A divided electorate voted to give President Obama more time to continue the agenda he began four years ago, despite a fragile economy, rancor over his signature health care overhaul, and a partisan Congress continually at odds.
The night also marked victories for those on the left of social issues, as Maine and Maryland became the first states to legalize gay marriage through popular vote, and Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Gay marriage was also on the ballot in Washington, where supporters held a thin margin of victory.
President Obama performed a nearly clean sweep of the fiercely contested battleground states, including Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, with a narrow lead in Florida, pushing him well past the 270 electoral votes needed to win for a current total of 303.
The popular vote, however, showed a much less resounding victory, where President Obama had a 50 percent share over Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 48 percent—down 3 percent from his win over John McCain in 2008.
President Obama will continue to preside over a divided Congress that has stymied legislation over the past four years, with the Republicans maintaining control of the House and the Democrats retaining the Senate.
In recognition of the difficult road ahead, Obama returned to themes of hope and cooperation in his acceptance speech to a boisterous crowd in Chicago, Ill.
“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” said Obama.
“We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
In his concession speech to supporters in Boston, Mass., Mitt Romney also acknowledged the need for both parties to work together.
“At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work,” he said.
Obama also began to lay out a tentative agenda for his second term, with a focus on jobs, immigration reform, and a balanced budget.
“You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”
The crowd gathered reflected the coalition that pushed him to victory. President Obama won with a coalition of the young, female, and non-white voters.
According to the AP, President Obama won 55 percent of the female vote—11 percentage points more than Romney—more than making up for the ground he lost among male voters. Among those ages 18 to 29, he won 60 percent of the vote.
Romney’s support was strongest among male voters at 52 percent and white voters, who supported him by the widest margin: 59 percent to Obama’s 39 percent. The loss raises questions of how the Republican Party will reach out to what will only be a more diverse electorate.
In stark contrast, President Obama won with 93 percent of African-American, 71 percent of Latino, and 73 percent of Asian-American voters.
To some of the loudest applause of the night, Obama celebrated the diversity of the American populace.
“I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” he said.
Elizabeth Shim contributed to this report.