UK & World News
Victorious Obama Heads Back To White House
Re-elected US President Barack Obama has arrived back in Washington, after offering to include his Republican rival in his plans to move the country forward.
Following a bitter and costly election campaign, the president easily overcame challenger Mitt Romney - taking seven of the nine key battleground states.
Mr Romney won in North Carolina, but Democrat Mr Obama swept to victory in Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia and Colorado.
With Florida still the last swing state left to call, he has 303 electoral college votes to Mr Romney's 206 and is well over the crucial threshold of 270.
The president was also ahead in the national popular vote, with the country-wide exit poll putting him on 50% - two points ahead of his Republican challenger.
This is despite his popularity plunging since he was swept into the White House on a wave of hope in 2008 and unemployment currently standing at 7.9%.
On Wednesday afternoon, the president was pictured boarding Air Force One in Chicago with his wife and two daughters, as he headed back to Washington.
Jubilation spread through the night in Chicago as it became clear Mr Obama was going to be re-elected.
Once Mr Romney had conceded by phone, the president appeared on stage to rapturous cheers as Stevie Wonder's hit Signed, Sealed, Delivered played.
Mr Obama tried to unify the nation, saying: "In the weeks ahead I look forward to sitting down with governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward."
He also said: "Despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America.
"I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggest. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of individual ambitions."
He added: "We know in our hearts that, for the United States of America, the best is yet to come."
The first US black president declared that he was returning to the White House "more determined and more inspired than ever ... about the future."
Before appearing in person, the Democrat had told his supporters via Twitter: "This happened because of you. Thank you." Another tweet read: "We're all in this together. That's how we campaigned and that's who we are. Thank you."
In a third post, he said simply "Four more years" and posted a picture of himself hugging his wife Michelle. This was retweeted more than half a million times - a Twitter record.
In Washington, thousands of well-wishers danced and waved flags outside the White House after the result became clear - chanting "four more years" and "USA, USA".
Crowds whooped and cried out "Obama, Obama" and gave high-fives to strangers as election fever swept across the city.
The contest had been billed as one of the tightest races for the White House in decades, but ultimately Mr Obama won comfortably.
His victory appeared to be a vindication for a campaign team that had predicted a close, but winnable election - despite the pain of the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s Great Depression.
Romney campaign staff in Boston were shocked as Democrat victories piled up and Republican supporters looked increasingly devastated as they realised their dream was over.
The candidate, who was watching the result in the city, rang Mr Obama to concede once he lost Ohio and then briefly addressed the crowds.
"This is a time of great challenges for America and I pray that the president is successful in guiding our nation," he said.
The Republican thanked his running mate Paul Ryan and his family, calling wife Ann "the love of my life" and saying "she would have been a wonderful first lady".
He added: "Paul and I have left everything on the field. We have given everything to this campaign. I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader."
Until last month, the Republican was considered to have little chance of ousting Mr Obama after his campaign was damaged by a string of gaffes.
However, a lacklustre performance by the president in the first television debate turned the race on its head and Mr Romney surged back in the polls.
The incumbent was much stronger in the second and third debates, but it was not enough to derail the Romney campaign.
Better-than-expected employment figures last week helped bolster the Democrat and then fate also played a hand when Hurricane Sandy roared in.
The hurricane, which was downgraded to a superstorm, forced Mr Romney into the shade as campaigning was suspended and Mr Obama returned to presidential duties, but the pair was still neck-and-neck going into the final day.
Republican strategist Karl Rove said the party should have made a better economic case against Mr Obama.
He said the Obama camp had managed to depict Mr Romney as a "heartless, cruel plutocrat".
Once the euphoria of another victory fades, the president will face a tough task enacting his second-term agenda, after Republicans - who thwarted him repeatedly in his first term - retained control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats kept the Senate but fell short of the 60-vote super majority needed to pass major legislation over Republican blocking tactics.
Two Republican Senate candidates, Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri, both lost their seats after making controversial remarks about rape during the campaign.
The Dow fell 2.8% - or 369 points - following the news of Mr Obama's re-election.
Read live updates from Sky's Ian Woods, Amanda Walker and Andrew Wilson in the US.