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In passionate speech, Obama says 'You have made me a better president' (+video)

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"We are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation,” Obama added. “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.”

Obama also said he “has never been more hopeful about America,” and said he looks forward to sitting down with Romney in coming weeks to “talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”

For his part, in his concession speech, Mr. Romney described the nation as being "at a critical point," adding: "At a time like this we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing." Calling it "a time of great challenges for America," he said, "I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation."

As many observers predicted, it was the state of Ohio that ultimately put Obama over the top Tuesday night (at least, based on most network calls). Ohio had been seen by both sides as the most important battleground of this campaign cycle – a state hard hit by job losses, but where Obama’s support for the auto bailout appeared to provide a critical, enduring edge.

Significantly, Obama’s message of looking out for the middle class appeared to carry more weight than Romney’s message focusing on job creation. According to exit polls, three-quarters of voters said Obama's policies would favor the middle class or the poor, while 54 percent felt Romney's policies would favor the rich.

The victory was a testament to the Obama campaign’s vaunted turnout operation, which brought its supporters to the polls in numbers that in some districts appeared to rival 2008’s turnout, despite what had been seen as generally dampened enthusiasm.

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