Ever eager to put the 47% moment behind him, Mitt Romney finished his campaign talking about "one nation" (did he do a Biden and borrow from Britain's leader of the opposition?). Obama also finished with talk of bringing people together.
It's a truth of modern American politics that the amount of rhetoric about unification is in direct proportion to the polarisation of its electorate. Everyone wants the republic to be united again, but only if it's subject to the rules of their own side.
Having said that, one of the most striking aspects of this year's election is how similar the two candidates are. Most presidential elections, including and especially the one before this, are studies in personality contrast. Not this one.
Both Obama and Romney are cool and cautious by nature. They share a deep distrust of hot-blooded ideologues and regard themselves as, first and foremost, problem solvers. Both are introverts, happiest by themselves or with close friends and family. Both are highly competent politicians who are uncomfortable with much of the business of politics.
At a time when the tenor of the American debate, always brassy and full-throated, has become feverish and sometimes demented by antipathy, the men chosen by each party to represent them in this contest embody the opposite qualities. It's almost as if the electorate knows, at some level, that it needs restraining, not rousing.
Partly as a result, this campaign was pretty dull. It was reasonably well-mannered, more so than 2008 or 2004. There were blessedly few refrains of the perennial "dirtiest campaign ever" chorus. But it was also lacking in content. Without a contrast in temperaments to assess, it was even harder not to notice that, in their debates, Obama and Romney didn't dare discuss their (substantial) differences in anything but the most sterilised and ersatz terms. This at a time when one of the biggest and most momentous economic decisions in America's history is right around the corner.
There's a reason for this tacit agreement to evade real debate about the country's future, other than the innate caution of the candidates: neither man has a political mission, other than to make himself president. That's the downside of their pragmatism. Both are running for president because, essentially, they think they are, or would be, good at the job.
That's not a terrible reason to run. The last four years have shown that while Obama may have over-estimated his own gifts he wasn't wrong to imagine he had many of the qualities needed to be a good president. I suspect Romney would fill the role out pretty well too. But unlike Clinton, or Reagan - or in this country, Blair, to whom a similar contrast can be drawn with Cameron - they haven't spent many years doing the hard work of fighting political battles, winning and losing elections, marinating themselves in retail party politics, all the time thinking and rethinking why they want power. In different ways, they've taken short cuts to the top, confident they would work out what to do after they arrived. That makes it hard for them to convey a vision of where they want to take the country, because the truth is, they don't really know. They just know they're the guy to take it there.
I want Obama to win because I think a Republican takeover of the executive, and a more conservative judiciary, would be bad news for America. But between the two men, it is a close call. As David Brooks argued here, gloomily but persuasively, Romney is more likely to get big things done in office. If only because Republicans will be more willing to work with him, he'll find it slightly less difficult to get a deal done on the deficit that includes tax rises, and to pass immigration reform.
I do think Obama deserves re-election because, for all his shortcomings, he has done a good job in near impossible circumstances over the past four years. I just wish I believed that he has a plan for the next four.