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President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks on election night in Chicago. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks on election night in Chicago. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Five lessons we’ve learned from Obama's victory Add to ...

Barring catastrophe, a competent Democrat candidate should arrive in the race with almost 257 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win leaning their way. Places like Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire are likely to trend more Democrat, not less. Regions like the Upper Mid-west or New England or the West Coast aren't likely to suddenly embrace hard-edged conservatism.

That allows the Democrat nominee to win simply by adding any ONE of the following states: Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, or the combination of Colorado and Iowa.

In contrast, the Republicans must win ALL of those states to win the election.

To make matters worse, demographics are pushing all of those states except Ohio and Iowa quickly into a more pro-Democrat position, either because of an influx of Hispanics or white-collar professionals. They are also pushing Arizona away from the Republicans, and to a lesser extent Georgia.

Consider this: the Democrats won the election despite losing among political Independents. There are enough self-identified Democrats in the United States to take the election if they can be brought to the polls.

This is not to say the next election is guaranteed to be won by the Democrats.

The Republicans could adapt to reality and make a real push to win over Hispanics, say by nominating Marco Rubio.

The economy could go back into recession, defeating the Democrat nominee even before the primaries begin.

War or terrorism or disaster or scandal could engulf the country.

But the macro-trends in the United States are tipping in the Democrats favour, and in a way that will likely accelerate in the coming years.

5. Back where we started

While the election consumed billions in treasure and time, it didn't change anything in Washington.

Unlike Canada, where a majority government can impose its will on government via the legislature, the checks and balances of the U.S. system hobble the President's ability to make policy.

The Democrats control the Presidency and the Senate.

The Republicans control the House of Representatives, and their ideology holds more sway with the Supreme Court.

The GOP is intransigent and hard-line, likely to block bills in the Senate and obstruct government with the House.

The fiscal cliff is fast approaching, with the automatic cuts agreed to in the earlier budget plan now scheduled to pass.

The deficit is unimaginably large, and growing.

The economy is stuck in second gear, and needs constant attention.

The War in Iraq is over, but Afghanistan is still bleeding and challenges requiring potential U.S. intervention range across the globe.

Many of the key players from the first Obama team are likely to move on, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.

There is an opportunity for renewal in this election.

But it will require innovation and compromise from both sides of the aisle and active citizenship from the people of the United States.

The budget challenges are simply too large to avoid, and the consequences will be felt across the planet.

Hopefully, Mr. Obama will use his second term to complete America's recovery from the financial crisis, modernize the social safety net, and heal some of the tension in the nation.

If so, he will have turned the hope for change from 2008 into a reality by 2016.

Andrew Steele is a social entrepreneur and political observer in Toronto.

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