By Amie Parnes and Justin Sink - 11/07/12 02:36 AM EST
President Obama rolled up projected victories in Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania Tuesday night as Republican Mitt Romney's path to 270 electoral votes narrowed significantly.
Projected victories in swing state Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — where Romney had made a bid to win in the campaign's final days — were greeted with cheers at Obama's campaign party headquarters in Chicago, while the atmosphere at Romney's camp in Boston was more subdued.
As the evening went on, Obama aides seemed to gain more confidence. When Pennsylvania was called, one aide, peering at the results, danced and clapped.
"Boom!" another aide said, responding to the results.
The race remains close in North Carolina, though Romney held a lead large enough for The Associated Press to project him as the winner.
Veteran GOP strategist David Gergen on CNN said that if networks call the race for Obama in Florida, the race is over.
Obama campaign national press secretary Ben LaBolt said the results so far suggest Obama's coalition from 2008 is holding.
"What we're seeing from these early numbers is that this looks a lot like the coalition that elected the president the first time around," LaBolt said. "Strong turnout around Ohio, strong turnout around Madison, strong turnout around Charlottesville. More African Americans may have voted in Virginia this time than in 2008. Still a lot of time to go and a lot of states to go but no major surprises."
He said the campaign didn't believe that Romney could put Pennsylvania in play with the clock ticking down in the final days of the campaign.
"We had told you guys for a long time that you could put Pennsylvania in play a week out by tossing out a few million dollars in the air and taking a trip there," he said. "I think in these states that hadn't been heavily contested, we had our organization on the ground for two years, reaching undecided voters, and in the states where there hadn't been a big battle between the candidates, that allowed us to hold those states, states like Pennsylvania and Michigan."
He said their strategy of pursuing different paths to 270 electoral votes appeared to be working on Tuesday night.
"In terms of the map, what we said in the beginning was we never wanted this to be 2004 and 2000 where you retreat to one state at the end and just choose Ohio or just choose Florida," he said. "We wanted to chart multiple paths to victory, a Southern route a Midwestern route, a Western route. I think it will bear out that it was a smart strategy to take those multiple routes to victory because you're seeing these states tonight, many are very tight."
The Romney campaign dispatched senior adviser Ed Gillespie to rally a quieted crowd dispirited by projected Romney losses in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.
Gillespie called the evening "exhilarating" and said the campaign remained "very optimistic and confident about where our votes are coming in."
"We're going to have a great celebration here tonight," Gillespie said.
Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanFive takeaways from Florida Senate debate Endangered GOP senator: I don't know for whom I'll vote GOP vulnerables dial back Hillary attacks MORE (R-Ohio) addressed Romney supporters via Skype, telling them he he remained "confident" about Romney's chances in the state, likely a must-win. "In some of the swing areas ... we're seeing better than expected early voting for us, and worse than expected for Democrats," Portman said.
He added that Republicans had "knocked on more doors and done more telephone calls than any campaign in the history of Ohio."
"We'll see what happens here later tonight ... the effort will pay off," Portman said.
Romney is watching the returns come in with family, including his grandchildren, in a hotel suite adjacent to the convention center where he planned to address supporters later in the night, according to aides.
Romney was projected as the winner in Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Idaho and Mississippi. He is also projected to win all five of Nebraska's electoral votes.
Obama was projected as the winner in Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Michigan, California and Hawaii. He is also projected to win three of Maine's four electoral votes.
The Republican's win in Indiana is his first takeaway from Obama. The president won a surprise victory in the Hoosier State in 2008, which he was not expected to repeat this year.
—This story was updated at 11:07 p.m.