Early on, the Obama campaign built an electoral firewall across the Midwest, focusing on Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes strategists saw as vital pathway to victory, and it was Ohio that secured the president's victory.
Before the Republicans had settled on a nominee, Obama was running ads in the state's blue-collar North. That effort paid off for the president, Ohio voters said they supported his bailout of auto manufacturers, an industry vital to the states economy, 59 percent to 36 percent.
The participants were themselves history making, the first black president running against the first Mormon presidential nominee to make it the general election. But for the most part the election turned not the politics of identity but of the economy.
The election took place against the backdrop of a slow economic recovery. From its outset, both campaigns knew the race would come down to the economy, and both tried to tailor their appeals to middle class families struggling with inflation and unemployment.
Obama routinely reminded voters he had inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and pointed to policies he led, including the auto bailout, and signs of improvement including a drop in the unemployment rate.
Obama portrayed Romney as an out of touch millionaire intent on helping the rich at the expense of the middle class when they were hurting the most. That impression seemed to stick with voters who nationally said by 55 to 40 percent that they believed the economic system favors the wealthy rather than being fair to most people, according to exit polls.
The candidates also tangled over health care, abortion, and taxes, leading to a bevy of negative ads.
The campaign was the most expensive in history, with each candidate raising nearly $1 billion a piece.