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But voters, in returning a Democrat to the White House, Democrats to a majority in the Senate and Republicans to control of the House, appeared to be asking for a do-over after two years of gridlock in the least productive Congress since records began to be kept after World War II.

Mr. Obama eked out his popular-vote victory with a late-campaign surge that appeared powered in part by his response to Hurricane Sandy, which polls showed appeared to sway some late support his way. The storm also pushed both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney off the campaign trail for several days last week, potentially undercutting the Republican’s momentum.

Mr. Romney conceded the race just before 1 a.m. Wednesday morning to several thousand people at the Boston Convention Center.

He said that he called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory and wished him good luck going forward.

“I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters,” Mr. Romney said. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray the president be successful in guiding our nation.”

Mr. Obama won by taking advantage of what amounted to a never-ending campaign that picked up right after he won office in 2008.

That meant he took a phenomenal “ground game” of volunteers and local campaign offices into Tuesday’s election, and it appeared to pay off across the country, where he kept states such as North Carolina and Virginia close, and easily outdistanced Mr. Romney in states such as Pennsylvania, denying the Republican a chance to expand the playing field.

Mitt Romney has done a better job with their ground game than [Republican nominee John] McCain did in ‘08, but they’ve generally given very short shrift to their ground game, really focusing on their ground game only in the last few weeks,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse. “We’ve had a very strong ground game since 2007, and I think that’s bearing fruit tonight.”

In Congress, voters again opted for division.

That Senate result marks a major win for Democrats and a huge disappointment for Republicans, who earlier this year had eyed as many as a half-dozen pickups which would have given them a majority.

The divided Congress is likely to make life difficult for all sides.

“It’s going to be complicated under any scenario,” said Darrell M. West, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. “Neither side is going to want to do things that’s going to help the other.”

In the nation’s statehouses, the GOP said it netted at least one governorship, giving them 30 of the country’s 50 chief executives.

Exit polls showed about 60 percent of voters rated the economy as the top issue, though only about 40 percent said they saw progress on that front.

The exit polls also showed voters still blamed President George W. Bush more than Mr. Obama for the continued economic troubles.

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