President Barack Obama stepped to the brink of re-election Tuesday night, capturing battleground Ohio from former Gov. Mitt Romney and edging ahead in other pivotal states despite a weak economy and high unemployment that crimped the middle class dreams of millions.
At home in Chicago, the president all but claimed victory. “This happened because of you. Thank you” he tweeted to supporters.
Romney was in Massachusetts after a long and grueling bid for the presidency. He led in the national popular vote with 41 million votes, or 50 percent. Obama had 40 million, or 49 percent, with 59 percent of the precincts tallied.
But Obama led in the competition for electoral votes, where it mattered most.
His triumph in Ohio as well as in Iowa and New Hampshire, two other battlegrounds, gave him 265 electoral votes of the 270 needed for victory, Romney had 200.
Obama also carried Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont in early New England tallies, while also, as expected, winning his home state of Illinois, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Delaware — the home state of his vice-presidential running mate, Joe Biden.
Romney rang up South Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia in his column. He also won Indiana, a state Obama carried in 2008 but did not contest this year.
The election was largely being seen as a referendum on Obama and his efforts to revive an economy still struggling to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Six of 10 voters said the economy was the most important issue, well ahead of health care or foreign policy. Three of four voters said the economy remained poor or not so good, according to preliminary exit polls.
Obama touted the economy’s steady progress on his watch; Romney cited stubbornly high unemployment and mounting federal debt as he argued the recovery’s pace was too slow. In the exit polls, slightly more than half said Obama was more in touch with people like them, compared with 44 percent for Romney.