NBC: OBAMA ELECTED 44TH PRESIDENT
Illinois senator to become first African-American executive in U.S. history
Saul Loeb / AFP – Getty Images
Supporters of Barack Obama celebrate as they await his victory address at Grant Park in Chicago.
Nov. 4: Americans line up early to cast their ballots in 2008’s historic election.
By Alex Johnson
updated 7 minutes ago
Barack Obama, a 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history Tuesday night by winning election as the first African-American president in the history of the United States, according to projections by NBC News.
Obama reached the 270 electoral votes he needed for election at 11 p.m. ET, when NBC News projected that he would win California, Washington and Oregon.
Campaigning as a technocratic agent of change in Washington, not as a pathbreaking civil rights figure, Obama swept to victory over Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was seeking to become the nation’s first female vice president.
A crowd nearing 100,000 people gathered in Grant Park in Chicago, awaiting an address by Obama. Hundreds of thousands more — Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the streets — were watching on a large television screen outside the park.
Surveys of voters as they left polling places nationwide indicated the breadth of Obama’s victory. As expected, he won overwhelmingly among African-American voters, but he also won a slim majority of white voters. He won among women and Latino voters, reversing a longstanding Republican trend. And he won by more than 2-to-1 among voters of all races 30 years old and younger.
That dynamic was telling in Ohio, which President Bush won in 2004, and in Pennsylvania, where McCain poured in millions of dollars of scarce resources. Obama won both.
Obama also took Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and New York, all states with hefty electoral vote hauls, NBC News projected. McCain countered with Texas and numerous smaller states, primarily in the South and the Great Plains.
In interviews with NBC News, aides to McCain said they were proud that they had put up a good fight in “historically difficult times.”
A senior adviser said McCain himself was “fine” but that he felt “he let his staff and supporters down.”
Obama will have a strongly Democratic Congress on the other end of Capitol Hill. The Democrats won strong majorities in both the House and the Senate, and all that remained to be decided was whether the party could reach a procedurally important 60 percent “supermajority” in either or both.
Record turnout delays key results
In the end, Florida, the scene of electoral chaos in recent elections, had little impact. Florida and Virginia had been closely watched, but results there and in other closely contested states were delayed after record numbers of voters flocked to polling stations, energized by an election in which they would select either the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president.
Obama, who led in nearly all public opinion polls, and McCain both launched get-out-the-vote efforts that led to long lines at polling stations in a contest that Democrats were also hoping would help them expand their majorities in both houses of Congress.
Americans voted in numbers unprecedented since women were given the franchise in 1920. Secretaries of state predicted turnouts approaching 90 percent in Virginia and Colorado and 80 percent or more in big states like Ohio, California, Texas, Virginia, Missouri and Maryland.
At New Shiloh Church Ministries on Mastin Lake in Huntsville, Ala., Stephanie Lacy-Conerly brought along a chair, expecting to stay for hours.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s an historical moment.”
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Election officials around the country braced for problems, but only minor issues were reported. However, the McCain campaign filed suit in Virginia, home to several major military bases, complaining that absentee ballots were not mailed on time to many members of the military serving overseas.
History played down in favor of issues
Voters were lured to the polls by an election with the potential to make history. Both campaigns played down the historic nature of their tickets, however, preferring to emphasize what they offered as plans to bring sweeping change to Washington and close the door on the two-term presidency of George W. Bush, whose approval ratings are near historic lows.
Voters turn out in droves
Nov. 4: Turnouts were massive across the country as voters jammed polling places. NBC’s Steve Handelsman reports.
NBC News Channel
Election experts predicted that as many as 140 million Americans would vote, many of them minority, immigrant and young Americans who were casting ballots for the first time.
Maria Reyes, who immigrated from El Salvador and was sworn in as a citizen in August, was one of them. She cast her ballot with help from her daughter, Elvia.
“It’s wonderful time for our country right now — Obama!” Reyes said as she waved a small American flag.
In the Little Saigon section of Los Angeles, Timothy Ngo, a Vietnamese immigrant, turned out to support McCain.
“I came here as a refugee, so Mr. McCain and I grew up and fought in the same war in Vietnam,” Ngo said.
Six in 10 voters picked the economy as the most important issue facing the nation, according to data from national exit polls examined by msnbc.com. Only 9 percent said terrorism was the most important issue.
Pessimism over the economy is usually a grim omen for the party in control of the White House. In the elections of 1992, 1980, 1960 and 1932, economic distress, to some degree, resulted in the party in control losing the White House.