Fresh from a decisive re-election win, President Barack Obama returns from the campaign trail on Wednesday with little time to savor victory, facing urgent economic challenges, a looming fiscal showdown and a still-divided Congress able to block his every move.
Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday night in a grueling presidential race and used his acceptance speech in front of a huge cheering crowd in Chicago to strike a conciliatory note toward his political opponents.
But in the cold light of the 2012 election's morning-after, it was clear that even though voters have endorsed a second Obama term, the president will have a hard time translating that into a mandate to push forward with his agenda.
His most immediate concern is confronting a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that could crush the U.S. economy recovery - a prospect that weighed heavily on global financial markets on Wednesday and sent Wall Street stocks into a post-election swoon.
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