US President Barack Obama secured a second term in office after a hard-fought contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, all major US television networks projected Wednesday morning.

Speaking to supporters at his campaign headquarters in Chicago, Obama declared victory and looked to the future, saying "the task of perfecting our union moves forward."



"We have picked ourselves up, we have brought ourselves back, and we know in our hearts that in the United States of America, the best is yet to come," the US president said.

Obama congratulated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on a "hard-fought campaign," and promised to talk to him in the coming weeks "about how we can move this country forward."

"We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply," Obama said.

Romney phones to congratulate Obama

Romney called Obama early Wednesday morning to offer his congratulations for his victory in Tuesday’s election. He then offered a short and gracious concession speech at his Boston headquarters to a somber crowd that cheered when he spoke of his continued belief in America and its people.

“The nation as you know is at a critical point,” Romney told his supporters. “At a time like this we can’t have partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle.”

He added, “This election is over, but our principles endure,” and that “we look to our pastors and priests and rabbis” to “testify to the enduring principles on which this country was built.”

To enthusiastic applause, he stressed, “We have given our all to this campaign.”

But he acknowledged that those efforts ultimately fell short.

“I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction,” he said. “But the nation chose another leader, and so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation.”

Obama’s projected win of Ohio put him over the top in media counts of expected electoral votes, closing Romney’s path to the White House. The outcome was called just hours after polls closed on the east coast of the United States, well ahead many estimates of when the neck-in-neck race would be determined.

The US president rolled up victories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and limited Republican challenger Mitt Romney's path to victory as US voters decided between two starkly different visions for the country.

A national exit poll carried by CNN showed US Jewish support for the president breaking 69 percent, with some 30% supporting Republican Mitt Romney.

At least 120 million people were expected to decide between the Democratic incumbent and Romney after a long, expensive and bitter presidential campaign centered around how to repair the ailing US economy.

In Florida, vote-counting was slower in southern counties such as Broward and Miami-Dade, which have heavy concentrations of Jewish voters and traditionally strongly back Democrats, meaning Obama could soon open up a wider margin.

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In a victory that also limited Romney's path to a victory, Obama won Michigan, the Republican's state of birth but where he ran afoul of voters by opposing an auto industry bailout pushed by Obama. Some polls had shown a tight race there.

Television networks projected Romney the winner, as expected, in Republican states Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Indiana. He was declared the winner in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Obama was projected the winner in the Democratic strongholds of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and his home state of Illinois, as well as Washington, DC.

According to Reuters-Ipsos Election Day polling, one in three Obama voters said the economy was the most important issue for them, while half of Romney voters agreed. Healthcare was the second most important issue for Obama voters and the budget deficit was second for Romney voters. Unemployment was third for both.

Three-quarters of both Romney and Obama supporters decided to vote for their preferred candidate before the October debates between the candidates, according to the data.

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