(Updated 2:10 a.m. Eastern time)
President Obama captured enough electoral votes tonight to fend off a challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and win four more years in the White House.
The president faces myriad hurdles from the looming fiscal cliff and sequestration, which must be dealt with in the lame-duck session, to a congressional investigation over the administration’s handling of the Benghazi terror attack.
But first, Obama eked out victory in what was projected to be an extremely tight election — yet was called before most Americans went to bed.
The president won critical swing state Ohio, along with Virginia, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, and Wisconsin.
Obama had 303 electoral votes to 206 for Romney. The popular vote was 49.7 percent for Obama and 48.8 percent as of 2 a.m.
Romney won the battleground state of North Carolina, which also elected a Republican governor for the first time in 20 years by voting for former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.
Florida was still too close to call.
Romney made a concession call to Obama after midnight and spoke to supporters in Boston shortly thereafter.
“I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory,” Romney said. “…This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”
He thanked his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as “the best choice I’ve ever made” besides his wife, Ann.
Ryan, who appeared with Romney at the end of the speech but didn’t address the crowd, was able to run concurrently for his House seat. He won, and will return from the campaign trail to the lower chamber.
Romney thanked Ann as “the love of my life.”
“She would have been a wonderful first lady,” he said.
Romney also thanked campaign volunteers. “I don’t believe that there’s ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done,” he said.
Before 2 a.m. Eastern time, Obama and Vice President Biden arrived at McCormick Place in Chicago to address supporters.
“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.
“It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people,” he said.
The president thanked all voters, including Romney supporters. “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future,” Obama said. “…The Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.”
He vowed that in weeks ahead he and Romney would sit down together “to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”
Obama praised Biden as “America’s happy warrior” and told Michelle Obama “I have never loved you more; I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation’s first lady.”
He also lauded “the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics.”
“You lifted me up the whole way and I will always be grateful for everything that you’ve done and all the incredible work that you put in,” Obama said.
He then gave an energetic stump-style speech hitting policy points from immigration reform to climate change to his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
“America’s never been about what can be done for us,” Obama said. “It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self- government.”