Obama Secures Historic Presidential Victory
By Ben Pershing
washingtonpost.com staff writer
Democrat Barack Obama has secured enough electoral votes to be elected the first African-American president of the United States, capping a meteoric rise for the freshman Illinois Senator whose message of change resonated with a remarkably broad cross-section of voters across the country.
Obama, 47, defeated Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) Tuesday by a convincing margin, appearing to hold every state won by Democrats in the 2004 election while making significant inroads into previously Republican states in the South, Midwest and Mountain West. His victory, along with the expansion of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, gives the party complete control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since 1994.
As polls closed on the West Coast Tuesday night, Obama supporters around the nation could be seen on television reveling in their candidate's victory. McCain conceded his loss to Obama during an appearance before supporters in Phoenix at 11:15 p.m. eastern time. "My friends, we have come to an end of a long journey," he said, adding that "The American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly."
Obama's campaign shattered every previous fundraising record, raising and spending in the general election well more than double McCain, who was hampered by his decision to accept public financing. That financial advantage allowed Obama to flood the airwaves with advertising, including in states in which Democrats have had difficulty contesting in recent cycles. Obama's cash also allowed him to mount a massive ground operation in nearly every state in the country. The combination of increased advertising and more boots on the ground helped Obama expland the playing field in a way McCain could never hope to match.
The contest was fought largely over the economy, an issue that was never a strong suit of McCain's nor, of late, the entire Republican Party. Exit polls confirmed that voters today were more concerned about the economy than any other issue by a wide margin, giving Obama a key environmental advantage over McCain, who had relied heavily on his national security experience early in the campaign.
The race also turned on the enormously unpopular Bush. Obama repeatedly sought to tie McCain to the incumbent president, hammering home the themes that the Arizonan had voted with Bush 90 percent of the time in the Senate and that a McCain presidency would be four more years of the same. McCain fought hard, particularly in the last month of the contest, to disspell that notion, but even McCain's advisers acknowledged in the end that the attacks hurt. Exit polls showed that the majority of voters today disapproved of Bush's performance, and Obama performed exceedingly well among those voters.
Key to Obama's victory were his wins in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
McCain had been counting on winning Pennsylvania, which Democrats have won in the last two cycles, to offset any victories by Obama in red states. The GOP nominee put significant time and resources into the Keystone State, but to no avail. He also fought desperately to hold on to Ohio but was fighting the stiff headwind of the state's faltering economy.
November 4, 2008; 11:25 PM ET | Category: politics
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