President Barack Obama said early Wednesday the American people have “picked ourselves up” and fought back during tough economic times, declaring after winning re-election that the “best is yet to come.”
Obama said he wants to meet with Republican rival Mitt Romney to discuss how they can work together. He says they may have “battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply.”
The president rolled to a second term over Romney, winning more than 300 electoral votes.
Obama was welcomed by thunderous applause as he arrived on stage at McCormick Place in his hometown, joined by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia.
Obama sounded a conciliatory tone after his victory, saying he has learned from those who supported him and those who opposed him. And he says he returns to Washington “more determined” and “more inspired.”
He said he’s hoping to work with Republicans to solve the nation’s problems.
He spoke to a cheering crowd shortly after Romney told supporters in Boston that it’s time for the nation to unite behind the president.
Romney said earlier he called Obama to congratulate him on his victory, adding that he prays “the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”
He alluded to his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, when he said, “Like so many of you, Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given our all to this campaign.”
Looking out on the crowd of several hundred people in a half-filled ballroom at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Romney said, “I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader, so Ann and I join with you to earnestly pray for him and this great nation.”
Romney made a point of thanking Ryan, who did not speak but joined him on stage followed a short time later by Romney’s five sons. “Besides my wife, Ann, Paul was the best choice I ever made,” Romney joked, reprising a line he has often used on the campaign trail.
“His hard work and his principle will continue to contribute to the good of our nation,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
Obama won re-election despite a fierce challenge from Romney, prevailing in the face of a weak economy and high unemployment that encumbered his first term and crimped the middle class dreams of millions.
“This happened because of you. Thank you” Obama tweeted to supporters as he secured four more years in the White House.
The president sealed his victory in Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado, four of the nine battleground states where the two rivals and their allies spent nearly $1 billion on dueling television commercials.
The nationwide popular vote remained extremely close with Obama taking about 50 percent to 49 percent for Romney after a campaign in which the candidates and their party allies spent a combined $2 billion.
Ultimately, the result of the brawl of an election campaign appeared likely to be the political status quo. Democrats won two more years of control of the Senate, and Republicans were on track to do likewise in the House.
The economy was rated the top issue by about 60 percent of voters surveyed as they left their polling places. But more said former President George W. Bush bore responsibility for current circumstances than Obama did after nearly four years in office.
About 4 in 10 said the economy is on the mend, but more than that said it was stagnant or getting worse more than four years after the near-collapse of 2008. The survey was conducted for The Associated Press and a group of television networks.
Polls were still open in much of the country as the two rivals began claiming the spoils of a brawl of an election in a year in which the struggling economy put a crimp in the middle class dreams of millions.
The president was in Chicago as he awaited the voters’ verdict on his four years in office. He told reporters he had a concession speech as well as victory remarks prepared. He congratulated Romney on a spirited campaign. “I know his supporters are just as engaged, just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today” as Obama’s own, he added.
Romney reciprocated, congratulating the man who he had campaigned against for more than a year.
Earlier, he raced to Ohio and Pennsylvania for Election Day campaigning and projected confidence as he flew home to Massachusetts. “We fought to the very end, and I think that’s why we’ll be successful,” he said, adding that he had finished writing a speech anticipating victory but nothing if the election went to his rival.
But the mood soured among Republicans as the votes came in and Obama ground out a lead in critical states.
Like Obama, Vice President Joe Biden was in Chicago as he waited to find out if he was in line for a second term. Republican running mate Paul Ryan was with Romney in Boston, although he kept one eye on his re-election campaign for a House seat in Wisconsin, just in case.
Voters also chose a new Congress to serve alongside the man who will be inaugurated president in January, Democrats defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans in the House.