President Barack Obama won re-election over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the call coming moments after the president was declared the winner in the key battleground swing state Ohio.

The president will now have another four years to see through policies intended to dig the country out an economic morass not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The economy was the central issue of the election and exit polls showed that jobs remained the top concern of most voters.

Voters were asked to choose between two markedly different visions of how the nation should be governed. Obama favors an expansive government, while Romney argued that the government is too intrusive and too costly.

Polls had shown the race as neck and neck for weeks and that prediction came true in the popular election. But Obama began to break away in the race for electoral votes several hours after polls closed on the East Coast.

The win by Obama in Ohio, projected by Fox and other television networks just before 11 p.m. EST, pushed the president above the 270 electoral votes he needed to defeat Romney.

In the most recent count by Fox News, Obama was leading with 290 electoral college votes to Romney's 203. There was no word from the Romney campaign on whether the former governor of Massachusetts planned to make a concession speech.

Obama tweeted his thanks to voters shortly after his win was projected by network news outlets.

Obama, according to the projections, narrowly defeated Romney in nearly all of the hard-fought-for swing states -- Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire -- except one. The only swing state Romney is projected to have won is North Carolina.

One thing that was never disputed during the long and often bitter campaign was the importance of the economy to the American voters. Almost everything else – the environment, social issues, foreign policy – took a back seat.  

Obama and Romney made their sharply differing governing philosophies abundantly clear during months of campaign barnstorming, in acceptance speeches at their respective conventions and in three recent televised debates.

By almost every measure throughout the campaign analysts had viewed the two candidates essentially as polar opposites with respect to their views on business.

U.S. stock-index futures pointed lower in thin trading on Tuesday night. S&P 500 futures stumbled roughly 0.6%.

Follow Dunstan Prial on Twitter @DunstanPrial