A combination file silhouettes show US President Barack Obama speaking in Windham and Mitt Romney.

He spent the final days of his campaign telling America that he intended to “reach across the aisle” towards politicians of “good faith” on the other side. So it was perhaps appropriate that Mitt Romney ended his bid for the White House by asking a divided country to unite once more.

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” he told supporters. “At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing.

“Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”

Romney's plea for post-partisanship came shortly after he revealed that he had just telephoned Barack Obama to “congratulate him on his victory”, promising that he would “pray that the President will be successful in guiding our nation.”

The gracious tone of the short concession speech was true to form for defeated Presidential candidates, who traditionally use their farewell speech to repair their damaged reputation among the majority of Americans who will usually voted for the other guy. Having, as he put it, “left everything on the field,” Mr Romney will now retire to one of his four homes to rest after an exhausting campaign and mull over his future. In the coming weeks, if Barack Obama is true to the words of his concession speech, he may even be invited to help negotiate a bi-partisan pathway through Washington's approaching fiscal crisis.

In the longer term Romney's future is less clear. He has devoted the last five years, and arguably the lion's share of his adult life, to pursuing the highest office in the world, and at the age of 65 must now decide how to spend his twilight years.

Unlike John McCain and John Kerry, who held seats in the Senate when they lost in 2008 and 2004 respectively, Romney is now officially jobless. He won't want for money, of course: the $250m fortune that remains from his private equity career will see to that. But as befits a man who called his autobiography Turnaround, he may yet seek re-invention. “I ran for office because I'm concerned about America,” he told his supporters. “This election is over, but our principles endure. I believe that the principles upon which this nation was founded are the only sure guide to a resurgent economy and to renewed greatness.”

Some have duly speculated that a return to a career in finance awaits. Others wonder if, given the size of his fortune, a commercial job would be entirely fulfilling. He's never been a particularly gifted speaker, so the lecture circuit is probably out, but a Clinton-esque career in philanthropy may also beckon.

But, as Mr Romney also said on Wednesday morning, it is his wife, Ann, who is the real “love of my life”. She has been at his side for much of the campaign, but was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, and has also suffered from breast cancer, so may appreciate the change of pace that retirement might bring.

“She would have been a wonderful first lady. She has been that and more to me and to our family and to the many people that she has touched with her compassion and her care,” Mr Romney said.

Now America has chosen its leader, he added: “Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.” - The Independent