President Obama won a second term in the White House Tuesday night, Fox News projects, overcoming concerns about the fragile economic recovery to edge out Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
The models showed Obama making it over the required 270 electoral votes with wins in the crucial battleground of Ohio and other late-called swing states. The race in Ohio, though, remained airtight as votes were still being counted, raising questions about the final tally -- with just over three-quarters of returns in, the candidates remained virtually tied with Obama leading by a few thousand votes.
The president outperformed Romney across a swath of other key battlegrounds. Despite the race being tied up nationally in polls leading up to the election, Obama's investment -- in time and money -- in a handful of swing states evidently paid dividends. Obama scored a big win in Pennsylvania, a vital battleground where Romney made a late play for support. Obama also walked away with wins in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The projected victory caps a campaign that was far tougher in its tone than the president's 2008 run. On defense over a term marked by lackluster economic growth, Obama sought to cast Romney -- even before he was nominated -- as an elite, tax-dodging, corporate champion. His campaign seized on hidden-camera comments in which Romney said 47 percent of Americans, those who don't pay taxes, consider themselves "victims."
He and Democratic officials also hammered the message that Romney's policies would be bad for women, in an appeal to an important voting bloc for the president who in exit polls backed Obama 55-43 percent.
Romney, though, accused the man who ran in 2008 on big ideas of going small, because he couldn't defend his first-term record. The Republican nominee, who emerged bruised but not broken from a protracted primary battle, initially struggled to gain on Obama in the polls but following a strong lead-off debate performance in October drew the race to what appeared to be a dead heat.
Romney was able to capture a key victory Tuesday night in the battleground of North Carolina, a state Obama won in 2008 and where Democrats held their 2012 convention.
Elsewhere, Obama and Romney each racked up expected victories Tuesday night in relatively safe territory.
Romney was the projected winner in Utah, Montana, Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky.
Fox News projects Obama was the winner in his home state of Illinois, Oregon, California, Hawaii, Washington, Minnesota, New Mexico, Maine, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
The electoral-vote count shortly after midnight was Obama with 290 and Romney with 203.
The vote Tuesday marked the end of a grueling race. For Obama, the election is the last time his name will appear on a ballot, or so he claims. For Romney, the election closed out a nearly six-year run for the presidency. The Republican nominee ran unsuccessfully in 2008.
The 2012 campaign was decidedly different from 2008, when Obama ran on a lofty message of change and leveraged voter dissatisfaction with the George W. Bush administration -- and particularly the war in Iraq -- to defeat Republican nominee John McCain.
This time around, each candidate's campaign message was bound to the state of the economy, having gone through a recession shortly before Obama took office. Romney argued forcefully that Obama failed to deliver the kind of economic rebound that typically follows a downturn. The Republican nominee accused the president of throwing money at the problem with a poorly designed stimulus, and then abandoning the issue altogether to focus on passing ObamaCare. Romney argued that the health care law, along with countless regulations and an allegedly anti-business attitude, all combined to stand in the way of a full-throated recovery. Issues like the Libya terror attack and the threat from Iran's nuclear program brought foreign policy into the mix, but the economy remained central.
But Obama argued all along that, despite the slack in the system, the country was moving in the right direction. He pointed to recent economic reports, including Labor Department data showing the jobless rate falling below 8 percent for the first time since he took office, as signs that the economy was improving and would get better over time.
He warned that Romney's agenda -- which he described as tax breaks for the rich and giveaways to corporations -- would only reprise the "failed" economic policies of the prior administration which he claimed led to the recession.
Election Day was unexpectedly busy for the campaigns. While Obama himself kept a low profile in Chicago, the campaign dispatched Vice President Biden to Ohio where he visited a Cleveland restaurant and later posed for pictures with volunteers before joining up with the president.
Romney, meanwhile, made stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania before heading back to campaign headquarters in Boston.
As races continued to be called well into the morning, it appeared that the balance of power in Washington could remain the same. Republican kept their majority in the House, while Democrats fended off a series of challenges to their majority in the Senate.
The father of a mentally handicapped woman claims his daughter and others were “carted off” to a North Carolina polling site last week and “coaxed” into voting for President Obama by workers of the group home where she stays -- a claim the owner of the home disputes and that apparently has not yet triggered an investigation by election officials.
The father, Cecil Pearson, said his daughter – who is 40 but has the “mentality ... of a 7-year-old” – was “brainwashed the night before” and then taken to a Roanoke Rapids polling site on Friday to vote. He said his daughter told him what happened when he picked her up on Sunday.
“They brought her a piece of paper and they indicated which block to check,” Pearson told FoxNews.com. “She voted for Barack Obama and was coaxed into doing that.” He claimed “more than four” people were brought to the site.
The owner of the home, Easter Seals UCP, is disputing the account. Communications officer Jeff Smith told FoxNews.com, without going into great detail, that “it’s not uncommon” for the homes to provide transportation to polling sites. Asked whether Pearson’s daughter or anyone that day was guided to vote for a particular candidate, he said “not to my knowledge.”
Further, Smith said it’s their right to cast a ballot. “There is no intellectual test to whether or not you can vote,” he said.
However, Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project in North Carolina, said that’s not the case when there’s a court order declaring a resident mentally incompetent, which Pearson said had long ago been issued for his daughter – just a year after she registered to vote.
“They’re politically exploiting that child,” DeLancy said. He said, though, that any parent in this situation has the ability to pull any ballot before the votes are certified. In this case, that process is set to conclude Nov. 16.
It’s not the first time such allegations have been made in the state. FoxNews.com obtained a letter sent last month from Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions to the state Board of Elections claiming an internal review found several similar incidents between 2010 and 2012 by another company. Cardinal Innovations, which covers Medicaid and other benefits in North Carolina, reported in the Oct. 18 letter that “at least seven" of their enrollees at a behavioral health center called Elite Care Services were registered to vote over that period.
“The registration forms were filled out at the residential facility by Elite staff, using the facility address. Each of the seven enrollees was registered to the Democratic party,” the letter said, adding that a vote was recorded in the May 2012 Democratic primary in Stanly County for each.
Guardians for five of the patients apparently claimed they were never informed – though, according to the letter, an investigation by Elite concluded that only one enrollee was registered to vote without consent of the guardian.
A representative with Cardinal Innovations confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
The order will permit voters to sign affidavits that they're legally registered to vote in the presidential and state races and cast ballots at any open polling site, even those outside their neighborhoods.
But they won't be able to vote for state legislative candidates unless the polling place is within the proper legislative district.
New Jersey is allowing voters to use provisional ballots at any polling site.
Common Cause-New York and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School urged the action earlier Monday.