President Barack Obama has won a second term in the White House, defeating Republican contender Mitt Romney after securing several key battleground states.
Speaking in Chicago as jubilant supporters chanted "four more years," Obama congratulated Romney on a hard-contested campaign.
"We may have battled fiercely," Obama said, "but it's only because we love this country deeply."
Obama also thanked supporters who had campaigned to achieve the victory. "We have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that, for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
State by state
The president secured victory in the key state of Ohio, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to secure a second term in the White House.
Obama swept the traditionally liberal states of the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and the West Coast. The president also made inroads in the Midwest, winning his home state of Illinois and the seat of the once-ailing American auto industry, Michigan.
Obama also won key battleground states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Colorado.
Republican contender Romney, meanwhile, had predictable victories in traditionally conservative states and also gained the center-right state North Carolina.
Obama has secured 303 electoral votes and thus the presidency, with votes still to be counted for the final battleground state of Florida. Romney trailed the president with 203 electoral votes. The president stood at 50 percent in the popular vote, with the former governor coming in at 48 percent.
The US president is elected not by the popular vote, but instead by an electoral college. The candidate who wins the popular vote in a state typically also wins all of its electoral votes. In order to make it to the White House, a candidate must secure 270 out of 538 electoral votes.
The election has also ushered in several groundbreaking state-level ballot initiatives. Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize marijuana, including for recreational use, going further than a number of states which already allow it for medicinal purposes.
Maine and Maryland have voted to legalize gay marriage marking the first time marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.
Meanwhile, Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats will maintain their majority in the Senate.
hc/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)