Barack Obama 44th President of the United States

Nov. 5, 2008

Barack Obama, the son of Kenya and Kansas whose political eloquence and hopeful audacity took the Democratic Party by storm, was elected the nation's first African-American president Tuesday night - an act Americans would have thought impossible just a generation ago.

Obama's defeat of John McCain seemed to betray no negative impact from his race and showed support throughout the American ethnic and demographic spectrum. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and giant of the civil rights movement, told ABC that Obama's victory was nothing short of a "non-violent revolution" in American politics.

The ability of the Illinois senator to defeat McCain in red state America - Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania were the back breakers - was simply too much for the Republican ticket to hold off.

Taken with Democratic gains in the House and Senate - six House seats and four Senate seats at press time - the new Democratic administration will have unified control of Washington. But Obama also must govern under the specter of two wars and a transcendent economic crisis.

Obama won Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

McCain posted victories in Mississippi, Kansas, West Virginia, Utah, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, North Dakota, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming. Indiana and Virginia - two normally red states Obama hoped to steal away - remained too close to call, as did Florida and even McCain's home state of Arizona. The tightness of those states was more bad news for McCain.
Democrats picked up Senate seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New Hampshire.

"We like what we see," chief Obama strategist David Axelrod told CNN said in the understatement of the night.

Tuesday's decision was the culminating act in a two-year-long process that produced a new president-elect to lead a nation living in dangerous and uncertain times.

Exit polls showed a country ready for change and fearful of economic uncertainty. Six in 10 voters rated the economy as their top concern - potentially good news for Obama, whom polls have consistently shown connecting with voters on that issue.

At stake were two historic firsts: the possibility of the nation's first black president, should Obama win, and the country's first female vice president, in the event of a McCain-Palin victory.

In Congress, Democrats also hoped to widen their advantage by roughly 20 seats in the House and believed a 60-seat, filibuster-resistant majority in the Senate was within the party's grasp. In addition to all 435 House seats, 35 Senate seats were up for grabs as well as 11 gubernatorial races.

So far, Democrats have added four seats to their majority and hoped for more. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, as expected, handily defeated another former governor, Jim Gilmore. Democrat Kay Hagan defeated incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. In New Hampshire, former governor Jeanne Shaheen defeated incumbent Sen. John Sununu. And in New Mexico, Democrat Tom Udall won the
seat held by retiring Republican Pete Domenici.

One piece of good news for Republicans: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won a tough re-election battle in Kentucky.

In the House, Democrats had netted six additional seats.

Both tickets ended their general election showdown with a final sprint across an array of battleground states - many of them traditionally redder than the McCain campaign would like.

Tuesday morning, it was up to the respective get-out-the-vote teams and, finally, to the bulk of the nation's voters to have the final say. Anecdotal evidence indicated a huge turnout in both parties, with long lines the norm at polling place after polling place.

Heavy turnout was reported both inside and outside the battleground states, with some election officials predicting rates exceeding 80 percent.

Broken machines, long lines and polling places opening late caused problems across the East Coast and Midwest this morning, according to voting rights advocates. But no widespread problems were reported.

Obama joined the nation's earliest voters Tuesday. "I voted," he said, holding up the validation slip he was handed after turning in a ballot at his Chicago neighborhood's precinct. He planned a final campaign event in nearby Indiana before speaking to a massive evening rally in Chicago.

Obama was accompanied by his wife and two young daughters. "The journey ends," Obama told reporters, "but voting with my daughters, that was a big deal."

In Delaware, Biden went to the polls with his elderly mother. 

In Phoenix, McCain left his high-rise condominium to cast a ballot at a nearby church before preparing to fly to Colorado and New Mexico for events in two crucial battleground states. He gave supporters a thumbs-up sign and was in and out of the polling place within minutes.

After stops in Colorado and New Mexico, a subdued McCain came back to talk to reporters on his campaign plane. His wife, Cindy, had tears in her eyes. "Well, my friends, this is our last flight on this airplane together, so I just wanted to stop back," he said. "We've had a great time and I wish all every success. Look forward to being with you in the future. Thanks very much." 

Palin returned to Wasilla, Alaska - the tiny city where she once served as mayor - to vote. "Here in Alaska, where we've cleaned up the corruption and we've taken on some self-dealing and self-interests, we've been able to really put government back on the side of the people," Palin told reporters after voting. "I hope, pray, believe I'll be able to do that as vice president for everybody in America, helping to transform our national government, too."

Polls showed Obama a clear favorite - but an unyielding McCain camp continued to insist it was closing the gap and warned against counting out a candidate who has always run best when his chances for success seemed bleakest.

In Democratic circles, there was a kind of queasy confidence mixed with a fatalism that the party has so often snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

If there is a clear victor by Tuesday night, Wednesday could bring a rapid transition, given the staggering magnitude of the economic slowdown and continued volatility on Wall Street.

Aides in both campaigns have hinted they could move forward with White House staff choices or perhaps even a nominee for Treasury secretary within days.

But for a few more hours on Tuesday, there was the uncomfortable limbo known only to politicians and their staffs and followers on Election Day.

Given the challenges that the country faces and the stark differences between the candidates, there was a palpable sense in the nation that this is an election that will truly matter.

"I think most people understand this is not just a choice between candidates," former President Bill Clinton said after voting Tuesday morning in Chappaqua, N.Y. "It's a choice between philosophies."

Jeanne Cummings, Lisa Lerer and Amie Parnes contributed to this story from Politico