Barack Obama to Be America's First Black President

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The Guardian/UK

Barack Obama to Be America's First Black President

John McCain praises rival in concession speech as record numbers turn out to vote in historic election

by
Ewen MacAskill and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington and Mark Tran

U.S. Democratic President-elect Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) waves during his election night rally in Chicago November 4, 2008. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Americans tonight placed their faith in Barack Obama, who made history by becoming the first African-American to win the US presidency.

Scenes
of jubilation broke out among Democratic supporters as the US TV
networks just after 11.00pm (ET:4.00 GMT) declared that the
inexperienced but inspirational Democratic candidate had won, after a
momentous day that saw voters turn out in huge numbers.

Victory
in the end came as easily as the polls had predicted. With key states
falling his way, Obama's achievement was comparable to the
transformational victories of Roosevelt in 1932 and Reagan in 1980.

John McCain brought the momentous presidential election campaign to an end when he phoned Obama to concede the White House race.

Obama,
accompanied to the podium in his home town of Chicago by his wife
Michelle and his two daughters, alluded to the historic nature of his
victory.

He said: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts
that America is a place where all things are possible; who still
wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still
questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

He
added: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we
did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has
come to America."

He praised McCain as a "brave and selfless
leader" and also began preparing America for tough economic conditions
he will inherit.

Picking up a refrain from his campaign, Obama described America as a sum greater than its parts.

"We
have never been a collection of individuals, a collection of red states
and blue states," Obama said. "We are and will always the be the United
States of America.

"Because of what we did on this day, change has come to America."

In
an allusion to the enormous challenges that face a new administration,
Obama said: "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We
may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have
never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

For
those abroad, Obama said "a new dawn of American leadership is at hand"
and for America's enemies he said: "To those who will seek to tear the
world down, we will defeat you."

Obama spoke moments after John
McCain made a gracious concession speech in front of his supporters in
Phoenix, Arizona, said: "We have come to the end of a long journey. The
American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly."

He
said America had come a long way from the racial injustices that were a
stain on the country's history.He called for the country to unite
behind Obama.

Paying tribute to his young Democratic rival, the
veteran Republican said Obama's victory "commands my respect". He said
he deeply admired and commended Obama for winning a "historic election".

The
scale of Obama's victory exceeded Democratic expectations, as Obama was
projected to win 338 electoral votes to McCain's 129. Obama's
successes in the White House race were matched by Democratic wins in
Congressional seats. The backlash against Bush provided the Democrats
with one of their most satisfying wins of the night, ousting the
veteran Republican Elizabeth Dole.

In an early blow to John
McCain's hopes, US television networks projected that Obama would win
Pennsylvania, where the Republican badly needed to win to stand a
chance of capturing the White House.

In another big setback for
McCain, the Fox News network projected that Obama would win Ohio, the
state that ultimately decided the 2004 race between George Bush and
John Kerry.

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio.
With Ohio and Pennsylvania in his pocket, Obama would be well on his
way towards an overall majority.

Piling on the humiliation for
the Republicans, Obama was projected to win Virginia by Fox News, the
first time the state has voted for a Democrat in a presidential race
since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson took the state.

Obama was
projected to hold on to all the states the Democrats took in 2004, and
win half a dozen or more of the battleground states that had been held
by the Republicans.

The Democrat was also projected to win New
Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington DC, Illinois, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

McCain was projected to win Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina.

Fears
that many white voters would fail, in the privacy of the polling booth,
to vote for a black candidate appeared to be unfounded, suggesting that
race is becoming less of an issue in the US.

Americans voted in
record numbers throughout the day as they finally got the chance to
turn their backs on George Bush's disastrous presidency and choose a
new president after America's longest and costliest election campaign.

From
the eastern shores of Virginia, across the industrial heartland of
Ohio, and on to the Rocky mountain states of Colorado and New Mexico
and beyond, poll workers and voters reported long lines and waits of
several hours in the most eagerly anticipated US election for half a
century.

Turnout was at levels not seen since women were first
given the vote in 1920. Election officials predicted turnout would come
close to 90% in Virginia and Colorado, and 80% in Ohio and Missouri.

Exit
polls gave Obama double-digit leads in states that had been bitterly
contested, and on which the outcome depended. The odds had been stacked
against McCain from the start, linked, as he was, to President George
Bush, with his near-record low popularity ratings, hostility towards
the Iraq war and an impending recession.

But McCain managed to hold his own until mid-September, when the Wall Street crash saw Obama open up a commanding lead.

The
next president will inherit horrendous economic problems that will
limit the scope of his ambitions. Obama, in his final rallies, was
already tempering his early promise of change with warnings about how
he would have to curb some of his more ambitious plans, trying to lower
expectations that he would be able to move quickly on health care and
education reform.

The stock market experienced its biggest
election day rally in 24 years on expectation of an Obama victory as
the Dow Jones industrial averages surged 300 points, or 3%, to close at
9,625.28 points.

Reporters travelling with Obama reported that
the candidate was in a subdued rather than celebratory mood, perhaps
reflecting the news of the death of his grandmother on Monday. Obama
told them that whatever happened, the campaign, the costliest in US
history at over $1bn (£629m) as well as the longest, had been
"extraordinary".

Early expectations were of record turnout
levels, with the morning bringing long lines at polling stations.
However, exit polls later in the day saw voters under 30, the target
demographic of the Obama camp, voting at about the same levels as in
2004.

That would be a disappointment for the Obama camp which had
been hoping that young voters would buck the tradition of showing
enthusiasm for a candidate and then failing to turn out on the day.

Exit polls did chart a rise in African-American turn-out. CNN, based on the exit polls, projected that Obama would win Vermont, no great surprise as it is traditionally Democrat

Independent
election monitors reported sporadic instances of delayed openings of
polling stations, broken voting machines, ballot shortages, voter
confusion and occasional abuse in a number of battleground states
including Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

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