After months of intense, divisive and often racially questionable general election campaigning between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the president has emerged the winner of the presidential contest. NBC networks were the first to call the race for Obama a little before 11:30 p.m. Election Night after finding that battleground Ohio had gone into the president's column.
The winning electoral total was Obama 274 electoral votes to Romney's 203, NBC reported. One only needs 270 electoral votes to win, however it was close to two hours before Obama could speak of victory. Romney initially refused to concede that he had lost Ohio, and thus the race, holding up Obama's victory lap. The former Massachusetts governor acknowledged the loss in a call to the president about 12:45 a.m., CBS reported.
"I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation," Romney said during a concession speech made minutes before 1 a.m. Wednesday in which he thanked his running mate, Paul Ryan, and his wife, Ann Romney, and the rest of his family. "Paul and I have given our all to this campaign. ... I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country . . . but the nation chose another leader."
On a night when Americans were uncertain whether there would be a repeat of 2008's history-making Election Night -- whether the nation's first African American president would be sent back to the White House for four more years -- they had their answer.
The results sent waves of excitement and jubilation late Tuesday evening at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago -- early network and cable news footage showed supporters waving flags, singing Aretha Franklin's "RESPECT," and letting out signs of relief.
With many of the early network and cable news projections favoring Romney, it was clear that the election would be decided in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. Florida, with their hours-long lines and early voting delays. Florida's results were still out as of early Wednesday morning, but Obama was leading in the vote count. In addition to Ohio, Colorado and Virginia were called for the president.
In New York City's famous Harlem neighborhood, Obama supporters were jubilant.
"Oh yes we did...again!" said 27-year-old New York City resident Dayna Isom, who watched the election results with a group of friends in the city's Harlem neighborhood. "My heart was beating very fast until I saw [Obama had won] Ohio."
While it's certainly premature to speculate what the first 100 days of the second Obama administration will look like, the president has pledged to continue pushing Congress to pass legislation that will speed up job creation. He has said he will not play ball with Republicans on extension of tax cuts for the rich. In his second term, he will have the opportunity to help retain hard-fought civil rights gains for women, on issues like abortion and fair pay, and for minorities, on issues like affirmative action and voting rights, with one or two appointments to the Supreme Court.
The Harlem Tavern restaurant in Harlem was nearly filled to its 300-person capacity with revelers following the election results.
Patron Brian Johnson, a 28-year-old charter school teacher in Harlem, said Obama's support of charter schools made the choice for president clear for him.
"So many Americans were misinformed about Obama's platform that they were willing to vote for someone who is unclear," Johnson said.
Wes McKutchin, a 29-year-old account services manager at American Express, said he had high hopes for Obama being able to unite Democrats and Republicans in his second term.
"I'd like to see his leadership help the parties come together to get the fiscal cliff fixed," said McKutchin, a New Jersey resident.
McKutchin referred to an austere budget balancing deal set to go into effect later this month if the two sides can't find compromise.