“No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has secured re-election at a time when unemployment was higher than 7.2%,” they said. President Barack Obama now has nullified that statistic, which has haunted him since he embarked on his re-election campaign. In a tightly contested presidential race, Obama clearly defeated his Republican opponent, Governor Mitt Romney, to retain his job for a second term. Though it seemed America was ripe for change, the challenger was left wanting.

The United States has endured a tough four years economically, socially and politically. Obama’s experience, passion, oratory and ability to connect to everyday citizens garnered confidence from a diverse coalition of American voters. Perhaps a stronger Republican candidate could have toppled the Obama administration but now the Grand Old Party faces the soul-searching journey of deciding whether to become more moderate – as Romney did starting with the first presidential debate having swung to the right to win his party’s nomination – or to move more to the right, along the lines of Tea Party budget star and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (who did not carry even his home state of Wisconsin). One favorite question among the conjecturing classes: Would Romney have fared better, particularly in the Midwest, if he’d chosen respected Ohio Sen. Rob Portman instead?

In fact, now that the election is done, the American body politic can move full bore onto its second favorite indoor sport: speculation. We expect Sunday morning TV pundits (or in New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin’s words, “Sabbath gasbags”) and the rest of the populace to ruminate without restraint. Look for musings about why Romney’s electoral projections were so off while Obama’s were spot on; about how the Democratic ground game triumphed at the grassroots level; about how the Republicans missed the diversity bandwagon but channeled white, middle-class fear; about what lessons both the president and his opponents learned from this grueling contest; and about who shoulda, coulda, woulda done what differently.

Meanwhile, as the country emerges from turbulent economic times and copes with a major natural disaster in the northeast region, the voters have clearly restated their belief in at least one hoary adage: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Congratulations, President Obama!

To learn more about Barack Obama’s first term as president of the United States and the inner workings of his administration, read these titles:

Rebuild the Dream

Confidence Men

Obama’s Wars

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