President Barack Obama has rolled up victories in
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and limited Republican challenger
Mitt Romney's path to victory as U.S. voters decided between
two starkly different visions for the country.
Obama's victories in the two states put pressure on Romney to
score victories in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, three
battleground states where the race was too close to call.
At least 120 million people were expected to decide between
the Democratic incumbent and Romney after a long, expensive
and bitter presidential campaign centred around how to repair
the ailing U.S. economy.
In the state-by-state battle to get to 270 electoral votes
needed for the presidency, Obama and Romney piled up early
victories in the states they were expected to win easily.
Early vote-counting in the swing state of Florida showed them
running neck-and-neck. Obama led in the critical battleground
state of Ohio and Romney held an early lead in a third swing
Romney needs all three of those states to navigate a narrow
path to the presidency, while Obama could afford to lose one
or two of them and still win a second four-year term.
The Republican's chances were hit by Obama victories in
Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, as well as New Hampshire.
Romney last week visited Wisconsin, home state of his
vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, and had stopped in
Pennsylvania earlier today in hopes of pulling off a surprise
In a victory that also limited Romney's path to a victory,
Obama won Michigan, the Republican's state of birth but where
he ran afoul of voters by opposing an auto industry bailout
pushed by Obama. Some polls had shown a tight race there.
Television networks projected Romney the winner, as expected,
in Republican states Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi,
Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and
He was declared the winner in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana,
Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Obama was projected the winner in the Democratic strongholds
of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut,
Delaware, Massachusetts and his home state of Illinois, as
well as Washington, D.C.
Who Americans choose will set the country's course for the
next four years on spending, taxes, healthcare, the role of
government and foreign policy challenges such as the rise of
China and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Each man offered different policies to cure what ails
America's weak economy, with Obama pledging to raise taxes on
the wealthy and Romney offering across-the-board tax cuts as
a way to ignite strong economic growth.
National opinion polls before the election showed Obama and
Romney in a virtual dead heat, although Obama had a slight
advantage in several vital swing states - most notably Ohio -
that could give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win the
According to Reuters-Ipsos Election Day polling, one in three
Obama voters said the economy was the most important issue
for them, while half of Romney voters agreed.
Healthcare was the second most important issue for Obama
voters and the budget deficit was second for Romney voters.
Unemployment was third for both.
Three-quarters of both Romney and Obama supporters decided to
vote for their preferred candidate before the October debates
between the candidates, according to the data.
The Romney side was encouraged by what was described as heavy
turnout in Republican areas from Florida to Colorado.
Romney made last-minute visits to Ohio and Pennsylvania today
to try to drive up turnout in those states, while
vice-president Joe Biden was dispatched to Ohio. Obama
remained in his home town of Chicago.
'I'M VERY PROUD'
Expressing confidence, Romney told reporters on his plane as
he flew back to Boston that he had written only one speech
for evening, one celebrating his victory.
"I'm very proud of the campaign that I've run, to tell you
the truth," he said. "I'm sure like any campaign, people can
talk to mistakes, but that's going to be part of anything
that's produced by human beings," he said.
Obama told a Denver television station he had speeches ready
for either outcome.
"You always have two speeches prepared because you can't take
anything for granted," he told FOX31.
The multimillionaire former head of a private equity firm and
a former governor of Massachusetts, Romney would be the first
Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to
assume the nation's highest office.
Obama, the country's first black president, seeks to avoid
being relegated to a single term, something that has happened
to only one of the previous four occupants of the White
Whichever candidate wins, a razor-thin margin might not bode
well for the clear mandate needed to help break the partisan
gridlock in Washington.
Fuelled by record spending on negative ads, the battle
between the two men was focused primarily on the lagging
economic recovery and persistently high unemployment, but at
times it turned personal.
The close race raises the prospect of a disputed outcome
similar to the 2000 election, which ended with a U.S. Supreme
Court decision favouring George W. Bushover Al Gore after
legal challenges to the tight vote in Florida.
Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have assembled legal
teams to deal with possible voting problems, challenges or
COMPLAINTS AND FRUSTRATION
Although voting appeared to go smoothly in most places,
complaints about procedures and possible irregularities
surfaced sporadically across the electoral map.
But there were no immediate claims of anything widespread or
systematic enough to cast doubt on the credibility of the
Storm-weary residents across New York and New Jersey
encountered long lines as they went to cast their ballots
just over a week after the devastating storm Sandy caused
havoc in the region.
New Jersey granted a last-minute extension to the deadline
for email voting.
The balance of power in the U.S. Congress will also be at
stake in races for the Senate and House of Representatives
that could affect the outcome of "fiscal-cliff" negotiations
on spending cuts and tax increases, which kick in at the end
of the year unless a deal is reached.
Obama's Democrats are now expected to narrowly hold their
Senate majority, while Romney's Republicans were projected to
retain House control.
Former Maine Governor Angus King won a three-way contest for
the Senate seat of retiring Republican Olympia Snowe. King
ran as an independent, but he is expected to caucus with
Democrats in what would amount to a Democratic pick-up.
Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson easily beat back a
challenge from Republican congressman Connie Mack to win a
third term, while Democratic congressman Chris Murphy beat
Republican Linda McMahon, a businesswoman who had served as
chief executive of a professional wrestling company.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren won the U.S. Senate seat for
In the high-profile Senate race, Warren, a law professor who
headed the watchdog panel that oversaw the government's
financial sector bailout, defeated incumbent Republican
Senator Scott Brown.