President Obama won re-election to the White House Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the nation's costliest, and perhaps most bitterly contested campaign - one that ultimately came down to winning a handful of key battleground states.
Obama and Romney were in a virtual tie in most polls in the closing days of the election, with several swing states up for grabs. But Obama won virtually every critical battleground state, including Ohio, which pushed him over a majority of electoral votes and prompting widespread celebration among supporters of the president.
In Chicago, Obama greeted a throng of well-wishers at 1:35 ET with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha at his side. "Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of protecting our Union moves forward. It moves forward because of you," Obama said. "Tonight, in this election, you, the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard ... we have picked ourselves up, and for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
Acknowledging the deep divisiveness that has polarized much of the nation, Obama vowed to work with GOP leaders on major looming issues, including the deficit, tax code and reinvigorating the economy.
Obama won at least 26 states and the District of Columbia, capturing 303 electoral votes, but held just a slim lead in the popular vote. Romney, who won 24, said in his concession speech that it was time to end bipartisan bickering.
"This is a time of great challenge for America, and I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation,'' Romney said.
"The nation is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering," said Romney, who urged Democrats and Republicans to work together on key issues, such as reviving the economy and growing jobs.
Democrats held their narrow majority in the Senate on Tuesday, grabbing Republican seats in Massachusetts and Indiana and turning aside GOP challenges in Missouri, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.