Barack Obama wasted little time on Wednesday as he headed back to Washington hours after celebrating his election victory in Chicago and securing a second term in the White House.
Fresh challenges lie ahead for the president as the stock market tumbled in response to his triumph at the polls over Mitt Romney and sabre-rattling from Republicans who demanded that he make good on his promise to work with both sides of the political aisle in the next four years.
Barack Obama was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and their children Malia and Sasha as they departed the Windy City on Air Force One. They arrived in Washington at about 6:30 p.m. and returned to White House which has been their home for the last four years – and where they will remain for the next four.
Tuesday night, Barack Obama called for unity and set out an optimistic vision of America’s future this morning in a rousing acceptance speech.
He promised “the best is yet to come” and said the fierce battle with Mitt Romney had made him a better president, vowing: “I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever.”
In a speech that saw a return to the soaring rhetoric he has become known for since his election in 2008, Barack Obama said he had “listened and learned’ from the American people during his campaign.
With his voice going hoarse at times, he said that “progress comes in fits and starts” and the road is littered with “difficult compromises”. But he said he enters the next four years with an “economy recovering, a decade of war ending and a long campaign is over”.
Barack Obama paid tribute to his opponent and hopes they can “work together in the coming weeks”.
The GOP has indicated that they will hold him to it.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was frosty in his post-election remarks.
“The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” Mitch McConnell said.
“Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner added speaking to reporters on Wednesday morning: “Mr. President, this is your moment. We want you to lead… Let’s find the common ground that has eluded us.”
A package of huge tax hikes and spending cuts – known as the “fiscal cliff” – is scheduled to take effect in the new year if the parties cannot come to a compromise.
So far, Republicans have adamantly refused to raise taxes, even on America’s richest people, as part of a deficit-reduction package. Barack Obama and other Democrats maintain that such tax hikes must be part of the deal.
The president’s administration is optimistic about an agreement.
Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he and Barack Obama are anxious to move forward on a bipartisan solution to the “fiscal cliff”, but a compromise will hinge on Republicans.
“What is the takeaway going to be on the part of our Republican colleagues? What judgment are they going to make?” Joe Biden told reporters on Air Force Two, as he flew from Chicago, where he watched election returns Tuesday night, to his home in Delaware.
“I know it takes a little time to kind of digest what’s going on. But I think people know we’ve got to get down to work and I think they’re ready to move,” Joe Biden said.
Joe Biden said he believes there are at least six Republican senators who are prepared to compromise on fiscal issues, adding that Democrats “are going to have to compromise too. It’s not like we’re going to go in and say: <<This is our deal. Take it or leave it>>.”
Another challenge for Barack Obama lies in the stock market, as the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted 200 points within minutes after the opening bell and it continued falling, down 354 points two hours later.
In late afternoon trading, it was down 323 points, or 2.5%, while index futures also plunged after the European Union slashed its growth forecast for next year.