CHICAGO (WCIV/AP) -- President Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term, defeating Republican Mitt Romney in a hard-fought race in which the economy was the dominant issue.
"Tonight, the task of perfecting our union moves forward," said Obama to a crowd of supporters shortly before 2 a.m. EST in Chicago.
"Despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future," he added, describing to the crowd a vision of great schools, a strong military and a safe and confident country that knows peace.
Obama said the campaign and the election gave him the energy to go back to Washington and continue working for change.
"Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you have made me a better president," he said. "Tonight, you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours."
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, arrived at the loading dock of the Boston Convention Center. He was hold in a private area until Romney arrived, staff members said. Romney was five minutes behind him in separate motorcade.
The Republican nominee had already written a 1,118-word victory speech that he thought would conclude his yearslong quest for the presidency. Earlier Tuesday, Romney said he had no regrets no matter the outcome.
Romney called Obama to concede the presidential race, according to an Obama aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the call was private.
Chants of "Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!" rose from the crowd as Republican Mitt Romney closed his concession speech.
He kissed his wife, Ann, who joined him on stage in Boston, and gave running mate Paul Ryan a big hug. Romney said he was praying for Obama and his family as the country moves forward.
"I don't believe that there's ever been an effort in our party that can compare to what you did," he said to supporters. "You've been the very best."
He continued to ask elected officials to reach across the aisle and find compromise and urged citizens to come together and work through their differences.
"I so wish I could have been able to fulfill your wish to lead this country in a new direction," Romney said, before leaving the stage in Boston.
Obama, meanwhile, tweeted to supporters, "This happened because of you. Thank you."
Obama was chalking up additional victories in states that the polls had said could go either way. Voters decided to give Obama another four years of stewardship over an economy that is slowly recovering from the recession. Obama captured battleground states including Ohio, Iowa and Colorado on his way to the 270 electoral votes he needed.
After winning Virginia's 13 electoral votes, he had a margin of 100 electoral votes -- 303 to 203 -- with just Alaska and Florida still to count.
Florida's result remained too close to call, hours after the polls closed.
Despite Obama's sizeable margin in the electoral vote count, he held just a slim advantage in the popular vote.
Romney unsuccessfully campaigned on the theme that his business background gave him the experience needed to guide the nation out of tough economic times.
Obama will again be dealing with a divided Congress. Democrats maintained control of the Senate and Republicans likely will again control the House. Among the most pressing matters is the so-called fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to hit in January. Economists have warned that if they aren't averted, the nation could face another recession.
In Chicago, dozens of young staffers for President Barack Obama were streaming out of the president's campaign headquarters and heading to his victory party at the convention center. Senior advisers said the race was called much sooner than they had expected.
The election emerged as a choice between two very different visions of government -- whether it occupies a major, front-row place in American lives or is in the background as a less-obtrusive facilitator for private enterprise and entrepreneurship.