Religion Plays Role In 2012 Election As Voters Reelect Barack Obama President

'With God's Grace We Will Continue Our Journey Forward'

Despite strong assaults about everything from what opponents have called a "war on religion" for his healthcare reform policy's provisions on contraception coverage and pastors' protests against his support of same-sex marriage to questions over the his support of Israel and his relationship with Jewish voters, President Barack Obama was reelected to a second term Tuesday night with support from religious and especially nonreligious voters.

Obama carried Electoral College votes in several battleground states where religious voters were key parts of the electorate, including Catholic-heavy Ohio, evangelical-heavy Iowa, and Virginia. Another swing stage with a large population of religious voters, Florida, was too close to call by early Wednesday morning.

In his concession speech from Boston, Republican challenger and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney congratulated Obama, saying it was a time of "great challenges" in America and that "I pray the president will be successful in guiding our nation." He thanked supporters for their prayers and said Americans will "look to our pastors and priest and rabbis and counselors of all kinds" as the nation moves on from the election. "Ann I join you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation," he said, asking God to "bless America."

Speaking at his victory speech in Chicago, Obama thanked supporters and "every American who participated in this election," saying that voters "reaffirmed the spirit that triumphs." Returning to his motivational, pastor-like tone that was common in his first campaign, Obama referenced the American "belief that our destiny is shared" and said a sense of "love, charity, duty and patriotism" is the hallmark of the nation's culture.

"Together, with your help and God's grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth. God bless you. God bless these United States," Obama said.

Initial exit polls -- which are expected to change through Wednesday as more results come in -- showed a mix bag of support for Obama and Romney among religious voters. Among people who said they attend religious services weekly, for example, exit polls indicated Romney took a significant lead. But among voters who said they attend services "occasionally" or "never," Obama had large leads.

Early exit poll results also showed Obama losing the overall white evangelical vote to Romney, but winning the overall Catholic vote by just a few points. Among Jewish voters, initial exit polls showed Obama having an overwhelming lead over Romney, but preliminary results also showed him winning a smaller percentage of the Jewish vote than he did four years ago.

Around the nation, other results in elections with large faith-related components also were announced or being tallied. In Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, whose popularity dived after he controversially said pregnancy from rape is "something God intended to happen." In Hawaii, Democrat Mazie Hirono won over Republican contender former Gov. Linda Lingle. Hirono's win makes her the first Buddhist in the Senate. In Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, where Democrat Tulsi Gabbard won over Republican opponent Kawika Crowley, Gabbard will become the first Hindu in Congress.

In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin beat Republican Tommy Thompson for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat to become the nation's first openly gay senator. And in Maryland and Maine, early reports indicated that ballot iniatives that would legalize same-sex marriage -- efforts that were strongly opposed by conservative pastors -- would pass.

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