After eight years of Republican government, voters in the US took Democrat Barack Obama at his word – “yes we can.”
In Chicago, the night he was elected, he promised change but warned that the road would be a long one:
“Tonight because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change is coming to America. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight, that we will get there.”
One year on, and already the enthusiasm witnessed in Chicago is a distant memory. Obama’s post-midterm-election agenda is a heavy one.
Tackling unemployment is top of the list. Almost one in ten Americans of working age is unemployed.
Not used to long periods out of work, Americans have been traumatised by the country’s job losses. Obama has admitted that the spectre of mass unemployment keeps him awake at night.
He wants to launch a six year plan to renovate the country’s infrastructure, in the hope that this will stimulate the economy. 50 billion dollars have already been earmarked for this, but the Republicans are against it.
Whittling down the 1.3 billion dollar budget deficit is another priority. Congress and the White House agree that it must be done, but disagree over the method.
Bush-era tax reductions expire this year but the Republicans want them extended for everyone.
Obama, however, says only those with revenues less than a quarter of a million dollars should qualify.
Healthcare reform is also a major point of disagreement going into the midterms.
Many are ambivalent about the historic legislation brought in by Obama. It extends medical cover to 32 million Americans, but 65 percent of voters think federal debt will rocket as a result. A further 67 percent think their taxes will rise. The Republicans plan to prevent the law from being enacted.
And the President himself has some personal housekeeping to do. An Oval Office reshuffle is likely in the wake of the midterms, with Obama’s main economic adviser Larry Summers rumoured to be about to exit.