WASHINGTON -- Senator Barack Obama of Illinois on November 4 was elected president of the United States, having promised dramatic change for the country after eight years of President George W. Bush's stewardship of national security and the economy.
Obama will be the first African-American to rise to the highest office in the land, ending centuries of exclusion.
In his election drive that began in February 2007, Obama managed to outperform his own party's original front-runner in the presidential race, and to fight off a challenge by the Republican Party nominee, veteran Senator John McCain of Arizona.
Before a crowd of an estimated 50,000 jubilant Obama supporters late on November 4 in Grant Park outside the president-elect's campaign headquarters in his home city of Chicago, Obama thanked them for their support, then spoke of the dawn of a new leadership in the United States.
"To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright, tonight we've proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals, democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope," Obama said.'Commands My Respect'
Earlier, in the city of Phoenix, McCain graciously conceded defeat and congratulated Obama on his victory.
"In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, [Obama's] success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance," McCain said.
"But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving."
Obama's victory over McCain can be described only as a landslide. A half-hour after midnight Washington time, the Democrat had won 26 states with 338 electoral votes, compared with McCain's 19 states with 156 electoral votes. Obama needed 270 electoral votes to win. Four states remained undecided.
In the popular vote, Obama led McCain by nearly 4 million votes.
Because Americans don't directly elect a president -- the 538-member Electoral College does -- the winner is actually decided by 51 separate results from each state and Washington, D.C.
Veteran political analysts interviewed by RFE/RL say Obama won because he presented a consistent message against the war in Iraq and proposed moderate solutions to the current economic crisis. He won because he ran a well-disciplined campaign. And he won because his demeanor showed Americans that he would make a strong president.Record Voter Registration
The outcome of the election wasn't in doubt in the past few weeks. Polls showed broad popular support for Obama. The Democrat had inspired record numbers of young people and blacks to register to vote.
The question was whether these newly registered voters would follow through by actually casting ballots. The answer was a resounding "yes."
This election is historic, especially because it has propelled a black man to the presidency, something that was unthinkable when Obama was born in 1961.
At that time, the southern United States was segregated. African-Americans in many states faced open discrimination and were even barred from voting. The civil rights movement was just beginning.
Today, Obama through his victory, has become the symbol of what some call "post-racial" America.Meticulous Strategy
Obama's drive for the White House wasn't easy. First he had to challenge Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, whom many in the Democratic Party saw as the obvious choice as its nominee in 2008. But Obama raised record amounts of money during the primary-election season and outmaneuvered Clinton in states that she expected to win.
Once he won the party's nomination, Obama did the same in his fight against McCain. Then the Democrat mounted a meticulous strategy ensuring that his supporters would show up at the polls on Election Day.
At the start, the McCain-Obama campaign was about national security: Would McCain or Obama make a better leader at a time when the United States is involved in two difficult wars? McCain relished this challenge, pointing to his own military service and many years' involvement in foreign affairs while a member of the Senate.
But by mid-September, the U.S. economy began to collapse. While McCain kept repeating that the fundamentals of the economy were sound, Obama told Americans that the economy was in danger because of what he called the negligent policies of Bush, with McCain's support.