By DAVID ESPO | AP Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama won the reliably Democratic Northeast, and Republican Mitt Romney secured his conservative base Tuesday night in a duel for the White House shadowed by a weak economy and high unemployment.
The critical battlegrounds with the key to victory were unsettled, Virginia, Ohio and Florida among them, with long lines in many locations after poll-close time.
Romney led in the popular vote, gaining 8.2 million votes, or 52 percent, to 7.5 million or 47 percent for Obama, with 5 percent of the precincts tallied.
Romney also held an early electoral vote advantage, 76-64, with 270 needed for victory.
The polls were still open in much of the country as the two rivals began claiming the spoils of a brawl of an election in a year in which the struggling economy put a crimp in the middle class dreams of millions.
Obama carried Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and Romney's home state of Massachusetts. Also, as expected, he won Delaware and Maryland as well as the District of Columbia and Illinois.
Romney had Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia in his column. He also won Indiana, a state Obama carried in 2008 but did not contest this year.
Voters also chose a new Congress to serve alongside the man who will be inaugurated president in January, Democrats defending their majority in the Senate, and Republicans in the House.
In Maine, independent former Gov. Angus King won a Senate seat long in GOP hands, the first potential switch of the evening. He has not yet said which party he will side with, although Republicans attacked him during the campaign with television advertising, and Democrats rallied to his cause.
The economy was rated the top issue by about 60 percent of voters surveyed as they left their polling places, but more said former President George W. Bush bears responsibility for current circumstances than Obama does after nearly four years in office..