Decisive battlegrounds to come; Northeast goes to Obama, Romney wins his conservative base
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama captured hard-fought New Hampshire Tuesday night in a tense duel for the White House with Mitt Romney, claiming the first of the pivotal battleground states in a close election shadowed by a weak economy and high unemployment.
The president also secured Pennsylvania, where Romney campaigned twice in the race's closing days after virtually ignoring it for months.
Romney led in the national popular vote with 25.2 million votes, or 50 percent. Obama had 24.2 million, or 48 percent, with 32 percent of precincts tallied.
The former Massachusetts governor also held an early electoral vote advantage, 159-147, with 270 needed for victory, although he lost his home state of Michigan as well as Massachusetts, where he served as governor.
New Hampshire aside, the battlegrounds that held the keys to the White House were anything but settled -- Virginia, Ohio and Florida among them -- with long lines in many locations more than two hours after closing time long after poll-close time.
Sen. Claire McCaskill wins second term, defeating Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Claire McCaskill has won re-election in Missouri, holding off Rep. Todd Akin who came under fire for saying women had ways of preventing pregnancies in the case of "legitimate rape."
McCaskill's victory denies Republicans a seat they'd hoped to pick up before Akin's comments.
Democrats have picked up two Senate seats from the Republicans -- Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Joe Donnelly in Indiana -- while the GOP has lost three seats, including to an independent in Maine.
As of 10:45 p.m. Eastern time, Democrats had locked up 45 seats, Republicans 42, including 67 seats not up for election. Democrats now hold a 53-seat majority, including two independents who align with them.
Dems win GOP seats in Indiana, Massachusetts; Republicans also lose Maine seat
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Majority Democrats snatched Republican-held Senate seats in Indiana and Massachusetts on Tuesday, complicating the GOP's uphill effort to take control of the Senate. Independent Angus King won the GOP Senate seat in Maine to add a dose of uncertainty to the fierce fight for the majority.
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly edged out tea party-backed Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock in a race rocked by the Republican candidate's clumsy comment that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."
Mourdock also upset some Indiana voters for his decision to sue to stop the federal auto bailout of Chrysler, which means jobs building transmissions to thousands in Kokomo. And he alienated some in his own party with his divisive win over six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the May GOP primary. Lugar refused to campaign for him.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren knocked out Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who had stunned the political world in January 2010 when he won the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat. The strong Democratic tilt in the state and President Barack Obama's easy win over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts helped the consumer advocate in her bid.
The race was one of the most expensive in the country -- $68 million -- even though both candidates agreed to bar outside spending.
10 Things to Know for Wednesday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about on Wednesday:
1. WHAT WEIGHED MOST ON VOTERS' MINDS
Preliminary results of exit polls show 6 in 10 ranked the economy as the top issue.
Republicans approach renewed control of House as Dems fail to make inroads in East, Midwest
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans drove toward renewed control of the House on Tuesday as Democrats failed to make any significant inroads into the GOP's delegations from the East, South and Midwest.
With more than half of the 435 House races called by The Associated Press, Republicans had won 151 seats and were leading in 53 more. Democrats had taken 89 districts and led in 56 others.
There were another 20 seats in Western states where Republican incumbents were not facing serious challenges, but those polls remained open. A party needs 218 seats to control the House.
Democrats grabbed their first GOP seat of the night, defeating 10-term GOP veteran Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland in a race that was preordained after Democrats controlling the state legislature added more Democratic suburbs near Washington to his western Maryland district.
But in an Election Day that was producing little net change in the parties' numbers overall, Republicans responded by ousting one Democrat from Kentucky and another from North Carolina. They also picked up an open Democratic seat in both North Carolina and Oklahoma.
ELECTION WATCH: Obama takes Pennsylvania, New Jersey; voting at North Dakota bowling alley
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Around the country on Election Day 2012 with AP reporters bringing the latest developments to you:
PENNSYLVANIA TO OBAMA:
President Obama has won the battleground of Pennsylvania and the state's 20 electoral votes. Both candidates made frequent visits to the state, including a Romney stop in Pittsburgh this afternoon. Democratic Sen. Bob Casey has also won re-election there.
