Federal Politics


Obama's promise must now bloom

He created history in 2008 by being the first black man to be elected to the White House, and Barack Obama broke the mould again yesterday by becoming the first president in recent memory to win re-election with an economy at near moribund levels. Some opinion polls had suggested a race too close to call, but in the end Mr Obama won the popular vote - and the necessary 270 electoral college votes - by a reasonably comfortable margin.

So vast and disparate is the American electorate that it will take some time to ascertain how and where Obama succeeded (and Romney failed), but an Associated Press exit poll identified what probably the most significant factor: half the voters surveyed blamed former president George W. Bush for the nation's economic problems, whereas only 40 per cent said Mr Obama was more at fault.

Mr Obama has been a far less impressive president than he promised voters in 2008, but many of his campaign promises and his initiatives to revive the economy after the global financial crisis were thwarted by a Congress dominated by hostile Republicans and self-interested Democrats. That, and the fact that Mr Obama's budget policies for reducing unemployment and reining in the national debt were the more sensible and credible of the two on offer during the election campaign, go a long way to explaining why the president won re-election yesterday.

In the vital Congressional elections, the Democratic Party also did well, bolstering its majority in the Senate. However, the Republicans managed to retain their majority in the House of Representatives, a result that does not bode well for Mr Obama's hopes of a more productive second term.

Being freed of the burden and expectation of re-election can have a liberating effect on presidents, however. If Mr Obama still harbours hopes of delivering on the promise he showed in 2008 - and his relatively conservative pronouncements during this campaign indicates he is now aware of the dangers of setting the bar too high - then he will never have a greater opportunity than he does between now and 2016. But he has to demonstrate a greater aptitude in working with Congress, including cajoling and arm-twisting as and when such tactics are required.

There is no such thing as sentiment in politics, especially American politics. But many Americans, and not a few hundred million people elsewhere in the world, would argue that Mr Obama, having been handed the equivalent of a poisoned chalice by his predecessor and having made a fair fist of it despite considerable obstacles, was the deserving winner.


More good wins

Windfalls don't come much larger than the nearly $28 million that a Canberra family won in Tuesday night's Oz Lotto draw. The family were one of four winners of the jackpot prize of $111 million, an Australian record. The odds of picking seven winning numbers out of a possible 45 are one in 45,379,620, so Tuesday's winning ticket holders can count themselves fortunate gamblers indeed.

Many of us would envy having an extra $28 million or so in the bank account with which to splash around, to pursue a lifelong ambition, or to quit work. But the fantasies of life-changing lottery wins frequently fail to match the realities. Prizewinners are at high risk of being hit up for money by family, friends and even complete strangers - one reason so many prefer to remain anonymous.

The implications of having an extra $28 million in your kick can be daunting, too. Two brothers from New York who won $5 million in 2006 were so concerned about the windfall having a ''negative influence'' on their lives that they waited six years before claiming their winnings. Happily, Oz Lotto offers advice to the lucky few about how to invest wisely in order to ''set themselves up''.

If they're like their fellow lottery winners in Britain (who were surveyed this year by the National Lottery on what they spent their money on), Tuesday's Oz Lotto winners will likely pay off their house, buy an investment property or two, take a holiday and perhaps trade in their old car on a new luxury vehicle. Surprisingly, about one in five National Lottery winners carried on working despite their big win, citing their desire for ''normality''.

If lottery winners don't want things to change too much, staying in the workforce appears to be a prerequisite. Nice to have the choice, though.