By Halimah Abdullah, CNN
Washington (CNN) - In many ways, the 2012 election was the year of the woman.
Women — who have historically formed one of President Barack Obama's key constituencies — once again united behind him in large numbers and helped fend off defections from white male and independent supporters.
A record 20 women will hold U.S. Senate seats next year—including newly-elected Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly lesbian senator. The New Hampshire congressional delegation will be all female and, in Obama's home state of Hawaii, Democrat Mazie Hirono will represent the islands in the Senate.
"I'm not sure if it was as much a coincidence as a perfect storm," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
"The conditions were right and the Republican nominee gave women pause."
According to CNN's exit polls, 55% of women and 45% of men voted for Obama and 44% of women and 52% of men voted for Romney. That level of female support for the president made an especially big impact in swing states like Ohio where the gender breakdown mirrored the national figures.