President Barack Obama on Tuesday won a second term in the White House, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a hard-fought election that served as a referendum on who could better ease Americans economic pain and uncertainty.
Obama marched across the nation, scoring victory after victory in battleground states where the economy had mounted just enough of a comeback to convince voters to give him four more years.
He held onto the coalition that led him to victory in 2008: women, Latinos, African-Americans and young people. Romney, seeking to become the first Mormon to win the presidency, was able to win only two states Obama had won last time, Indiana and North Carolina.
The second Democrat to win a second term since World War II, Obama won 26 states and the District of Columbia, sweeping the Northeast and West Coast states and winning most of the Rust Belt battlegrounds, including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Romney won 23 states, largely dependably Republican states across the South and into Texas and the Great Plains. Only Florida remained undecided.
The popular vote was another matter, with the possibility that Obama would win the Electoral College and the presidency while losing the popular vote the same way George W. Bush won in 2000.
Both candidates had about 49 percent, with 81 percent of precincts reporting.
Romney conceded before a subdued crowd in Boston. This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation, he said in a short speech.
Obama then took the stage in Chicago, entering as the song Signed, Sealed, Delivered played and a huge crowd cheered. Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny the task of perfecting our union moves forward, the president said. It moves forward because of you.
Romney had not yet conceded early Wednesday. On Tuesday, he told reporters on his campaign plane that I feel like we put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room. We fought to the very end and I think thats why well be successful. He said the outcome may not go his way. Nothing is certain in politics, he said.
Obama took office in January 2009 with a mandate to revive an economy still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Six of 10 voters Tuesday said the economy was the most important issue, well ahead of health care or foreign policy. Three of four voters said the economy remained poor or not so good.
Obama touted the economys steady progress on his watch; Romney cited stubbornly high unemployment and mounting federal debt as he argued the recoverys pace was too slow. In exit polls, slightly more than half said Obama was more in touch with people like them, compared with 44 percent for Romney.
The president will face the status quo in Congress. Republicans held their majority in the House of Representatives, according to projections. All 435 voting seats were up Tuesday. And Democrats retained control of the Senate. Republicans had needed a net gain of four seats.
Turnout was reported heavy, particularly in swing states as well as storm-battered New York and New Jersey. Experts still expected it to remain below 2008 levels, finding voters less engaged. About 32 million people had voted early, either in person or by mail.