WASHINGTON (AP) — His lease renewed in trying economic times, President Barack Obama claimed a second term from an incredibly divided electorate and immediately braced for daunting challenges and progress that comes only in fits and starts.
"We have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come," Obama said.
The same voters who gave Obama another four years also elected a divided Congress, re-upping the dynamic that has made it so hard for the president to advance his agenda. Democrats retained control of the Senate; Republicans renewed their majority in the House.
It was a sweet victory for Obama, but nothing like the jubilant celebration of four years earlier, when his hope-and-change election as the nation's first black president captivated the world. This time, Obama ground out his win with a stay-the-course pitch that essentially boiled down to a plea for more time to make things right and a hope that Congress will be more accommodating than in the past.
The vanquished Republican, Mitt Romney, tried to set a more conciliatory tone on the way off the stage.
Democrats solidify their Senate rule but Republicans will still run House in 2nd Obama term
Democrats strengthened their hold on the Senate but failed Tuesday to recapture the majority in the House of Representatives they lost two years ago. President Barack Obama, in his freshly authorized second term, will face the same divided Congress in 2013 that has bedeviled efforts to enact his major legislation.
"Now that the election is over, it's time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who may have a slightly bigger working majority — but not as big as the filibuster-proof one Obama enjoyed his first two years in the White House.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who also gets to keep his job, offered to work with any willing partner, Republican or Democrat, to get things done. "The American people want solutions — and tonight, they've responded by renewing our majority," he told a gathering of Republicans.
But Boehner also said that by keeping Republicans in control of the House, voters made clear there is no mandate for raising taxes. Obama has proposed imposing higher taxes on households earning over $250,000 a year.
The first post-election test of wills could start next week when Congress returns from its election recess to deal with unfinished business — including a looming "fiscal cliff" of $400 billion in higher taxes and $100 billion in automatic cuts in military and domestic spending to take effect in January if Congress doesn't head them off. Economists warn that the combination could plunge the nation back into a recession.
Analysis: With Congress little changed, and both sides claiming mandates, Obama renews agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's re-election, coupled with Republicans' continued hold on the House, gives both parties a chance to rethink, and perhaps undo, the bitter partisanship that has gripped Washington for four years and frustrated Americans who see big problems going unsolved.
It won't be easy. Both sides claim, with some justification, a mandate from the voters.
"We'll have as much of a mandate as he will," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said shortly before the election, correctly anticipating the results.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was frostier in his post-election remarks. "The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president's first term," McConnell said.
"Now it's time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House," he said, "and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office."
Celebrations in Obama's Indonesian childhood home and around the world after re-election
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — From his old school in Indonesia to a Japanese beach town that happens to share his name, people around the world cheered President Barack Obama's re-election Wednesday and expressed hope that he will help allay global conflicts and economic woes.
The results of Tuesday's election were closely watched in many countries. Several U.S. embassies held mock elections and threw parties as returns came in.
At Jakarta's Menteng 01 Elementary School, which Obama once attended, students happily marched with a poster of the president from one classroom to another after hearing that he had defeated Republican Mitt Romney to win a second term. "Obama wins ... Obama wins again," they shouted.
A statue of a young "Barry" Obama, as he was called as a child, stands outside the school.
"I want to be like him, the president," student Alexander Ananta said.
Maine, Maryland back same-sex marriage in historic votes; Washington, Colorado OK legal pot
Altering the course of U.S social policy, Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, while Washington state and Colorado set up a showdown with federal authorities by legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
The outcomes for those ballot measures Tuesday were a milestone for persistent but often thwarted advocacy groups and activists who for decades have pressed the causes of gay rights and drug decriminalization.
"Today the state of Washington looked at 70 years of marijuana prohibition and said it's time for a new approach," said Alison Holcomb, manager of the campaign that won passage of Initiative 502 in Washington.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed legalization, was less enthused. "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly," he said.
The results in Maine and Maryland broke a 32-state streak, dating to 1998, in which gay marriage had been rebuffed by every state that voted on it. They will become the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Sandy-battered NYC, NJ prepare for new storm — a nor'easter expected to bring wind, surge
NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of New York and New Jersey who were flooded out by Superstorm Sandy waited with dread and heard warnings to evacuate for the second time in two weeks as another, weaker storm spun toward them and threatened to inundate their homes again or simply leave them shivering in the dark for even longer.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered police to use their patrol car loudspeakers to warn vulnerable residents about evacuating, one of a number of measures that the beleaguered city was taking even as weather experts said Wednesday's nor'easter could be weaker than expected.
"Even though it's not anywhere near as strong as Sandy — nor strong enough, in normal times, for us to evacuate anybody — out of precaution and because of the changing physical circumstances, we are going to go to some small areas and ask those people to go to higher ground," Bloomberg said Tuesday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency put a number to the storm's homeless in New York and New Jersey, saying 95,000 people were eligible for emergency housing assistance. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, more than 277,000 people have registered for general assistance, the agency said.
