Nov 6, 2012 11:20 PM
(NBC NEWS) - President Barack Obama was projected by NBC News to win re-election to a second term, beating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in enough swing states to secure four more years in office.
Propelled by an advantage over his Republican opponent in his Midwestern "firewall" - Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa - Obama prevailed after a long-fought election in which the economy, its slow pace of recovery and Obama's management of it, became the central issue.
Romney's path to victory vanished as NBC News declared Obama the projected winner in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states the GOP nominee had contested in a bid to expand his Electoral College map.
The battleground states of Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, New Hampshire, and Colorado - each of which were considered toss-up states entering Election Day - remained too close to call, according to NBC News.
There were additional foreboding signs for Romney in states into which he sought to expand his campaign. NBC News declared Obama the projected winner in Michigan, another state in which Romney had campaigned, and the state where the GOP nominee was raised and his father served as governor.
Mitt Romney talks to reporters on his campaign plane en route to Boston to await the election results.
And in Minnesota, another Democratic-leaning state in presidential elections that Romney had contested, the race is too early to call, though Obama has a lead.
Both Obama and Romney picked up support in states they were generally expected to win, setting either Obama on course for a second term or expelling an incumbent president for his challenger for the first time since 1992.
Whatever the outcome, the president for at least the next two years would find a partner - or adversary - in the House of Representatives, which NBC News projected to stay in Republican hands.
The early results from battleground states underscored the closeness of the presidential election, as neither Obama nor Romney opened up an immediate or decisive advantage in those states in the immediate aftermath of closed polls.
Exit poll data among early voters suggested that the economy, the issue on which Obama and Romney focused for much of their campaign this year, was at the front of voters' minds across the country. The data also suggested Obama maintained an advantage among women and Latino voters, two blocs the president had courted for much of the year. Romney fared better among white voters and men.
As results trickled in, Obama was set to have dinner with the first family at their home in south Chicago, while Romney joined his family at a hotel suite near his election night party in Boston. The president spent the day doing a series of interviews and participating in a pick-up game of basketball, an Election Day tradition for Obama.
In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.
Romney, meanwhile, added some last-minute campaigning to his schedule instead of enjoying down time. He stopped in Cleveland and Pittsburgh in a last-minute bid for votes in the crucial battleground state of Ohio.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him from Pittsburgh to Boston, Romney said he sensed that victory was on the horizon.
"You know, intellectually, I've felt we're going to win this and have felt that for some time," Romney told reporters traveling with him from his last campaign stop from Pittsburgh back to Massachusetts. "But emotionally, just getting off the plane and seeing those people standing there ... just seeing people there cheering as they were connected emotionally with me and I not only think we're going to win intellectually, I feel it as well."
Both candidates could know their fate in just a few hours, as vote totals and additional exit poll data paints a bigger picture of the American electorate this Election Day.