(This post has been updated since its original publication.)
Barack Obama has been re-elected president of the United States, ending nearly a year of fraught battling with opponent Mitt Romney in one of the most expensive campaigns in U.S. history.
“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,” Obama said in his victory speech around 1:40 a.m. EST Wednesday.
“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up,” he said. “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.”
Obama went on to thank his wife, daughters, campaign workers and Vice President Joe Biden – whom he called “America’s happy warrior” – and delivered optimistic remarks about the country going forward, touching on the future of education, debt, the military and even global warming.
“Despite all our differences, most of share certain hopes for America’s future,” he said. “That common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over. And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. With your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever."
Obama’s victory was called after a narrow win in Ohio, and he ended up with a near-sweep of the handful of swing states that decided the election.
While polling places will continue to count votes well into the night and possibly for the next few days, news outlets confidently made their predictions less than half an hour after polls on the West Coast closed, the last of the night other than Alaska.
Romney called the president after midnight, then delivered his concession speech from Boston just before 1 a.m.
“I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations,” Romney said.
“I wish all of them well but, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters. This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation,” he added.
Romney went on to thank running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, saying that aside from wife Ann, Ryan was the “best choice I’ve ever made.”
After thanking his sons and their families, Romney spoke about his party and his campaign, adding that the country faces many challenges that politicians must reach across the aisle to solve.
“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in another direction, but the nation chose another leader,” he said. “And so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”
Final election results from Florida's Miami-Dade County, which accounts for about 10% of the crucial swing state's registered voters, will not be available until Wednesday afternoon, a senior election official announced late on Tuesday.
Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley told reporters the delay was due to "an extremely high volume of absentee ballots in this election" and because a handful of precincts had voters still casting ballots after 10 p.m. EST.
Still, Obama was quick to celebrate.
We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are. Thank you,” he tweeted.
Immediately after the race was called, Republicans rejected the result, saying that too many votes across the country were yet-to-be counted before a winner could be declared.
Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove expressed doubts over outlets giving Ohio to Obama, saying that the count will be much too close and that too many votes are still coming in.
“We have 4.5 million votes in, roughly. And we have a difference of 991 between the two candidates,” Rove said on Fox News. “It may be that Barack Obama wins the state. But it seems to me that when you’ve got a lot of votes yet to cast ... if it’s gonna happen, let the votes begin to show it” and don’t call it too early.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer slammed Obama for running a “small” campaign “without ideas.”
“Obama doesn’t have anywhere really to go,” he said. “He did not campaign on any ideas, anything large, anything important ... so what will he do?”
Krauthammer also called Romney a “transitional” candidate for the Republican party, adding that Romney’s views were not where the party needs to go.
“This was an unusual election because Romney was a transitional figure,” he said. “He is a northeastern liberal, and that’s not where we (the Republican party) are going.”