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Election results 2012: Does Obama's historic victory give him a mandate? (+video)

An outcome that maintains the status quo in Washington guarantees Obama some important advantages. But the 2012 election results also foretell more gridlock, and the president, by not offering a path out of debt and deficit, lacks a clear mandate for action.

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President Obama burnished his historic legacy by winning a decisive electoral victory – sweeping most of the battleground states – despite high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and a bitterly partisan atmosphere.  

The reelection of America’s first black president shows that Mr. Obama’s triumph four years ago was not a fluke. Not only did Obama emerge the undisputed victor late Tuesday over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, albeit with a smaller popular-vote margin than in 2008, he also appears to have pulled along with him a larger majority in the Senate. Despite predictions of diminished turnout by Obama’s core constituencies – blacks, Hispanics, young voters, and women – they delivered again for both the president and the Democratic Party.

Still, 2012 was a markedly different election. Gone is the optimistic tone of 2008. The road ahead is paved with tough choices, amid worsening fiscal conditions. And the scorched-earth quality of the campaign, fueled by unprecedented spending by the campaigns, the parties, and outside groups, has left many Americans gasping for air.

The continuation of the status quo – Democratic president, Democratic Senate, Republican House – foretells more gridlock. And by not offering a detailed prescription for addressing the nation’s unsustainable deficits, particularly on entitlement programs, Obama enters a second term without a clear mandate for action.

In his victory speech, Obama sought to provide a moment of lift at the end of a grueling campaign.

"The task of perfecting our Union moves forward,” the president told his supporters at McCormick Place in Chicago. “It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope.”

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