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Published November 06, 2012, 10:26 PM

Barack Obama earns re-election

(ABC News) - President Obama won a second term tonight as ABC News projects he will be re-elected, emerging victorious in what had been a deadlocked race into the final hours of the campaign.

By: ABC News, ABC News

(ABC News) - President Obama won a second term tonight as ABC News projects he will be re-elected, emerging victorious in what had been a deadlocked race into the final hours of the campaign.

Obama's lease on the White House was renewed with a crucial victory in Ohio.

Celebrations erupted in Obama's home town of Chicago, in New York's Time Square and outside the White House, while Romney's Boston headquarters went mournfully quiet.

"We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned, and that's who we are. Thank you," Obama tweeted even before formally announcing his victory.

The race is a validation, if not an overwhelming mandate, in support of the president's policies of the last four years, which included a major overhaul of the healthcare system and a drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama built a coalition of young people, minorities, and college educated women and won by turning out supporters with a carefully calibrated ground operation to get out the vote in crucial states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Nevertheless, it was a squeaker. In Florida and Virginia, states that were key to both candidates, Obama and Romney were separated by a single percentage point. Ohio also was close, with the candidates also separated by a point late into the vote count. And the popular vote was nearly split evenly down the middle nationally.

After a campaign for the White House and both houses of Congress that cost more than $6 billion, the make up of all three branches remains very much the same as it was before the election. Obama remains in the White House, Democrats retain control of the Senate and Republicans continue to control the House.

Early on, the Obama campaign built an electoral firewall across the Midwest, focusing on Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes strategists saw as vital pathway to victory, and it was Ohio that secured the president's victory.

Before the Republicans had settled on a nominee, Obama was running ads in the state's blue-collar North. That effort paid off for the president, Ohio voters said they supported his bailout of auto manufacturers, an industry vital to the states economy, 59 percent to 36 percent.

The participants were themselves history making, the first black president running against the first Mormon presidential nominee to make it the general election. But for the most part the election turned not the politics of identity but of the economy.

The election took place against the backdrop of a slow economic recovery. From its outset, both campaigns knew the race would come down to the economy, and both tried to tailor their appeals to middle class families struggling with inflation and unemployment.

Obama routinely reminded voters he had inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and pointed to policies he led, including the auto bailout, and signs of improvement including a drop in the unemployment rate.

Obama portrayed Romney as an out of touch millionaire intent on helping the rich at the expense of the middle class when they were hurting the most. That impression seemed to stick with voters who nationally said by 55 to 40 percent that they believed the economic system favors the wealthy rather than being fair to most people, according to exit polls.

The candidates also tangled over health care, abortion, and taxes, leading to a bevy of negative ads.

The campaign was the most expensive in history, with each candidate raising nearly $1 billion a piece.

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