After clinching an historic victory, President-elect Barack Obama wakes up Wednesday morning to the task of uniting a divided country and laying the groundwork for an ambitious presidential agenda.
Obama will inherit on Jan. 20 the worst financial crisis in 70 years, as well as the task of winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Within minutes of taking the stage in Chicago Tuesday night to acknowledge becoming the first black president of the United States, Obama cautioned voters of the tough road ahead.
“Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there,” Obama said in Grant Park.
And to those who did not back his candidacy, Obama said, “I will be your president, too,” and noted the need to “heal the divides that have held back our progress.”
With his victory, Obama, the Hawaiian-born son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, is poised to turn the page on Republican policies of the last eight years, as well as some racial barriers that have stood for generations.
The 47-year-old Democratic junior senator from Illinois swept to a landslide victory over his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, building an Electoral College majority of at least 349 votes.
“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 told the massive crowd of cheering supporters in Grant Park Tuesday night.
“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight because of what we did on this day, in this election, on this defining moment, change is coming to America.”
McCain, speaking in Phoenix, Ariz., said he called Obama to concede. He urged his supporters to move beyond their “disappointment,” and said Obama was worthy of respect for the race he had run.
“Whatever our differences, we are all Americans,” McCain said, with running mate Sarah Palin standing by his side. “Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours.”
President Bush also called Obama to congratulate him.
The Illinois senator climbed over the top at 11 p.m. ET Tuesday with victories in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.
Obama delivered a crushing defeat earlier in the night by clinching Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, states that were key to McCain’s electoral strategy. Obama later won the major swing state of Florida.
The Democratic nominee also took a commanding lead over his Republican rival with a slew of victories in reliable East Coast and Midwestern territory, and in red states scattered across the country. In the end, he significantly expanded his party’s 2004 electoral map.
Obama has so far won New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont and the District of Columbia. He also won all four electoral votes in Maine and scored a victory in his home state of Illinois, as well as in Indiana, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and New Mexico.
McCain has won Texas and Georgia, as well as Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, South Dakota, South Carolina, Mississippi, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Montana and Kentucky. He won three of Nebraska’s five electoral votes.
The Democratic nominee has so far amassed 349 electoral votes to McCain’s 161.
Pennsylvania, with its 21 electoral votes, was one of the few states that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election that McCain was actively pursuing. Another was New Hampshire, which Obama also won Tuesday. McCain aides initially objected to the Pennsylvania call, complaining that it was too early to project.
But McCain’s narrow path to victory was made air tight after he lost Ohio and its 20 electoral votes, and Virginia’s 13.