JUDY WOODRUFF: For the first time in four years, President Obama didn’t have to worry about reelection today.
Still, there was little time to savor Tuesday’s victory, in the face of a potential fiscal crisis at the end of the year.
NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage on this day after the election of 2012.
KWAME HOLMAN: Mr. Obama departed his hometown of Chicago this afternoon for Washington, his home for another four years, waiting for him, a still-divided Congress now facing a critical lame-duck session.
The president made it clear in his victory speech last night that he thinks the country wants an end to gridlock.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours.
And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together, reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BARACK OBAMA: We’ve got more work to do.
KWAME HOLMAN: The most immediate challenge, avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff that looms in January, including expiration of the Bush era tax cuts, plus more than $1 trillion in automatic spending cuts.
The Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, said voters agreed with the president on raising taxes for wealthier Americans.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: The president campaigned around the country saying, we know what the problems are with this fiscal problem. We just need some revenue.
That was the issue. The mandate was — look at all the exit polls, look at all the polling. The vast majority of the American people, rich, poor, everybody agrees that the rich — richest of the rich have to help a little bit.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republican leaders led by House Speaker John Boehner suggested a deal was possible, and invited the president to make a proposal. Said Boehner: “This is your moment. We want you to lead.”
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: We’re willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions. What matters is where the increased revenue comes from and what type of reform comes with it.
Does the increased revenue come from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher tax rates? Or does it come as a byproduct of growing our economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code with fewer loopholes and lower rates for all?
KWAME HOLMAN: It all signaled a quick return to earth, after the jubilation of election night that swept up even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, during a live interview with the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez.
The president built his victory over Mitt Romney on a series of wins in battleground states, giving him 303 electoral votes, 33 more than needed. He also was running ahead in Florida, for another 29 electoral votes, but the state had not yet been called after long lines on Tuesday held up the count.
In the popular vote, the president received 50 percent to Romney’s 48 percent, a difference of about 2.5 million ballots. Romney won white voters, but their share of the electorate was down slightly from 2008. Mr. Obama overwhelmingly captured black and Latino voters.
Last night, he sought to appeal to both sides of the political divide.
BARACK OBAMA: And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president. And 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.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
KWAME HOLMAN: As a first step, the president telephoned congressional leaders today to talk about priorities for the rest of the year. He also said he hopes to talk to Romney in the days ahead on how to move forward.
GWEN IFILL: As you just saw, Ray Suarez reported for us from Obama election headquarters last night. And he joins us from Chicago now.
So, tell us, what did the president-elect and the president, same person, do today? How did he spend his day?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, he got to spend the night in his own home in Chicago, something he hasn’t been able to do very often in the last year or so.
When he got up this morning, he headed over to Obama for America headquarters on Chicago’s lakefront and thanked his volunteers who had worked for him over the past year-plus.
It was said to be a very moving and very emotional encounter between the president and the people who have made sure that he’s going to be president for another four years.
As Kwame mentioned, he’s spoken with all the leaders of the two branches of the legislature, and put on the agenda tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, job creation, and says that the message from last night’s election is that the people want them to put aside their partisan differences to work for the better interests of the American people.
GWEN IFILL: Now, all those people at Obama for America headquarters who have been working probably nonstop since 2008 to try to set up the infrastructure for this victory last night, how do they think — what do they think won the election for them?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, they put together very carefully a coalition over time, and tonight David Axelrod is saying that it’s very gratifying that that coalition came together, as Kwame mentioned, blacks, Latinos, women, a very broad gender gap, and also youth of all origins.
The 18-29 vote was expected not to come out, and the campaign insisted all along it would. And they were closer to the truth than those people who said that the ’08 coalition couldn’t be reassembled again.
David Axelrod also said that in the key battleground state of Ohio, he thought it was a big mistake for Gov. Mitt Romney to try to relitigate, in his words, the auto bailout, which turned out to be a big negative for him.
GWEN IFILL: Overall, does Mr. Axelrod or anyone say that this victory, this margin of victory was more or less than they expected in the end?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, they have all said that it turned out pretty much the way that they had expected it would.
And earlier in the campaign season, when you talked about specific states, in fact, when you got down to specifics, it pretty much — the map pretty much looks today the way they said it would in recent weeks.
One standout was the Latino vote, which for this election cycle, broke double digits of the overall electorate for the first time.
The national Latino coordinator for the DNC, Juan Sepulveda, told me earlier today that there was a record — even though there were a lot of things working against a big Latino turnout.
They started 700,000 registrations down after the great recession because so many people had lost their homes, lost their jobs, moved, and not re-registered in the new communities where they were living.
But the Latino turnout, according to Juan Sepulveda, may have given them the margin of victory in Colorado, Nevada, and Virginia.
GWEN IFILL: And when they — and when the Latino voters turned out, 71 percent of them voted for the president.
Ray Suarez, thank you for all your good work from Chicago.
RAY SUAREZ: Thanks.