The Northeastern states all stayed in Obama’s column by huge margins, but he also took at least six of the nine swing states, including all-important Ohio, bringing the 51-year-old president over the 270 electoral votes he needed to win, according to unofficial returns.
New Jersey voters — faced with major challenges in getting to the polls in the wake of wide devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy — went solidly for the president, giving him the state’s 14 electoral votes. They also re-elected U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who easily defeated Republican Joe Kyrillos, as the Democrats increased their majority in the Senate.
In one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country, Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Despite the loss at the top of the ticket, the GOP retained its control of the House.
Following projections by the Associated Press and all the major networks that he had won, Obama tweeted on his official Twitter account: “We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you.”
In an e-mail to supporters, Obama said, “You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn’t easy, you pressed forward. I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.”
Romney in a short concession speech wished the president well.
“This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray the president will be successful in guiding the nation,” said Romney, who thanked his running mate, Paul Ryan, his volunteers, his family and his wife.
He urged an end to partisan bickering.
“We look to Democrats and Republicans at all levels to put people before politics,” said Romney, his family by his side. “I believe in America. I believe in the people of America.”
In a victory speech early this morning, Obama looked toward the future.
“While our road has been hard, though our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up,” he said. “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.”
The victory by Obama ended the most expensive political campaign in American history and one of the harshest. Candidates flooded the airwaves with relentless attacks on each other, with accusations of lying, deceit, fabrications and other chicanery — even renewed charges over the long discredited claims over whether Obama had been born in this country — which flew for almost a year.
Obama questioned Romney’s lack of a specific plan for reviving the economy while branding the challenger a candidate who changed his positions to suit the shifting political winds.
Romney, 65, went after the president’s economic policies touting his own success in business as the skill most needed in tough times. He also sought to portray Obama as weak on foreign policy but neither strategy pried enough of the nation’s independent voters to his side.
Put over the top in 2008 by the passion of first-time voters and minorities, Obama this time around eked out victory through a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation, as well as a hard focus on advance voting. More than 30 million voters cast early ballots in nearly three dozen states long before Election Day.
With both candidates writing off solidly red and blue states already in the pocket of the other side, the race played out mostly in the battleground states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada — which accounted for 110 of the 270 electoral votes need to win the presidency.
Turnout, though, was high all over the country, including New Jersey, which was ripped apart last week by Hurricane Sandy, and where serious storm damage and continuing power outages still has thousands in the dark — posing unique challenges for voting.
Many polling places, still without electricity, had to be relocated, while efforts in New Jersey to allow people to vote by fax and e-mail led to no small amount of chaos.
The storm, which left behind a swath of destruction through New Jersey and New York, may have been a factor in how people voted, and not just in the Northeast. Sandy all but suspended the presidential race for days, as the election was quickly overshadowed by images of the terrible destruction left behind by Sandy and the subsequent response by Obama, who visited some of the worst damage with Gov. Chris Christie, and directed a substantial response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
With the high turnout, there were long waits at many polling places both in New Jersey and elsewhere. In Edison, Dorothy Ashton, a longtime poll worker, was struck by the number of people coming to vote.
“We’ve never had this many voters this early in the day,” she said. “We had more in the first hour than we had all day long during the primary.”
At the American Legion hall in Brick, where caution signs and yellow tape still limit travel in the Shore town hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, voting was also brisk.
Kathleen O’Donnell, who lost everything after her home was flooded, said she still felt compelled to vote before she was forced to evacuate again in advance of a new storm expected to hit New Jersey today.
“I said let’s get over and vote before we are evacuated,” she said. “I just felt that we had to vote. It’s our duty.”
According to national exit polling, most voters identified the economy as the overriding issue facing the country.
That held especially true in New Jersey as well, with nearly seven in 10 voters calling the economy the most important issue facing the nation — far outweighing health care, the deficit and foreign policy. Almost four in five described the economy as “not so good or poor.”
“Employment, work,” said Tony Abrantes of Denville, when asked about what concerned him in his election.
More than three in five New Jersey voters said unemployment is the biggest economic issue facing voters. Fewer than one in five cited taxes, rising prices or the housing market as the most important.
Polling in New Jersey was done before Sandy struck. While those questions said that Romney was better-equipped to handle the country’s economic problems, many in the survey, conducted for the Associated Press and a group of television networks, blamed former President George W. Bush for the country’s economic woes than they did Obama.
At the same time, a significant percentage of people said Obama was more in touch with people like themselves.
Both candidates were keyed almost exclusively to the economy throughout the long campaign, which was joined not only by Vice President Joe Biden and Republican running mate Paul Ryan, but high-profile surrogates for both candidates, including former President Bill Clinton for Obama and Christie for Romney.
Obama’s message, hammered through countless television commercials, was that the nation, under his leadership, has begun to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. He also pointed to his bailout of the U.S. auto industry as saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The president, while conceding progress has been slow, accused Romney of offering recycled Republican “trickle-down” policies pandered to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Romney adopted Obama’s 2008 battle cry of change, arguing the country was not better off than it was four years ago. He said another four years under Obama would lead to an extended recession.
The former governor, whose wealth is estimated as high as $250 million, claimed his skills fixing companies would enable him to fix the country and its economy.
The two also clashed over taxes, the economy, Medicare, abortion and health care — with Romney promising to repeal “Obamacare,” the national health insurance plan that Obama said was largely based on the health plan Romney installed in Massachusetts when he was governor.
Obama, who made history as the nation’s first African-American president in a high emotion campaign four years ago that promised change, had been seen by Republicans as particularly vulnerable in this election year. He spent a considerable amount of political capital getting his health plan passed, while the economy continued to falter.
Yet he wound down the Iraq war and took credit for killing Osama bin Laden, and despite his low poll numbers leading into the heat of the campaign, still had a personal likability that never faded.
The president began Election Day with a visit to a campaign office near his South Side home, to thank workers there.
Obama also engaged in a traditional Election Day basketball game with friends, as he does before every election.
The president’s team won.