President Obama won another four years in office, rising triumphant from a brutal campaign against his Republican foe, Mitt Romney, who failed to harvest the votes he needed in enough of the handful of swing states that was always going to decide this election.
In a speech lasting almost 25 minutes, the President insisted he had hope for the future but admitted there was "more work to do".
"The best is yet to come, but we have more work to do," he told the crowd.
The president said his supporters "voted for action, not business as usual" as he vowed to reduce the deficit, reform taxation and fix the immigration system.
He added: "Tonight, despite all the hardship we have been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I have never been more hopeful about our future, I have never been more hopeful about America."
Thanking the thousands of supporters in the room, he told them: "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 oppression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.
"Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
Mr Romney formally conceded the election just before 6am GMT today. He said: 'I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.'
In the end, an election night that some had seen stretching into the wee hours was decided with reasonable speed even as the counting was still under way in Florida and Virginia, two among the squeakier battleground states. It was not initially clear whether Mr Obama could also prevail in the popular vote. A failure to do so would only have been a subplot to his victory but an important one that would surely hamper his ability to govern in a second term. So there was relief in his camp when he took that lead as well.
Whereas the early betting during the summer had been on Mr Obama, a dismal performance in the first presidential debate in Denver later threw the race wide open and even into the late hours of yesterday top aides around Mr Romney were evincing calm optimism that the night would be theirs. But so had been Team Obama.
His victory, decided by passing the magic 270-mark in the Electoral College shortly past midnight on the East Coast according the networks, is vindication for a president who promoted himself fiercely in the closing rallies of the campaign as a champion of America’s middle class who admitted that there was more work to do to mend the economy while insisting that he was the right person for the job.
“I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started,” Mr Obama said in a tweet to party loyalists. “But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place. Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.”
The disappointment for Republicans, by contrast, was crushing. Surely a post-mortem in their ranks will now rage over which direction the party can take now after suffering two presidential losses in a row and whether it was harmed either by a faulty candidate or by the rightwards pull exerted on it by the Tea Party. Central to the self-doubts also will be how deeply in a hole Republicans now are with minorities and especially Hispanics.
On paper, Mr Obama should have been in trouble. Indeed, yesterday he broke the historical mold by becoming the first president to achieve re-election since FDR with an unemployment rate of 7.9 per cent. Mr Romney had offered a CV of a successful businessman perfectly suited to put the economy and national finances in order. But in the end, young Americans, women, minorities – the new progressive coalition in America – pushed Mr Obama over the finishing line.
All the hopes that Mr Romney had of expanding his paths to victory by winning states normally expected to vote Democrat were dashed last night. He lost in Michigan, where his father served as governor, and failed to take Wisconsin the home state of his running mate Paul Ryan. Doubtless, there will be Republicans second-guessing Mr Romney for his choice of vice-presidential nominee and wondering if picking Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, which he lost, might have served him better in that state and even elsewhere. Mr Obama meanwhile did well protecting, though not always entirely, the margins of victory he achieved four years ago in places like Colorado. Among the last states to be called for Mr Obama was Colorado. Counted continued however in Ohio and Florida.
As midnight came, America was face to face with history. In victory, Mr Obama validated an agenda of social inclusion and activist government and avoided joining the one-term club alongside Jimmy Carter and George Herbert Walker Bush. Nor was he re-elected because of any thrill that came last time with the sending of the first African-American to the highest office but because of his record.
Not entering the history books in the right way, however, is Mr Romney who came close to being the first Mormon President-elect. To what extent his faith hurt him in the race is still a murky question, but it could have suppressed the evangelical vote which was so pivotal in putting George W. Bush into office for a second time in 2004.
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