Updated: 11/07/2012 11:20 AM KSTP.com By: Leslie Dyste
President Barack Obama will serve four more years after winning Minnesota and seven of the nine battleground states Tuesday night.
Obama's victory maintained the Minnesota's long streak of supporting Democrats for president even after Republicans made a last-minute play for the state. Democrats have taken Minnesota in every presidential election since 1976.
Republicans made Minnesota a battleground in the past few cycles but had largely bypassed it this year until a recent poll showed Mitt Romney closing the gap.
That drew TV ads from both campaigns and a late visit to the state by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as well as a top Obama surrogate, former President Bill Clinton.
In the end, Obama prevailed despite a weak economy that plagued his first term and put a crimp in the middle class dreams of millions. Obama won at least 303 electoral votes to 206 for Romney, with 270 needed for victory, and had a near-sweep of the nine most hotly contested states.
"This happened because of you. Thank you" Obama tweeted to supporters as he celebrated four more years in the White House.
After the costliest - and arguably the nastiest - campaign in history, divided government seemed alive and well.
Democrats retained control of the Senate with surprising ease. Republicans were on course for the same in the House, making it likely that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Obama's partner in unsuccessful deficit talks, would reclaim his seat at the bargaining table.
Obama's laserlike focus on the battleground states allowed him to run up a sizeable margin in the competition for electoral votes, where it mattered.
He won Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada, seven of the nine battlegrounds where the rivals and their allies poured nearly $1 billion into dueling television commercials.
It was a sweet victory Tuesday night for Obama, but nothing like the jubilant celebration in 2008, when his hope-and-change election as the nation's first black president captivated the world. This time, Obama ground it out with a stay-the-course pitch that essentially boiled down to a plea for more time to make things right and a hope that Congress will be more accommodating than in the past.
Romney was in Massachusetts, his long and grueling bid for the presidency at an unsuccessful end. He won North Carolina among the battleground states. Florida remained too close to call.
Romney publicly conceded just before midnight CST. The Republican nominee told supporters he would pray for Barack Obama's success in leading the nation. Romney thanked his running mate Paul Ryan, saying the Wisconsin congressman had a bright future in the GOP.
The former Massachusetts governor said it was time to put aside partisan bickering and work together for the good of the country.
The close breakdown in the popular vote showed Americans' differences over how best to meet the nation's challenges. With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, the popular vote went 50 percent for Obama to 48.4 percent for Romney, a businessman-turned-politician. Romney had argued that Obama failed to turn around the economy and he said it was time for a new approach that combined lower taxes and a less intrusive government.
Obama's re-election means his signature health care overhaul will endure, as will the Wall Street overhaul enacted after the economic meltdown. The drawdown of troops in Afghanistan will continue apace. With an aging roster of justices, the president probably will have at least one more nomination to the Supreme Court.
The most pressing challenges immediately ahead for the 44th president are all too familiar: an economy still baby-stepping its way toward full health; 23 million people out of work or in search of better jobs; civil war in Syria; a menacing standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
Sharp differences with Republicans in Congress on taxes, spending, deficit reduction, immigration and more await. While Republicans control the House, Democrats have at least 52 votes in the Senate and Republicans 45. One newly elected independent isn't saying which party he'll side with, and races in Montana and North Dakota were not yet called.
Votes also were being counted Wednesday in the Montana and Washington gubernatorial races.
Even before Obama gets to his second inaugural on Jan. 20, he must deal with the threatened "fiscal cliff." A combination of automatic tax increases and steep across-the-board spending cuts are set to take effect in January if Washington doesn't quickly reach a budget deal. Experts have warned that the economy could tip back into recession with an agreement.
The president said he hoped to meet with Romney and discuss how they can work together. They may have battled fiercely, he said, "but it's only because we love this country deeply."
Obama won even though exit polls showed that only about 4 in 10 voters thought the economy is getting better, just one-quarter thought they're better off financially than four years ago and a little more than half think the country is on the wrong track.
Associated Press contributed to this report