America decides

US Presidential Election 2012

In victory speech, Obama shares message of hope

Victory party may have been more low-key than 2008, but president's supporters show their joy and relief as they celebrate another four years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 4:15am

The crowd was smaller than it was four years ago, and the venue was indoors.

But Barack Obama's victory party early yesterday shared a theme with his 2008 election night - hope.

The speed and scale of the win crashed over Obama's diehard supporters like a shockwave, unleashing joy and relief after what had been a tense and often ill-tempered campaign.

"Tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future," Obama said.

"I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope," he told the cheering crowd in Chicago, his hometown.

Obama won the presidency in 2008 on the themes of "hope" and "change". But except for the final weeks of the campaign, he shunned those words in the face of Republican attacks on his economic stewardship and other issues.

The president adopted a conciliatory tone towards his opponent in his remarks, saying the people had "voted for action, not politics as usual".

He said: "We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward."

Obama reached out to those who supported his opponent, saying: "Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. You've made me a better president.

"With your stories and your struggles I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead."

In 2008, Obama spoke to a crowd of some 240,000 people at Chicago's Grant Park, marking his historic victory over Republican John McCain.

This year, he chose a convention centre, McCormick Place, with seating room for 18,000.

The venue's capacity was not the only change from four years ago. Obama's daughters are taller, his hair is greyer, and the historic aspect of his election was less pronounced than it was in 2008. But the crowd was every bit as enthusiastic.

"This solidifies something that started in 2008," said Karen Lehman, 59. "I feel so fantastic. This is a victory for all of these people here that President Obama was able to mobilise. They believed that he was moving in the right direction."

Polls before the election had suggested a tight race and many had expected a long wait for clear results but, as the map of swing states fell to a blue tide of Obama wins, parties erupted in the Democratic half of America.

In Washington, crowds converged on the White House, dancing jigs on their cars and chanting "four more years".

Crowds poured into New York's Times Square, happy once more after last week's devastating storm swamped the city.

"I am so excited. With Romney I was so scared he would cut all the funding for the arts," said Broadway actress Jill Zaggo, braving the cold to join the fun.

Before his remarks, Obama was joined on stage by his wife, Michelle, and their two girls, Malia and Sasha. After they departed, he paused to listen to Stevie Wonder's song Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours before starting to speak.

When he did, he praised his vice-president Joe Biden, his campaign staff and his family.

"For now, one dog's probably enough," he said to his girls, to whom he famously promised to get a dog if he won in 2008.

People in the crowd wiped tears from their eyes as Obama spoke. When he was finished, the Obama and Biden families came onto the stage and confetti rained down on the crowd.

When the families eventually walked off, Obama came back to the front of the stage, waved to the crowd again and mouthed: "Thank you."

Reuters, Agence France-Presse