'Change has come' – Barack Obama wins US presidential election

'Change has come' – Barack Obama wins US presidential election

 

Barack Obama this morning declared “change has come to America” as he emerged triumphant from one of the most extraordinary elections of modern times to become his country’s first black
president.

There were tumultuous scenes at his victory party, with 70,000 people at Grant Park in Chicago – and hundreds of thousands more outside – as TV networks simultaneously declared him the
winner at exactly 11pm Eastern Time, bringing an emphatic end to the Bush years.

Projected wins in the traditional battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida – as well as Pennsylvania, on which John McCain’s pencil-thin path to the White House had depended – were easily
enough to give Mr Obama the Electoral College votes he needs.

A clutch of other once-Republican states, including Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada and Virginia, also fell to the Democrat. North Carolina, Montana and Indiana are still too close
to call.

Mr McCain – after an often tempestuous campaign – delivered a gracious concession speech in his home state of Arizona.

But at midnight in Chicago, Mr Obama arrived to stand amid a sea of rapturous supporters in Chicago and promise the world that a “new dawn of American leadership is at hand”,

“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 said.

In a speech punctuated by frequent chants of “yes, we can”, the Democrat said the long lines of voters standing in line for hours had done so because they believed “this time must be
different, that their voice could be that difference”.

He added: “It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled
– Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”

The immense turnout in yesterday’s election was testament to the energy, excitement and expectations of a rejuvenated American democracy, as well as the fears of a nation standing at a
crossroads of history. The new president faces economic and social convulsions at home, conflict abroad.

Exit polls showed Mr Obama performing strongly among voters who regarded the economy as the most important issue, cutting a swath through traditional battleground states in the east,
while making deep incursions into once-solid Republican territory in the Mountain West and the South.

And, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King and the start of cultural wars that have scarred American politics ever since, Mr Obama has held out the promise of healing
divisions.

Mr McCain said: “This is a special election. I recognise the great significance it must have for African Americans and the special pride they must be feeling tonight.”

In his concession speech he paid tribute to Mr Obama for inspiring millions and declared the country had “come a long way from the cruel bigotry” of the past.

“There is no greater evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States,” he said. “Let there be no reason now for any American not to
cherish their citizenship of this, the greatest nation on earth.”

Several times he quietened boos from the crowd in Phoenix, saying the nation needed to “come together”. Mr McCain promised to help Mr Obama in any way he can “lead us through the
challenges we face” and told supporters that though his campaign had fallen short, “the failure is mine, not yours”.

Robert Gibbs, Mr Obama’s spokesman, later disclosed that the president-elect was eager to sit down with his former rival and discuss how they can work together. He is said to have told
Mr McCain: “I need your help, you’re a leader on so many important issues.”

In his speech last night, Mr Obama declared: “Let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look not
only at ourselves, but each other.”

He also paid generous tribute to his campaign team, his wife and children – to whom he has promised a new puppy – and his grandmother, who died on Sunday before seeing him win the
presidency.

In the fight for Congress, Republicans suffered huge losses, but were clinging to hopes that they might just stop Democrats from reaching a filibuster-proof 60-seat “super majority” in
the US Senate.

Democrats, needing nine seats to reach the 60-seat threshold, were on target to gain at least seven, but narrowly failed to pick off Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the upper
chamber.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats were on course to gain at least another 25 seats, giving them their biggest majority in the lower chamber for a generation.

Hillary Clinton, who saw her own bid to become America’s first woman president narrowly fail in an historically-charged Democratic primary, released a statement saying: “This was a long
and hard-fought campaign but the result was well worth the wait.

“Together, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and a Democratic Congress, we will chart a better course to build a new economy and rebuild our
leadership in the world.”

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