WASHINGTON, November 7 (RIA Novosti) US President Barack Obama of the Democratic Party was reelected to a second term on Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a tightly contested and divisive race that saw the candidates and their backers pour an estimated $2.5 billion into the campaigns.
But control of the US Congress remained split between Democrats and Republicans after nationwide elections for seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, meaning Obama could face continued fierce opposition to his legislative agenda in the Republican-controlled House, while the Senate majority remained in the Democrats’ hands.
In a spirited victory speech to a raucous crowd of supporters early Wednesday morning, Obama called for national unity, saying that with his reelection, “the task of perfecting our union moves forward.”
“I’ve never been more hopeful about our future, and I ask you to sustain that hope,” Obama told the crowd at his campaign headquarters in Chicago.
Obama said he had spoken with Romney earlier in the evening and congratulated the former governor of Massachusetts and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on a “hard-fought campaign.”
“We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply, and we care so deeply about its future,” Obama said.
Romney struck a conciliatory tone in his concession speech early Wednesday morning, telling supporters at his campaign headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, that America could not “risk partisan bickering and political posturing” at this critical point in the nation’s history.
“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney told the crowd.
“This election is over, but our principles endure,” he added, saying his belief in his vision for turning around the US economy remained unshaken.
Earlier in the evening, Obama was projected to capture the key battleground state of Ohio and its 18 Electoral College votes, which US media predicted would help push him over the needed 270 votes in the Electoral College to put him back in the White House.
Several major US television networks projected the incumbent’s victory shortly before 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT) Tuesday night. Shortly thereafter, Obama’s official Twitter feed posted the following Tweet: “This happened because of you. Thank you.”
The networks projected Obama’s reelection after the president notched a string of projected victories in several tightly contested and strategically important states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire—states that were seen as key for Romney to win in his bid to unseat Obama.
CNN projected Obama’s lead over Romney in the Electoral College at 303-206, with Florida’s 29 electoral votes still on the table in a state race widely seen as too close to call as of early Wednesday morning.
Exit polls showed that white and male voters, as well as older voters, favored Romney, while Obama was favored by women and younger voters, NBC News reported. Obama also received overwhelming support among Latino and black voters, the network reported, citing exit polls.
Romney had spent Election Day on Tuesday campaigning in Ohio, a state hit hard in the US economic downturn where the Republican candidate had hoped to convince voters he was the right person to get the economy back on track.
In a campaign that centered around the economy, Obama had attacked Romney as seeking to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans while slashing social programs aimed at the middle and lower classes.
The president’s signature health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also played an important role in the 2012 race for the White House. Romney had vowed to work to overturn the law on his first day in office, while Obama campaigned on the broadly popular aspects of the 2010 law, including a provision forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage to people due to preexisting conditions.
Foreign policy largely took a backseat to domestic issues in the election, though Republicans repeatedly tried to paint Obama as a less-than-stellar friend of Israel and accused him of clumsy handling of US policy in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Russia played a peripheral role in the campaign, though Romney notably called the Kremlin the United States’ “Number one geopolitical foe,” prompting Obama to accuse him of injecting a Cold War mindset into bilateral relations.
Arguably the most significant wild card in the races was Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that slammed the US East Coast just a week before Tuesday’s election, leaving more than 100 people dead and destroying property and infrastructure in states up and down the coast.
Both candidates temporarily halted their campaigns in the storm’s deadly wake, but Obama took a hands-on role in the immediate recovery efforts, allocating federal emergency funds for states slammed by the storms and traveling to the frontline of the destruction to meet with victims of the hurricane.
In the days following the storm, Obama was even repeatedly praised by New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, a high-profile surrogate for the Romney campaign whose state bore the brunt of Sandy’s wrath.
The bitter campaign was also the most expensive in US history. The independent, non-profit Center for Responsive Politics estimated the cost of the race at about $2.5 billion, with funds coming in from the candidates’ campaigns, the Democratic and Republican Party committees and an array of outside spending groups.
This flood of cash came in the aftermath of the January 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which allows corporations, unions and issue advocacy organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of or opposition to a candidate, as long as the spending is done independently of any candidate’s campaign.