What can we expect from Obama's second term?

Barack Obama has been re-elected as US President. Photo: Reuters

This victory wasn't inspirational or transformational. It was a relentless, negative campaign wrapped between three angry debates and billions of dollars of attack ads.

But the President has achieved his dream: validation of his 2008 victory. No longer can history judge the Obama Presidency to be an anomaly, a fierce reaction to the Bush years. Now we'll have to see this era in its own terms and we will judge Obama accordingly.

As he savours this victory, let's give him credit. He's an astoundingly capable campaigner.

By that I mean he can win big in the times when the wind is at his back and his candidacy was exhilarating, like in 2008. But he can also eek out a narrow win in economically tough times, when Americans are restless and irritable with their politics.

This campaign was about winning ugly. As a commentator here put it: 2008 was poetry; 2012 was gritty prose. Now the second term beckons and we must wait to see what emerges. The President has given us precious little detail.

Barack Obama supporters at his election night rally in Chicago. Credit: Reuters

We can assume he will put up some taxes and cut some spending. But will he engage in a politically heroic effort to deal with the deficit? Or will his efforts meet with Republican resistance that offers only paralysis? His healthcare reforms will be more secure with this result. Obama will be able to influence America for decades ahead if there are vacancies for Supreme Court Justices that allow its slender conservative majority to be overturned.

His foreign policy may be judged by a single issue: Iran's nuclear weapons programme. Does he become the President to seek to eliminate the threat with a military strike? Or does he accept that the world can live with a nuclear-armed Iran?

President Obama must also try and end the poisonous politics of Washington that are endlessly partisan and destructive. That would be some legacy. Now that he has the canvas of a second term we must wish him luck.