WASHINGTON (AP) – Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first black president on Tuesday, Nov. 4, a historic triumph that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself.
The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, the Democratic senator from Illinois sealed his victory by defeating Republican Sen. John McCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states – Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.
A huge crowd in Grant Park in Chicago erupted in jubilation at the news of Obama's victory. Some in the crowd wept, including Jesse Jackson, who could be seen with tears streaming down his face.
In South Florida, the Michael Baisden show and its Miami affiliate, WHQT HOT 105, took over two large ballrooms at the Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino in Hallandale Beach to celebrate the election outcome. The pro-Obama crowd watched the election results on four huge screens, cheering loudly whenever Obama was projected as a winner in this historic election.
Baisden extended his show, which normally ends at 3 p.m., to broadcast live until 11 p.m.
The festive standing-room-only crowd of more than 800 people danced to music, ate, and drank in anticipation of what many polls correctly predicted would be an Obama victory.
Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President William Diggs was among the celebrants, but left early in pursuit of a more subdued environment to watch the returns.
"Great, never thought that this would happen,’’ said celebrant Robert Prymus, 46. “It's a wonderful thing. It's going to be good for more than black America. I have a daughter who's six weeks old. She'll now be able to see that she could run for president."
Celebrant Mary Ellen Amaker agreed.
"I’m elated,’’ Amaker said. “It's been a long time coming. I've been an activist all of my life, ever since I started voting when I was 18, and I'm 56 now. It takes a powerful person, this person cannot be made or shaped. He was born that way."
Ina Ludka, 44, said, “"I'm feeling joy. My heart is beating, it’s racing. I only wish my grandma was here to see this."
McCain called to concede defeat – and the end of his own 10-year quest for the White House.
Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will take their oaths of office as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2009.
As the 44th president, Obama will move into the Oval Office as leader of a country that is almost certainly in recession, and fighting two long wars, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.
The popular vote was close, but not the count in the Electoral College, where it mattered most.
There, Obama’s audacious decision to contest McCain in states that hadn’t gone Democratic in years paid rich dividends.
Obama has said his first order of presidential business will be to tackle the economy. He has also pledged to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
Fellow Democrats rode his coattails to larger majorities in both houses of Congress. They defeated incumbent Republicans and won open seats by turn.