BOSTON – US President Barack Obama convinced the American people to give him four more years in the White House on Tuesday, as he defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a margin greater than many analysts and polls predicted.

He will return to the White House with less national support than he won in 2008, but facing the continuing challenges of a stalled economy, massive deficits and a Middle East in turmoil.

According to tabulations through Wednesday afternoon, Obama won 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, 62 fewer than the president garnered last time, and 50 percent of the popular vote to Romney’s 48%, 3% less than he received previously.

Obama will need to continue working with a divided Congress, as Republicans held the House of Representatives and Democrats retained the Senate, though total numbers were not yet clear by Wednesday.

Obama turned out his base of young voters, single women and minority groups in larger numbers than expected – and in some places even greater than in 2008 – to hold the White House, but lost the inroads he had made with Independents, who went for Romney 50-45, according to national exit polls.

Obama also lost some support among the Jewish community, a staunchly Democratic constituency. Exit polls found that Jews backed Obama by 69% to Romney’s 30%, as opposed to their 78% support for Obama over Republican candidate John McCain, who garnered only 22%, in 2008. A group of academics and pollsters, affiliated with the National Jewish Democratic Council, later adjusted the figure to 74%.

Despite the modest erosion in the Jewish vote, Obama pushed past Romney in key swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania – and most likely Florida, which was still too close to definitively call on Wednesday – with small but active Jewish populations.

Obama went on to sweep nearly all of the remaining swing states as well.

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Both Obama and Romney, in their speeches Tuesday night, spoke of the need to work together in a bipartisan fashion.

“I believe we are not as divided as our politics suggest,” Obama told the thousands of cheering supporters who greeted him in Chicago, his adopted home town, on Tuesday night.

“We rise or fall together, as one nation, and as one people,” he said.

Though he didn’t go into foreign or domestic policy specifics, Obama did speak about America’s role in the world.

“We want to pass on a country that is safe and respected and admired around the world,” he said.

“A nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this world has ever known.”

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” Romney told the dispirited supporters who packed a ballroom in Boston, where the former Massachusetts governor established his campaign headquarters.

“At a time like this, we can’t have partisan bickering and political posturing,” he said in a short concession speech delivered in the early hours of Wednesday morning. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle.”

There will be some shake-up within the Obama administration itself, however, as first-term officials traditionally make way for new figures to enter high-ranking positions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton long ago announced her departure from government, and rumors have long swirled that US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice or Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry would take her place. Rice, however, has been damaged by her role in the Libya flap, as she made public statements playing down terrorist ties to the killing of four Americans in Benghazi on September 11. She has also been mentioned as a possible national security adviser.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been less clear of his second-term plans, but he is likely to step down, paving the way for former undersecretary of defense policy Michele Flournoy, who would be the first woman to hold the position, or possibly Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, to take over.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is also expected to leave, and a top name in the hopper has been that of Jack Lew, the first Orthodox Jew to serve as White House chief of staff and former director of the Office of Management and Budget under both Obama and former president Bill Clinton.

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