When the conclusion of the longest presidential campaign in modern election history came to pass last Tuesday night, it took just four hours to declare freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama the 44th president-elect of the United States.Obama, 47, becomes the nation’s first African American president after a 21-month electoral struggle which saw him pitted first against democratic challengers Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and others; then, beginning in June, against republican rival John McCain who had defeated an equally strong pool of GOP rivals in February.
President-elect Obama secured his victory early in the evening Tuesday night with wins in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Ohio-a state that no republican has ever won the White House without.
Obama, who in the past 21 months has campaigned across 49 states, watched results come in from a Chicago hotel room before going home for a family dinner. As he sat down to eat, a quarter of a million supporters began gathering on the other side of town in Grand Park. As each state was colored blue, roars emanated from the crowd.
While a victory looked all but certain for Obama after key early victories, it wasn’t until 11 p.m. on the east coast that an Obama victory in California was announced and the pivotal 270 electoral vote threshold was surpassed.
As of press time and according to CNN, Obama has accumulated 364 electoral votes to McCain’s 163. Obama won 65.4 million of the 122.8 million cast, or about 53.3 percent. McCain won 57.4 million or about 46.7 percent.
“Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it,” McCain told supporters in his concession speech. He offered his luck and support to his formal rival telling the crowd that Obama is now his president too. Some analysts consider McCain’s concession speech to be his best versed of the campaign.
Obama, speaking shortly after McCain, rallied his supporters for the first time as president-elect of the United States.
“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,” Obama said to thunderous applause.
Obama’s heavy investment in a bounty of swing states prior to Election Day paid dividends when the majority of the states, which voted for President Bush four years ago, voted for the democratic candidate.
“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,” Obama declared.
Obama’s victory speech championed the success of his campaign and the volunteers who were responsible for record voter registration across the country.
But the president-elect also spoke to his detractors: “To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn; I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and will be your president too,” Obama said.
To those around the world: “And all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”
To the world’s enemies: “To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you.”
To the world’s friends: “To those who seek peace and security: We support you.”
The election not only saw a hotly contested presidential race, but races to fill 35 Senate seats and all of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
As of press time and according to CNN, the democrats control 57 Senate seats while the republicans control 40. Three seats-in Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia-are still being contested. A runoff election is required in Georgia where incumbent republican Saxby Chambliss failed to receive 50 percent of the votes.
In the House, the democrats strengthened the majority they won in the 2006 midterm elections that were largely seen as a referendum on an increasingly unpopular republican president. As of press time and according to CNN, the democrats now control 255 seats in the house while the republicans hold 174 seats.
Jeff J. Simon is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.