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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Obama Reelected to Second Term as U.S. President

U.S. President Barack Obama was reelected to a second four-year term yesterday, winning in battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and leading in Florida, where votes were still being tallied at the time of publication. After a long and difficult campaign against Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Obama gathered 303 electoral votes (counting those in Florida), 33 more than he needed to secure the presidency, and also won the popular vote. “I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe,” Obama said in his victory speech. “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.” Obama is the first president to be reelected with an unemployment rate at 7.9 percent since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Five Women Elected to U.S. Senate As GOP Retains House

Electors are set to send five more women to the U.S. Senate, four Democrats in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Hawaii, and one Republican, Deb Fischer, in Nebraska. This election should bring the total number of female senators to 20, a record in U.S. history. Like Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin will be the first woman to represent Wisconsin in the Senate, but she will also be the first openly gay senator. Other Democrats, like incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Rep. Joe Donnelly in Indiana, defeated Republicans Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively, after the Republicans voiced their opposition to abortion in the case of rape with comments that stirred controversy during their campaigns. As Democrats expanded their control of the Senate, Republicans held on to the majority in the House, winning 234 seats and poised to win another three. A party must win 218 House seats to secure its grip of the legislative body. “If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner, asserting that despite Democratic gains, the balance of powers hasn’t changed.

Referendum Votes Show U.S. Shift to Left on Social Issues

U.S. voters backed marriage equality for the first time as three states, Maryland, Maine, and Washington, elected to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday, and Minnesota said “no” to an amendment that defined marriage solely as the union between and man and a woman. Washington and Colorado were the first states in the union to legalize the possession and sale of recreational marijuana, putting themselves at odds with the federal government, which defines cannabis as an illegal narcotic. “Don’t break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly,”  said Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, anticipating a legal battle with the Obama administration. In California, 54 percent of voters favored a ballot measure that will increase taxes for those earning over $250,000 per annum, raising revenue by $6 billion a year over seven years to save the state’s public schools, a victory for Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who campaigned for it intensely against conservative opponents. In Maryland, voters approved a measure that will allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition for public universities and colleges. Puerto Rico, meanwhile, voted on its relationship with the U.S.: a majority said they wanted full statehood, something President Barack Obama said he would support, but they also ousted Republican Governor Luis Fortuno, a backer of statehood.

Fiscal Cliff, Economy, Middle East, China, Russia: Obama’s Challenges Ahead

President Barack Obama won’t have much time to celebrate his victory as a series of challenges, both domestic and international, are looming ahead. The most urgent matter Obama and the Republicans in the House will have to deal with is the so-called fiscal cliff: if by January 2013 they don’t come up with a viable plan to cut the deficit, $607 billion of spending cuts and tax increases will be triggered, something analysts call a series of unnecessary austerity measures that would almost certainly slow or stop economic growth. Obama will also have to contend with an ailing Europe, the U.S.’ largest trading partner, whose official economists just slashed its growth projections, forecasting deepening recessions in Spain and Italy and slowing expansion in Germany. Then, there is Syria’s civil war, which, in 20 months of conflict, has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and is threatening to become a regional conflict. There is also the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. China, the superpower that is going through a leadership transition, is becoming more bold with its trade practices and economic policies. Russia, which has actively supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has seen the return of Vladimir Putin at its helm, a leader whose aggressive style has hindered the resolution of international conflicts. In order to assert his authority abroad, experts say, Obama will have to show he can overcome the partisan gridlock at home.

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