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As went the US, so goes Florida, finally

With almost all ballots counted, media project Barack Obama will also win Florida. In 2000, it took a month of tallying before the Supreme Court handed the state, the electoral votes and the presidency to George W. Bush.

Four days after Tuesday's election, Florida brings the president's total of electoral votes to 332. Republican challenger Mitt Romney will finish with just 206.

With three counties still totaling ballots, Florida was the last state where the outcome remained in doubt, though the election had been decided when Obama crossed the 270-vote threshold on Tuesday. With nearly all the ballots counted, the president had just over 50 percent of the vote in Florida to Romney's 49.1 percent, a lead of nearly 74,000 votes.

That tally was enough for CNN to project that Obama would win Florida. NBC and the Associated Press news agency also were among the media outlets that called the state for Obama based on the latest scores.

The Electoral College system means that most states allocate all of their "votes," the number of which is determined based on population, to the candidate that wins the state's popular ballot - even if it's by a small margin. This puts particular focus on a comparatively few battlegrounds where the vote is traditionally very close between Republicans and Democrats. With his victory in Florida, Obama swept all those key battleground states except North Carolina, where he narrowly won in 2008.

The delay in finalizing Florida's result this year did not affect the national outcome but raised concerns that some of the problems in the 2000 election had not been resolved 12 years later. In Florida that year, only 537 votes separated Republican George W. Bush from Al Gore. Though the Democrat had 500,000 more votes nationwide, a Supreme Court decision stopped an ongoing count in Florida and allowed the early, projected results to stand.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)