After a long, brutal and expensive campaign, President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney to win his second term as president last night, taking 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. The victory marks the end of an election known for negativity which has been called the most expensive election in U.S. history.
The popular vote was hotly contested for most of the evening, with both candidates bringing in 49 percent of the vote until about 10 p.m. Obama was eventually able to take the popular vote in addition to the Electoral College when he beat Romney by about 1.5 million votes.
Obama won key swing states like Ohio, which secured his lead late Tuesday evening. Obama also managed to snag Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
Wisconsin was a battleground state throughout the campaign. Both candidates appeared in the state this past weekend to give their “closing arguments” before the polls opened Tuesday. Romney’s vice presidential pick of Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan in August showed the high importance placed on the state.
Obama’s narrow win of 50 to 49 percent in Florida gave Obama surprised commentators on both sides of the aisle. Various news outlets were wary of calling the state while returns were coming in most of the evening, but finally announced the state for Obama after already projecting him take the winner.
Obama’s victory was significantly closer than his win in 2008, when he raked in 365 electoral votes to GOP challenger John McCain’s 173. Unlike 2008, Obama’s lead narrowed toward the end of the campaign. A CNN/ORC poll released Sunday projected Obama and Romney in a statistical tie at 49 percent.
Late last night, the president spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago after multiple news organizations called the race in his favor. He thanked the American people for their participation in the election, regardless of party affiliation.
“I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the first time, or waited in line for a long time. By the way, we need to fix that,” he said. “Whether you picked up the phone or walked the pavement, whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard.”
He went on to thank Romney and his family for their choice to work in public service and expressed a desire to work with Romney in the coming years.
“(The Romney family’s) legacy is one that we applaud tonight,” he said. “In the weeks ahead, I look forward to sitting down with the governor and talking about how we can work together to move this country forward.”
Mitt Romney conceded the race just after midnight Wednesday. He told the crowd at his campaign headquarters in Boston that he had spoken with the president and congratulated him on his victory, and stressed the need for bipartisanship over the next four years, saying “at a time like this, we can’t risk political bickering and posturing,” he said.
He went on to thank the millions of volunteers who had worked for his campaign during the season.
“I want to thank Matt Rhodes and the dedicated campaign team he led,” Romney said. “And to you here tonight, and to the team across the county, I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare to what has been done. You gave deeply from yourselves and performed magnificently.”
While both candidates discussed the need to be politically tolerant and willing to compromise, Obama highlighted the importance of intelligent debate in the political process.
“Democracy in a country of more than 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated,” he said. “When we make big decisions, it stirs passion and controversy. That won’t change, and it shouldn’t. These are the marks of liberty.”