Four years ago, when president Obama was elected, the feeling amongst his supporters was one of exhilaration and they were exuberant about the possibilities that lay ahead. This year, the prevailing feeling is one of relief. An election that has been fuelled by fear and cynicism means that Obama's supporters are not so much elated to have won but more relieved not to have lost. The turmoil and frustrations of his first term mean that his supporters also have had their expectations tempered for a second time around. They will need to be patient as given the state of Congress, it will be another two years before he can really start getting things done. However, a steadily improving economy should give him the chance to set his stamp on his second term.
What he faces internationally will be markedly different from the time when he took office. He will hope that winding down the two wars will decrease the tension in the Middle East but this is a very different region from 2008. On one hand, sanctions imposed against Iran have led to a diminishing of its threat and the country is further away from developing nuclear capability. On the other, the Arab Spring has radically changed both the personnel in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and also the nature of the region. Those now in charge after the revolutions do not feel that they need to toe the American line or be dictated to by those in Washington. Hilary Clinton's replacement as secretary of state will have to be adept at balancing the different interests and personalities found in the region.
Her replacement is likely to be Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate. He has plenty of foreign policy experience having been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been jockeying for the position. Another possible candidate for the role is US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. She is well regarded by president Obama but has the issue of her role in the attacks on the American embassy in Libya hanging over her. She is facing calls to step down over allegations of misleading the American public with her controversial account of what happened. So far she has resisted the demands but the furore may impact her chances of landing the coveted role.
Obama's main concern for his second term will be ensuring the recovery of the American economy and this will affect his dealings outside America. With Europe, its recession will drag on throughout his second term and Obama will hope that it doesn't impact on the American financial fortunes. With the two wars coming to an end, Obama will not be so reliant on the allies providing troops to the region, and will be focusing his energies on matters in America. With his victory, he now has a mandate to go forward and forge some kind of unity within the country. His victory speech acknowledged that "progress will come in fits and starts" and he now has the momentum to go forward and achieve it.