A sharply divided America worried about the nation’s economy gave President Barack Obama a second term Tuesday, choosing him over Republican Mitt Romney.
Obama pulled out his narrow victory with a string of close victories in the nation’s battleground states.
Democrats also held onto thier majority in the Senate, picking up two seats in early returns with the possibility of a third.
By 11 p.m., Obama had already won the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin, the home of Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.
Other prizes -- Florida, Ohio and Virginia -- were still too close to call, but Obama appeared headed to victory because of still-to-be counted votes in Democratic strongholds there.
In Florida, Obama clung to a narrow lead, but Democrats were encouraged that the votes remaining to be counted come from South Florida counties where the president enjoys his strongest support.
Likewise in Ohio, thought to be the most closely contested state in the election, Obama had a slight lead with many votes still to be counted in the urban areas where he is strongest.
Romney had a lead in another battleground state, Virginia, although the Democrats held onto the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Webb (D.) Former governor and senator George Allen (R) conceded the race to another former governor, Tim Kaine, shortly before 11 p.m.
In early results, Obama won his home state of Illinois as well as Massachusetts, where Romney was governor and the place he still calls home. Maryland and the District of Columbia were put in Obama’s column as soon as polls there closed.
Romney was winning across the South, plus West Virginia, Indiana and Oklahoma — traditional Republican states in the presidential contest.
In the high-profile race in Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren defeated
Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Democrats also picked up a Republican seat in Indiana, where Rep. Joe Donnelly prevailed over state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Mourdock had defeated six-term incumbent Sen. Richard G. Lugar in the May Republican primary, but his controversial comments about rape and abortion changed the tone of the general election campaign. In Missouri, Democrat Claire McCaskill held onto her Senate seat by defeating Republican challenger Todd Akin after he made controversial remarks about rape and abortion as well.
In addition, former Maine governor Angus King, an independent, won the Senate race there. He has not said which party he will align with, but Democrats spent money to oppose King’s Republican challenger.
After more than $2 billion in campaign spending, unprecedented hours of television ads and a record number of voters who cast their ballots before Tuesday, Election Day 2012 was told in timeless tableaus of lines outside schools, volunteers waving signs and Americans emerging with “I Voted” stickers attached to their jackets.
Early exit polls showed, not surprisingly, that the economy was the most important issue for Americans who have lived through a devastating recession. They told pollsters that they were slightly more positive about the country’s direction than when they chose Obama four years ago. But their interest in a more activist federal government has been dampened.