PRESIDENT OBAMA RE-ELECTED

Malia Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama and President Obama, celebrating his victory in Chicago early Wednesday morning

It looked like it was going to be one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history.

But in the end, it wasn’t that close at all.

President Barack Obama won a second four-year term on Tuesday, with well over half of the electoral vote.

And he pledged to finish the job he was first elected to do four years ago.

“The economy is recovering,” he said at a victory celebration early Wednesday in Chicago, Illinois.  “I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class.”

The nation’s economic troubles were the number one issue on the minds of America’s voters on Tuesday, according to exit polls taken by the Associated Press (AP).

That was the main issue the President’s Republican challenger – former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – tried to use against him.

(“Exit polls” are questions professional pollsters ask voters after they vote.)

But according to the AP, a majority of the voters who said the economy was the most important issue blamed Mister Obama’s predecessor – former President George W. Bush – for the current troubles.

During his re-election campaign, Mister Obama had argued that returning the Republicans to the White House would create the same conditions that got the nation into such big economic trouble in the first place.

In the end, the majority of the nation’s voters agreed with him.

And even though the nation’s unemployment rate remains high – 7.9% — it has shown signs of improvement in recent months.

That also hurt Governor Romney’s campaign.

As of late Wednesday morning, the President had won 303 electoral votes – 33 more than he needed for re-election.

(What’s an electoral vote?  You can find out by reading “What’s an Electoral College?” in the “Weekly Features” section of this website.)

Governor Romney had only 206 electoral votes.

“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction,” Romney said in a short concession speech early Wednesday in Boston, Massachusetts.  “But the nation chose another leader.”

The only state that was still officially undecided late Wednesday morning was Florida – where Mister Obama was leading by 46,000 votes.

Even if Governor Romney were to pull out a win in Florida, he still would not have enough electoral votes to defeat the President.

Mister Obama also got a majority of the popular vote – the ballots cast by individual people yesterday and during early voting.

And he won at least half the states – 25 – plus the District of Columbia.

But the key to his victory was a near sweep in the so-called “battleground states” – hotly contested races that could have gone either way.

He won at least seven of those nine states, including the key state of Ohio.

(Florida would make it eight.)

Governor Romney’s only “battleground state” win was in North Carolina.

On Capitol Hill, the President’s fellow Democrats will remain in the majority in the U.S. Senate.

And the Republicans will remain in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

That means the same Republican opposition that has blocked Mister Obama from achieving many of his goals during his first term will remain in place – for two more years, at least.

But in his victory speech, the President expressed optimism that things will be different during his second term.

“I’ve never been more hopeful about our future,” he said.  “I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us — so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep dreaming.”

In that speech, the President spoke not only as the Commander-in-Chief, but also as the nation’s “First Father.”

“We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers,” he said.  “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

He also gave a shout-out to his own daughter, — 14-year-old Malia and 11-year-old Sasha.

“You’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women,” he said, “just like your mom.  And I’m so proud of you guys.”

But in a reference to a promise he made to his daughters in his 2008 victory speech, he also had something else he wanted to say to them.

“For now, one dog is probably enough,” he added, as the crowd laughed.