While New York City officials strongly encouraged storm-ravaged communities to seek higher ground, some refused, choosing to stick close to the belongings they have left.
Hu Jintao leaves China richer, more powerful, more unequal, under communists' firm control
BEIJING (AP) — As Hu Jintao steps down as head of China's Communist Party after 10 years in power, he's hearing something unusual for a Chinese leader: sharp criticism.
In media commentaries, think-tank position papers and the less censored blogosphere, Hu's reign is being portrayed as a missed opportunity to tackle longstanding problems grown more deep-seated, from a yawning rich-poor gulf and worsening environmental degradation to stiffly authoritarian politics. One commentary has referred to the period as a "lost decade."
"We didn't realize Hu would turn out to be so conservative," said Wu Jiaxiang, a former party researcher-turned-businessman and avid blogger, summing up the disappointment of many in China's chattering classes. He dates his own disappointment with Hu to the closing of liberal-minded websites in 2005.
Some of the criticisms are designed to influence Xi Jinping, who will begin taking over from the technocratic, ultra-reserved 69-year-old Hu at a party congress that opens Thursday.
Mainstream state media, which answer to the party and dominate what most Chinese see, read and hear, have been praising the Hu era, calling it a "Glorious Decade."
Testimony: Sergeant's actions after Afghanistan massacre suggest he knew what he was doing
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (AP) — Staff Sgt. Robert Bales made a mid-massacre confession, asked for help bleaching his blood-stained clothing and deliberately destroyed his laptop computer, fellow soldiers have testified — statements that prosecutors say show he knew what he was doing the night 16 civilians were slaughtered in two villages in southern Afghanistan.
The remarks, offered by soldiers testifying for the government Monday and Tuesday, could pose a high hurdle for defense lawyers who have indicated that Bales' mental health will be a big part of their case. Testimony continues with several more witnesses Wednesday in a preliminary hearing that is being held to help determine whether the case goes to a court martial.
Bales, a 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attack on the villages of Balandi and Alkozai, which counted nine children among its victims.
One of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the attack prompted the U.S. to halt combat operations for days in the face of protests, and military investigators couldn't reach the crime scenes for a month.
A prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse, said Bales spent the evening before the massacre at his remote outpost of Camp Belambay with two other soldiers, watching a movie about revenge killings, sharing contraband whiskey from a plastic bottle and discussing an attack that cost one of their comrades his leg.
A quiet, careful media night suddenly moves into action with calls, Rove protests
NEW YORK (AP) — Careful media coverage of a close presidential election Tuesday exploded so suddenly Tuesday that it left the bizarre spectacle of Fox News Channel analyst Karl Rove, a major fundraiser for Republican Mitt Romney, publicly questioning his network's declaration that President Barack Obama had been re-elected.
ABC News was also frantically trying to repair a power outage that left much of its set inoperable precisely at the time the election was being decided.
For several hours, election coverage resembled the run-up to a Super Bowl, with plenty of talk signifying little. Then NBC News, at 11:12 p.m. ET, was the first to declare Obama had won by virtue of winning the battleground state of Ohio. "He remains president of the United States for a second term," said anchor Brian Williams.
Other networks followed suit, including Fox five minutes later. But Rove, the former top political aide to President George W. Bush whose on-air presence on Fox this campaign raised some eyebrows because of his prominent role supporting Romney, suggested the call was premature.
"We've got to be careful about calling things when we have like 991 votes separating the candidates and a quarter of the vote left to count ... I'd be very cautious about intruding in this process," said Rove, a behind-the-scenes player in the wild 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore that took weeks to decide. (Gore was on TV Tuesday, too, as anchor of Current TV's election coverage).
Penn State ex-president Spanier heads to court on Sandusky cover-up charges
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The criminal case begins against Graham Spanier, the former Penn State president accused of lying during the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case and trying to derail the investigation.
A district judge in suburban Harrisburg was scheduled to arraign Spanier and set bail on Wednesday, a proceeding that took less than 10 minutes last week for his two co-defendants.
Spanier, 64, was charged last week with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy for his actions in response to complaints about Jerry Sandusky showering with children. Spanier denies the allegations and has claimed he is being framed for political purposes.
He served as Penn State's president for 16 years but was forced out a year ago after Sandusky was charged along with two of Spanier's top underlings. Spanier is on paid leave as a member of the faculty.
Along with the charges against Spanier, prosecutors added counts against Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. They were arraigned Thursday. Curley, the athletic director on leave, and Schultz, the school's retired vice president, await trial in January on charges of failure to report suspected abuse and perjury.