Barack Obama has been re-elected president of the United States, overcoming powerful economic headwinds, a lock-step resistance to his agenda by Republicans in Congress and an unprecedented torrent of advertising as a divided nation voted to give him more time.
President Obama’s acceptance speech
Glowing with triumph, Obama revived his old theme of hope yesterday, telling Americans "the best is yet to come" after defying dark economic omens with a decisive re-election win.
"Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up," Obama told a cheering crowd of supporters in his home town of Chicago.
"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."
In defeating Mitt Romney, the president carried Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin, a near sweep of the battleground states, and was holding a narrow advantage in Florida.
The path to victory for Romney narrowed as the night wore along, with Obama winning at least 303 electoral votes.
Accused by Romney throughout the campaign of taking a partisan tone, Obama vowed to reach out to Republicans in his new, four-year term.
"You voted for action, not politics as usual," Obama said, calling for compromise and pledging to work with leaders of both parties to reduce the deficit, to reform the tax code and immigration laws, and to cut dependence on foreign oil.
He said he intends to sit down with Romney in the weeks ahead to talk about how the two can work together.
Obama's re-election extended his place in history, carrying the tenure of the nation's first black president into a second term.
The evening was not without the drama that has come to mark so many recent elections: For more than 90 minutes after the networks projected Obama as the winner, Romney held off calling him to concede. And as the president waited to declare victory in Chicago, Romney's aides were prepared to head to the airport, suitcases packed, potentially to contest several close results.
But as it became increasingly clear that no amount of contesting would bring him victory, he called Obama to concede shortly before 1:00am.
"I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters," Romney told his supporters in Boston. "This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation."
Obama faces governing in a deeply divided country and a partisan-rich capital, where Republicans retained their majority in the House and Democrats kept their control of the Senate. His re-election offers him a second chance that will quickly be tested, given the rapidly escalating fiscal showdown.
For Obama, the result brings a ratification of his sweeping health care act, which Romney had vowed to repeal. The law will now continue on course toward nearly full implementation in 2014, promising to change significantly the way medical services are administrated nationwide.
But he will be venturing back into a Congressional environment similar to that of his first term, with the Senate under the control of Democrats and the House under the control of Republicans, whose leaders have hinted that they will be no less likely to challenge him than they were during the last four years.
The state-by-state pursuit of 270 electoral votes was being closely tracked by both campaigns, with Romney winning North Carolina and Indiana, which Obama carried four years ago. But Obama won Michigan, the state where Romney was born, and Minnesota, a pair of states that Republican groups had spent millions trying to make competitive.
Americans delivered a final judgment on a long and bitter campaign that drew so many people to the polls that several key states extended voting for hours. In Virginia and Florida, long lines stretched from polling places.
As he delivered his brief concession speech yesterday, Romney did not directly address the challenges facing Republicans. His advisers said his second failed quest for the White House would be his last, with his running mate, Representative Paul D Ryan of Wisconsin, standing as one of the leaders of the party.
"We have given our all to this campaign," said Romney, stoic and gracious in his remarks. "I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead this country in a different direction."
The results were more a matter of voters giving Obama more time than a second chance. Through most of the year slight majorities of voters had told pollsters that they believed his policies would improve the economy if they could stay in place into the future.
Compiled from reports of The New York Times, The Washington Post, AFP and Reuters; Infographics: NYT