Obama wins second term, outlasting Romney
President Obama won a second term against Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday, becoming the first president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win re-election with an unemployment rate above 7.2 percent.
Pennsylvania joined key swing states Ohio, Iowa and Colorado to carry Obama past the 270 electoral-vote threshold. According to preliminary returns, he won Pennsylvania 52 percent to 47 percent. Obama won more than 300 electoral votes, according to the Associated Press.
“Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope,” Obama told a cheering crowd in Chicago. “We know that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”
Romney's brief speech called for national unity.
“This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” Romney told a cheering crowd at his rally in Boston about 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Obama led Romney by just more than 2 percentage points in the popular vote as of 1 a.m., offering another reminder that the country remains deeply divided politically.
“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the nation in another direction. But the nation chose another leader, and so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation,” Romney said.
Florida remained too close to call.
Turnout appeared to dip from the record high of four years ago, and in most states appeared to be lower than 2004, though the complete picture won't be clear for weeks. Heavy turnout in Westmoreland County, where voters in some precincts waited for an hour to cast ballots, prompted elections officials to keep some larger polling locations open until 9 p.m.
After months of campaigning and more money than ever spent on U.S. elections, the basic dynamics of government remain the same: a Republican House, Democratic Senate and Obama in the White House.
Their first task will be to undo what they did last year. As part of a compromise to increase the country's borrowing limit, lawmakers created the so-called fiscal cliff. The combination of about $607 billion in budget cuts and tax hikes scheduled to take place at year's end threatens to plunge the country back into a recession.
“At a time like this, we can't risk partisan bickering,” Romney said. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people's work.”
The country's unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October after falling below 8 percent for the first time since 2009 in September. Third-quarter gross domestic product increased by 2 percent, and a Gallup poll last week found the highest levels of economic confidence since 2008.
Obama promised to create 1 million manufacturing jobs by 2016, in part by cutting corporate tax rates by 25 percent.
He wants to extend Bush-era tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 but let the rates return to Clinton-era levels for those who make more. Republicans in Congress got Obama to agree to temporarily extend all tax cuts until the end of this year.
After overseeing the end of the war in Iraq last year, Obama will manage the run-down of America's 11-year war in Afghanistan. He pledged to remove combat troops by the end 2014. He faces an uncertain outcome to the Arab Spring uprisings, and Iran's nuclear ambitions loom large, with crisis possible in spring as Israel considers an attack on the Islamic theocracy.
The campaigns made their final cases to voters on familiar ground.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and first Mormon to become a major-party nominee, and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, campaigned together in Ohio hours after voting in their home states.
In an illustration of how hotly contested the state's 18 electoral votes were, the GOP ticket's campaign planes at one point sat on the tarmac at Cleveland International Airport yards away from Air Force Two, which carried Vice President Joe Biden to the state for a last-minute campaign appearance.
Romney followed his Cleveland stop with a brief final trip to Western Pennsylvania. He landed at Pittsburgh International Airport just before 3 p.m., and met with election workers at a call center in Green Tree. He was on the ground for just more than an hour and held no public event, though hundreds of supporters gathered in a garage outside the airport's Atlantic Aviation hangar to cheer him.
“It's better to be out here than to watch it on television,” said Rian Ryzner, 50, of Jupiter, Fla., a part-time Western Pennsylvanian.
Pennsylvania was considered safely in Obama's column for much of the race, but recent polls showed it tightening, particularly after Romney's performance in the first presidential debate.
Obama held his final rally Monday night in Des Moines and spent Election Day in Chicago, where he thanked volunteers at a campaign field office. He followed that with a game of basketball. The game included former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen.
It was the second election in a row in which Americans learned the winner on Election Day, after two elections that dragged through the night or longer. Sen. John Kerry conceded to President George W. Bush the day after the 2004 election, four years after Bush's race with Vice President Al Gore dragged for weeks because of recounts and court battles.
“The candidates are so evenly balanced that it comes down to about four fairly big-sized states that are simply very close,” said Jim Broussard, history professor at Lebanon Valley College. “They're so big and diverse, unless you're winning the country big, those are always going to be close.”
Adam Smeltz and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Mike Wereschagin & Salena Zito are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Wereschagin can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Zito can be reached at email@example.com.