The stakes four years ago were high, but in this election they were higher than in 2008, and perhaps more than ever before. On the eve of Election Day 2012, I predicted an Obama victory - I had worked on the ground in Pennsylvania during the 2008 election, and I knew first-hand what a brilliant 'get out the vote' operation the Democrats had across the US. I felt confident that my prediction would come to fruition.
I do admit that I might be biased - I have a huge personal emotional investment in Obama. I believe he is a phenomenal, once-in-a-generation leader who can be transformational. This belief also made it difficult to watch poll after poll this election putting the candidates neck and neck and opinion leader after opinion leader saying it was too close to call. While I never wavered, the nerves were apparent.
My faith in Obama was justified. We won again - and I don't mean just Obama, the Democrats or the people who voted for him. I truly believe that every man, woman and child - no matter what colour their skin, ancestry, faith or sexual orientation - has won something from the re-election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States.
His victory last night was secured by maintaining the rainbow coalition that brought him victory four years ago: black and Hispanic voters; young Americans; women; and Americans with post-graduate degrees. These diverse groups outnumbered Mitt Romney's support base, comprised primarily of white men and older Americans. Obama again took positions supported by the liberal progressive base of the Democratic Party, but that also held considerable support among self-described moderates. Obama never needed to 'pivot' significantly towards the centre - his core positions already represented the American common ground.
While his 2008 campaign was based on the iconic themes of 'Hope' and 'Change', the political and economic realities of 2012 meant that inspiring a nation once again would be very difficult to achieve. Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York, said that politicians "campaign in poetry and govern in prose". That's rarely been truer for a president than it was for Obama, whose inspiring oratory launched him to the White House and whose grind-it-out, insider-game approach to working with Congress disappointed his fans. It may not have been beautiful or inspirational, but his 'prose' achieved results - two key examples are the healthcare bill and financial reforms Unusually, these reforms would not take full effect until well into a second term. So while in 2008, his election was a vote for hope, in 2012, his re-election carries a guarantee of change.
Although in 2008 the country was roused by his soaring rhetoric and big plans, the Obama re-election campaign soon found that, in the cold harsh light of 2012, their key voters now had more realistic expectations of the president, and they responded better when Obama appeared to have re-evaluated his expectations and plans too. The candidate of hope and change became the candidate of modest plans and achievable goals.
However, Obama's victory speech certainly reinforced the message that, fundamentally, he is still the same man he was in 2008 - just perhaps a little grey-haired and a little more realistic. However, he still wants to inspire and to unite. Echoing his rhetoric of 2008, he talked about Americans not being a collection of individuals, or a collection of red states and blue states - they are, and will always be, the United States of America, e pluribus unum.
He reminded us that the best is yet to come and that, despite their many differences, most Americans share certain hopes for their country's future. Despite the struggles and frustrations of partisan politics he experienced in the last four years, President Obama appears to be more hopeful about America and the next four years.
I honestly believe that President Obama is the embodiment of the American Dream and, to paraphrase him, if there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream is alive in the 21st century, who still questions the power of democracy, well last night you got your answer.
However, this time around the American Dream goes hand in hand with the American Reality - and this makes Obama's victory all the more impressive.
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