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Obama wins re-election, but future unclear for colleges

Divided Congress could hinder advancement of education-related legislation

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President Barack Obama greets the crowd at his election-night headquarters in Chicago with his wife, Michelle, left, and daughters Sasha and Malia. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

In the early hours of Nov. 7, teachers’ unions were touting the re-election of President Barack Obama as a “victory” for both students and educators. But with the U.S. House of Representatives staying under Republican control and the Democrats maintaining a Senate majority that is too small to overcome repeated threats of filibustering by the GOP, it’s unclear how much of Obama’s education agenda will be implemented in the next four years.

Obama rolled to a second term as president, vanquishing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by a 303 to 209 margin in electoral votes. He lost only two states that he captured in 2008, Indiana and North Carolina. Florida remained too close to call as of press time.

Obama spoke to thousands of cheering supporters in his hometown of Chicago, praising Romney and declaring his optimism for the next four years. “While our road has been hard, though our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, 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,” he said.

Romney made a brief, graceful concession speech before a disappointed crowd in Boston. He summoned all Americans to pray for Obama and urged the night’s political winners to put partisan bickering aside and “reach across the aisle” to tackle the nation’s problems.

Still, after the costliest—and one of the nastiest—campaigns in history, divided government was alive and well.

Democrats retained control of the Senate with surprising ease. With three races too close to call, they had the possibility of gaining a seat. Yet they still will be short of the 60 members needed to overcome a filibuster—a practice that has been invoked to block a host of Democratic bills during Obama’s first term, including a measure that would provide federal funding to hire more teachers.

Republicans won the House, ensuring that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Obama’s partner in unsuccessful deficit reduction talks, would reclaim his seat at the bargaining table. With numerous races as yet uncalled, the size of the GOP majority was unknown as of press time.

With returns from 88 percent of the nation’s precincts, Obama had 55.8 million votes, or 49.8 percent of the popular vote. Romney had 54.5 million, or 48.6 percent.

The economy was rated the top issue by about 60 percent of voters surveyed as they left their polling places. But more said former President George W. Bush bore responsibility for current circumstances than Obama did after nearly four years in office.

“President Obama’s re-election is a victory for students and their educators,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, in a statement. “Americans have spoken, and they’ve chosen to continue moving forward. Voters made clear that they value public education, workers’ rights, health care, women’s rights, and a strong middle class.”

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