.

Mitt Romney came close to making him a one-term occupant of the White House, yet, in the end, the Americans stuck with the President they knew and voted for continuity.

Mr Obama received a comfortable majority in the Electoral College as well as 50.1 per cent of the popular vote compared with 48.3 per cent for Romney. While, in 2008, Mr Obama received 9.5 million more votes than the then Republican candidate, John McCain, this time he won just over two million more votes than Mr Romney.

This was no landslide victory and, in some of the crucial swing states, Mr Obama’s victory was wafer thin, yet a decisive victory it was. He managed to hold on to all the swing states he won in 2008 with the exception of North Carolina and Indiana, two traditionally Republican states which he was expected to lose.

Mr Obama’s re-election was never going to be easy. The President inherited a very difficult economic situation and two costly wars, he faced voters with the highest unemployment rate of any incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt – 7.9 per cent – and Mr Romney proved to be a strong opponent.

However, American voters seem to have acknowledged Mr Obama’s role in preventing the US economy from sinking from a recession into a depression.

Other notable achievements of Mr Obama’s first term in office include Wall Street and banking regulations and landmark health reform legislation that extended health insurance to more than 30 million Americans. Internationally, Mr Obama improved America’s image considerably and pursued a policy of multilateralism while not hesitating to take on the al-Qaeda leadership.

Despite a respectable showing by Mr Romney, the Republican Party now needs to conduct some soul searching as to why it performed so badly among women and non-white voters. It also needs to end its divisions between conservatives and moderates, present a more united front and update some of its policies without compromising its core values.

The challenges facing Mr Obama are quite formidable. He must reach across the partisan divide and try to work with the Republicans, who have kept control of the House of Representatives.

Together, the two parties must come up with a formula to reduce the country’s massive debt.

During the campaign, Mr Obama was not particularly forthright about how he intends to tackle the country’s deficit and debt; it is crucial that he makes this a priority as he plans his second term. An America excessively laden with debt is bad for the world as it could force Washington to retreat into isolationism, which is in nobody’s interest.

US presidents tend to dedicate more time to foreign policy during their second term in office. Without doubt, the President should focus more on trying to achieve progress in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute and to end the terrible suffering in Syria – where he should consider the introduction of no-fly zones and even the arming of rebels.

Iran’s nuclear programme will remain a major challenge for the Obama Administration. He deserves credit for understanding the need to go down the diplomatic route and it is sincerely hoped that his level-headedness and his good sense of judgement when dealing with international affairs will continue.

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