WASHINGTON -- Winning a second term in a closely divided election, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Americas common bond can help the country overcome its biggest disagreements, because thats who we are.
Thats the country I'm so proud to lead as your president, Obama told a jubilant crowd of supporters in Chicago just before 2 a.m. And tonight, despite all the hardship weve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future.
The election was a referendum on who could better ease Americans economic anxiety, and Obama appealed to voters for more time to fix the problems he inherited. Republican challenger Mitt Romney asserted that Obama had made the problems worse and promoted his own business experience as the solution.
I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us, so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting, Obama said.
Obama, who was to return to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, said he looked forward to sitting down with Romney in the coming weeks to begin to address the nations looming challenges, including a set of automatic spending cuts and tax increases.
Romney conceded just before 1 a.m. in Boston. This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation, the former Massachusetts governor said.
It was a close election to the finish. Obama defeated Romney with more than 300 electoral votes and broke 50 percent of the popular vote.
Saying that the best for America was yet to come, Obama concluded, We can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggest.
But Washington the day after the election remained divided: a Democratic president, a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic-majority Senate.
The president will have to work with the same Republican leaders who opposed his major policy initiatives, from the economic stimulus and health care to climate change and immigration reform.
"Now it's time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
During the campaign, Republicans alienated key constituencies, including women and Latinos, who were crucial to the presidents victory. They lost Senate seats in Massachusetts and Indiana and failed to capture others from vulnerable Democrats.
Obama held together the same coalition that put him in the White House in 2008. He widened his lead among Latinos, the nations fastest-growing minority group. He also maintained his overwhelming support from African-Americans and won a majority of women and young people.
Obama, the second Democrat to win a second term since World War II, won 26 states and the District of Columbia, sweeping the Northeast and West Coast and winning most of the Rust Belt battlegrounds, including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. He held onto states in the interior West with fast-growing Hispanic populations, such as Nevada and Colorado.