By Mark E. Vogler firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — A jubilant President Barack Obama walked onto a stage in Chicago early today with his wife and two daughters and told raucous supporters the nation is not as divided as politics suggest and that he will work over the next four years to bring the “family” that is the United States back together again.
“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 in a victory speech ending his nasty campaign for re-election against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“I return to the White House more inspired than ever,” he told the thousands of cheering supporters. “Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual,” he said. He pledged to work with leaders of both parties to help the nation complete its recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
In the Merrimack Valley last night, Matthew Curran, a Republican, said he agonized after casting his vote for Obama.
But his allegiance to education won him over in the end, Curran, 36, said as he left the polls at North Andover High School.
“I teach in Lawrence and there are a lot of good things happening for teachers. So, I don’t think it’s a good time to change right now,” said Curran, who is also the varsity basketball coach at Methuen High School.
“Obama is more supportive of education and Mitt Romney rubbed me the wrong way,” Curran said.
And perhaps Curran’s feelings resonated with the millions of other voters as they cast ballots to keep Obama in the White House.
Obama’s re-election yesterday was the final chapter in a fierce campaign that centered on who could best heal a battered economy.
The bitterness went right up to the end. For more than an hour after the networks projected Obama as the winner, Romney was in Boston and held off calling the president in Chicago to concede.
But as it became increasingly clear that no amount of contesting would bring him victory, he called Obama to concede shortly before 1 a.m.
In brief remarks delivered at his Boston headquarters, a dejected Romney stressed the need for the country to come together to face the challenges that still face the nation’s leaders.
“We look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before politics,” Romney said. “I believe in America. I believe in the people of America.”
Romney had already written a 1,118-word victory speech that he thought would conclude his yearslong quest for the presidency.
“I feel like we put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end, and I think that’s why we’ll be successful,” Romney told reporters aboard his plane as he flew from Pittsburgh to Boston.
Many area voters interviewed yesterday cited their concerns about education, women’s issues and the plight of the poor people as reasons why they voted with rest of the nation to elect President Obama to a second term in the White House.
Several towns — Andover, Groveland and North Andover — voted predominantly for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor. But Obama won by a wide margin overall in area communities, 60,665 to 44,187.
Linda MacLean, 65, of Methuen, said she voted for Obama because of her concerns that Romney would turn his back on the middle class and poor people — a concern echoed by many voters interviewed yesterday.
“I think he’s moving forward and I think he needs four more years to get us out of the mess the other guys left us in. Everybody expect things to change overnight,” MacLean said.
Many first-time voters said they trusted Obama more because of his commitment to education. “When I’m out of college and broke and have to pay off my loan, he has the best polices,” said Camille Serelus, 18, of Methuen, a student at Northeastern University.
But many in the Merrimack Valley were pulling for Romney.
Joe Alfano, 39, of Methuen, works for an email-marketing service, said he liked Romney “because we don’t want four more years of what we just had. If it’s broke, you’ve got to fix it.”
His wife, Cheryl, 41, said Romney is “a bonafide businessman and that’s what this country needs right now. We’re business-oriented.”
Peter Boyd, 55, of Methuen, said he voted for Obama. “I think he deserves four more years. The guy before him messed it up. I want to give Obama a fair shake to turn things around and help the middle class as well. As far as Romney, I didn’t like him when he was governor.
Anthony Domingo, 19, of Methuen, a student at UMass-Lowell, voting in his first election, refused to say who he voted for, other than “I just chose the lesser of two evils.”
But his mother, Linda Domingo, 50, of Methuen, said she wasn’t happy with her son’s choice.
“Romney is a big flip flop. If he would have stuck with the health care, he would have had my vote because he did a good job with it in Massachusetts.”
Her daughter Daniella, 22, of Methuen, a senior at UMass-Lowell, said she disagreed with her brother’s vote too.
“I don’t think he made an informed decision. I don’t think he did his research before he voted. I did, and I voted for Obama,” she said.
For Daniella, she takes issue with Romney’s opposition to single-sex marriages. Two of her bosses are gay and are planning future marriages, which she fears may not happen under a Romeny presidency.
Ethan Humphrey, 48, of North Andover, voted for Obama. “I just like what he stands for. I want to see a continuation of the programs that help people,” said Humphrey who is a mental health professional.
Patricia Frank, 45, of North Andover, mother of three children — ages, 13, 12 and 10 — said she was impressed with Romney’s emphasis on family values and the economy.
“He’s just a successful business person who realizes that the most important job is his wife at home with her children. That’s where it begins and ends, being at home with the kids.
“For him, the family is first and the money is second. I just get goose bumps thinking about it.”
Nationally, 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.
That bode well for the president, who had worked to turn the election into a choice between his proposals and Romney’s, rather than the simple referendum on the economy during his time in the White House.
Unemployment stood at 7.9 percent on election day, higher than when he took office. And despite signs of progress, the economy is still struggling after the worst recession in history.
There was no doubt about what drove voters to one candidate or the other.
About 4 in 10 said the economy is on the mend, but more than that said it was stagnant or getting worse more than four years after the near-collapse of 2008. The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and a group of television networks.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.