Obama wins second term in decisive verdict
Winning four more years in the White House on the cusp of a late surge from his support base, President Barack Obama scored a narrow yet decisive victory over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Emerging triumphant from a long, contentious and expensive election battle that cost the two campaigns a billion dollars each, Obama celebrated his re-election in the early hours of Wednesday with a call for unity.
"We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation," he told supporters at his campaign headquarters in his hometown of Chicago after walking on stage with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha to tumultuous cheers.
"While our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come," he added.
Buoyed by a slowly but surely recovering economy and a display of cool leadership during Superstorm Sandy, Obama surpassed the decisive 270-vote threshold in the Electoral College around 11:20 a.m. with a victory in the crucial battle ground state of Ohio.
That and a later projected victory in another swing state -- Virginia -- gave him 303 electoral votes to 206 for Romney, according to the CNN call based on unofficial returns making his path to victory look much easier than the cliffhanger than the opinion polls promised it to be.
The much smaller 50-48 percent gap in the popular vote between the two contenders reflected better the dead heat race that most polls leading up to the election had projected it to be.
Joyful supporters danced and cheered at Obama's victory party in Chicago, and the president thanked them for ensuring the nation will continue to move forward while warning the battle for change they seek will continue to be difficult.
"We will disagree, sometimes fiercely," Obama said, noting that "progress will come in fits and starts" and the victory Tuesday night "won't end all the gridlock".
When he finished, the first family and Vice President Joe Biden and his family joined him onstage in a celebration of waves, hugs amid a blizzard of confetti.
In Boston, his rival Romney in a brief speech that he delivered alone too gave a similar call for unity, saying: "At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing."
Romney congratulated Obama and said his prayers would be with the president at such a challenging time for the country, and telling his supporters that he wished he had "fulfilled your wishes to lead this great country in a different direction."
Romney's wife, Ann, and most of his family, as well as running mate Paul Ryan and his family then came on the stage for a few minutes in what was a subdued farewell.
Obama withstood a late push by Romney in Pennsylvania and won battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado, according to CNN projections. One other battleground, Florida, remained too close to call early Wednesday.
He also easily won traditional Democratic strongholds of California, New York and other populous states such as Michigan, the state where Romney was born and his father served as governor.
The president won his home state of Illinois as well as Romney's home state of Massachusetts -- where the Republican previously served as governor.
Exit polls showed Obama received strong support, as expected, from women voters as well as overwhelming support from African-Americans and strong backing from Hispanic voters, similar to the coalition that carried him to victory four years earlier to make him the nation's first African-American president.
Meanwhile, CNN projected that Democrats will retain their majority in the Senate, ensuring another divided Congress after Republicans earlier were projected to hold their majority in the US House.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)