* Convincing defeat for Republican challenger Romney
* Democrats retain Senate majority, Republicans keep House
* Romney calls Obama to concede after long, tough battle
* Obama vows to listen to both sides of political divide
* President wins many critical battleground states
By Steve Holland and John Whitesides
WASHINGTON, Nov 6 President Barack Obama won a
second term in the White House on Tuesday, overcoming deep
doubts among voters about his handling of the U.S. economy to
score a clear victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Americans chose to stick with a divided government in
Washington, however, by leaving the U.S. Congress as it is, with
Obama's fellow Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans
keeping the House of Representatives.
After a long, bitter and expensive campaign, the 51-year-old
Obama began trying to bring Americans together in a victory
speech before thousands of cheering supporters in Chicago.
Accused by Romney throughout the campaign of taking a partisan
tone, Obama vowed to reach out to Republicans in his new,
"You voted for action, not politics as usual," Obama said,
calling for compromise and pledging to work with leaders of both
parties to reduce the deficit, to reform the tax code and
immigration laws, and to cut dependence on foreign oil.
The nationwide popular vote remained extremely close with
Obama taking about 50 percent to 49 percent for Romney after a
campaign in which the candidates and their party allies spent a
combined $2 billion. But Obama comfortably won the electoral
votes needed in the state-by-state system used to choose U.S.
Obama scored impressive victories across the country, so
much so that the big build-up over Ohio, Virginia and Florida
fizzled. Obama reached the 270 electoral votes needed for
election even without those three states, rolling up wins in
Democratic strongholds and carrying Nevada, Iowa and Colorado.
In the end, he also won Ohio and Virginia and was ahead in
Florida, where votes were still being counted.
Romney, the multimillionaire former private equity
executive, came back from a series of campaign stumbles to make
it close after besting the president in the first of three
The 65-year-old former Massachusetts governor conceded in a
gracious speech delivered to disappointed supporters at the
Boston convention center.
"This is a time of great challenge for our nation," Romney
told the crowd. "I pray that the president will be successful in
guiding our nation."
He warned against partisan bickering and urged politicians
on both sides to "put the people before the politics."
Obama told his crowd he hoped to sit down with Romney in the
weeks ahead and examine ways to meet the challenges ahead.
The same problems that dogged Obama in his first term are
still there to confront him again. He faces a difficult task of
tackling $1 trillion annual deficits, reducing a $16 trillion
national debt, overhauling expensive social programs and dealing
with a gridlocked Congress that kept the same partisan makeup.
'FAILURES OR EXCESSES'
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell did not sound like
he was willing to concede his conservative principles, in a sign
of potential confrontations ahead.
"The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of
the president's first term, they have simply given him more time
to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress
that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party
control," McConnell said.
The result eliminates the prospect of wholesale repeal of
Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law but it still leaves questions
about how much of his signature domestic policy achievement will
The immediate focus for the president and Congress will be
to confront the "fiscal cliff," a mix of tax increases and
spending cuts due to extract some $600 billion from the economy
barring a deal with Congress.
Obama, America's first black president, won a new term by
convincing voters to stick with him as he tries to reignite
strong economic growth and recover from the worst recession
since the Great Depression of the 1930s. An uneven recovery has
been showing some signs of strength but the country's 7.9
percent jobless rate remains stubbornly high.
A DIVIDED CONGRESS
Democrats kept control of the 100-member Senate, seizing
Republican-held seats in Massachusetts and Indiana while keeping
most of those they already had, including in Virginia and
Republicans remained in control of the 435-member House,
ensuring Congress still faces a deep partisan divide as it turns
to the year-end "fiscal cliff" and other issues.
"That means the same dynamic. That means the same people who
couldn't figure out how to cut deals for the past three years,"
said Ethan Siegel, an analyst who tracks Washington politics for
While the Senate result was no surprise, Republicans had
given themselves an even chance of winning a majority, so the
night represented a disappointment for them and was in part the
self-inflicted result of internal battles.
Had Republican Richard Mourdock - a favorite of the
conservative Tea Party movement - not defeated veteran moderate
Senator Richard Lugar in Indiana's primary, for example, that
seat might have stayed in Republican hands instead of being won
by Democrat Joe Donnelly. Mourdock drew criticism for calling
pregnancy from rape something God intended.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who also won on Tuesday,
had been considered a vulnerable Democrat until another Tea
Party favorite, Todd Akin, won the Republican primary. Akin
stirred controversy by saying women's bodies could ward off
pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a law professor who headed the
watchdog panel that oversaw the government's financial sector
bailout, defeated incumbent Massachusetts Republican Senator
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.
Democrats were also cheered by several state referendums:
Maryland voters approved same-sex marriage and a similar measure
in Maine and Washington State appeared on track to pass as well
- marking the first time marriage rights have been extended to
same-sex couples by popular vote.
In addition, Wisconsin Democratic congresswoman Tammy
Baldwin became the first openly gay U.S. Senator, defeating
Republican former governor Tommy Thompson.
U.S. stock futures slipped, the dollar fell and benchmark
Treasuries rose after Obama's victory, which investors took to
mean no dramatic shift in U.S. economic policy.
Markets had generally expected Obama to win, with the
general view that a victory for the Democrat would favor bonds,
as he is perceived to favor low interest rates, while Republican
challenger Mitt Romney was broadly seen as more
business-friendly and supportive for equities.
International leaders offered their congratulations. Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a testy relationship
with the U.S. leader, vowed to work with Obama "to ensure the
interests that are vital for the security of Israel's citizens."
A spokesman for Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who is Egypt's
first freely elected president, said "we hope the newly elected
U.S. administration will work to achieve the interests of both
the American and Egyptian people."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain and the
United States should make finding a way to solve the Syrian
crisis a priority following Obama's re-election.