Biggest late poll problem long lines in key states Fla., Va.; other glitches not widespread
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Voters in key states such as Florida and Virginia waited in long lines hours after polls closed Tuesday night to cast ballots, even as politicians and their supporters urged them not to give up despite the long delays.
Candidates turned to social media to encourage voters through the long wait. "(hash)StayInLine (hash)StayInLine (hash)StayInLine" Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin tweeted. The three states allow voters who were in line when polls closed to cast ballots.
High turnout rather than glitches or problems appeared to be the cause of the long lines, but there were plenty of other problems around the country. Many were in Pennsylvania, including a confrontation involving Republican inspectors over access to some polls and a voting machine that lit up for Republican Mitt Romney even when a voter pressed the button for President Barack Obama.
One Florida elections office mistakenly told voters in robocalls the election was on Wednesday.
The Election Protection coalition of civil rights and voting access groups said they had gotten more than 80,000 complaints and questions on a toll-free voter protection hotline.
From coast to coast, America celebrates its civic holiday -- Election Day
On Election Day, Americans took time to vote, and to explain why this ritual means so much to them. At polling places and in luncheonettes, on the storm-battered East Coast and in a California city hobbled by foreclosure, in precincts large and small, they celebrated democracy -- and the end of a long and bitter campaign.
STOCKTON, Calif.: Signs of hope amid misery, and a first-time vote for one American who still believes in the dream
Every election big and small, Carl Chua rents out the garage of his family's house as a polling place. With neighbors working the tables and crossing his lawn to cast ballots, he stood in his driveway and surveyed the ruins of the housing bubble's aftermath.
"One, two, three, four, five. Six," the 52-year-old postal carrier said, pointing to the homes on his block that had fallen to foreclosures since the nation last picked a president. "We are the only ones left behind of the original owners."
Syria UN envoy warns country could turn into Somalia as world struggles for viable options
BEIRUT (AP) -- The U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria warned Tuesday that the country could become another Somalia -- where al-Qaida-linked militants and warlords battled for decades after the ouster of a dictator -- if the civil war is not ended soon.
Battles between regime forces and Syrian rebels left more than 140 people dead across Syria on Tuesday, while the brother of Syria's parliament speaker was gunned down in Damascus -- the latest victim of a wave of assassinations targeting high-ranking supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime.
Among the dead were at least 13 people who died in a series of explosions in the capital Damascus, targeting impoverished districts of the capital. Dozens others were wounded, activists said.
The violence aroused new concern about the faltering diplomatic efforts to try to end the conflict, with the U.N. political chief warning that the Syria crisis risks "exploding outward" into Lebanon, Turkey and Israel.
Britain's prime minister offered the latest long shot -- that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the fighting.
As new storm threatens NY, many stick close to home to protect battered homes from thieves
NEW YORK (AP) -- Richard Chan prowled around his cold, dark Staten Island home with knives and a sword to protect it from thieves, standing his ground as another East Coast storm threatened and police went through neighborhoods with loudspeakers warning people to get out.
"I still have some valuables. I just can't leave it," he said Tuesday. "I just don't want to lose my stuff to some dirtbag."
While city officials strongly encouraged storm-ravaged communities to seek higher ground before Wednesday's nor'easter, Chan was among a group who adamantly refused to leave, choosing to stick close to the belongings they have left.
Since the superstorm made landfall more than a week ago, killing 40 people in the city, more than 100 in 10 states and leaving millions without power, police said overall crime has actually gone down, not up. There are few reports of looting storm-damaged homes.
But Alex Ocasio wasn't convinced. The nursing home worker planned to ride out the latest storm in his first-floor Rockaway apartment -- even after seeing cars float by his front door during Sandy.