Chicago,IL(RushPRnews) – Democrat Barack Obama soundly defeated Republican John McCain to become the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday in a historic election that sends the first African-American to the White House. The election ends a grueling campaign marked by come-from-behind crusades by each candidate, accusations of voter registration fraud leveled by both political parties and an economic crisis unparalleled since the Great Depression.
With polls in more than half the 50 states closed as of 8 p.m. pacific standard time, Obama had 200 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win and was expected to easily collect an additional 73 electoral votes from the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington. The Associated Press reported the 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois captured the electoral votes from the battleground states of Ohio (20) and Pennsylvania (21) which were seen as critical for either candidate to win.
McCain had 90 electoral votes as of 9 p.m.
Obama delivered a victory speech to thousands of supporters who had gathered at Grant Park in Chicago.
“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,” said Obama.
Obama’s election marks the first time since John F. Kennedy in 1960 that an incumbent member of Congress was elected president. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Obama’s running mate, will be the next vice president.
“It only makes sense that after eight years of craziness, we went from one end of the spectrum to the other, from Bush to Obama,” Atlanta resident and Obama supporter Steven Harvey told Rushprnews.com.
“It only makes sense that after eight years of craziness, we went from one end of the spectrum to the other, from Bush to Obama.” – Atlanta resident Steven Harvey
“I’m an Obama supporter, so I’m pretty excited,” said Linda Seger, a resident of Colorado, one of several so-called battleground states that appeared going for Obama. Seger, a poll watcher for a congressional candidate in that state, said she started out as a Republican, but became disenfranchised with the party over the Vietnam War and has been voting Democrat since 1972.
Seger wrote the book, “Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why the Republicans Don’t Have a Corner on Christ,” and predicted that when all the ballots are tallied, it will be discovered that many evangelicals voted for Obama.
Obama’s election marks a return to the White House for Democrats for the first time since Bill Clinton left office in 2001. The party lost controversial elections to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
Obama, who campaigned on the slogan “Change We Need,” launched his campaign in the bitter cold of Abraham Lincoln’s adopted hometown of Springfield IL in February 2007 and spent the next 21 months fending off accusations that he was too young, too radical and too inexperienced for the nation’s top job.
Questions about Obama’s character and choice of associates were also raised. He was a long-time friend of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery sermons were criticized as anti-American. He was also accused of being an ally of William Ayers, a leader of the 1960s domestic terrorist group the Weathermen but who has since reformed and is now a Chicago educator.
In his campaign, Obama pledged tax cuts for citizens making up to $250,000 a year – 95 percent of the population – and promised that affordable health insurance would be available for the nation’s uninsurable and low income residents.
“If he performs the way he said he will, that would be good,” said McCain supporter Kay Barnard, a resident of Brea, CA in conservative Orange County. “But he can’t lower taxes and give us more benefit.”
Both Obama and McCain spent the waning days leading up to Tuesday campaigning in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, areas of the country that were pivotal in the previous two elections.
McCain, a Vietnam war hero with the scars to prove it and who was virtually written off as a potential Republican nominee for president barely a year ago, spent much of the campaign fending off charges that his voting record in the senate and proposed economic policies made him appear too much like an unpopular President Bush.
McCain’s age and health – he is 72 and a cancer survivor – were also concerns raised during the campaign.
But while some said his choice for a running mate, the firebrand Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, gave his campaign the youthful energy it needed, others – including some members of his own party — were critical of Palin, 44, and questioned her ability to be president in the event something detrimental happened to McCain.
The Arizona senator countered the negative charges in often blistery and eloquent tones, declaring in the third and final debate, “I am not George Bush,” and continuing charges throughout the campaign that Obama is a tax and spend democrat. Only days before the election, McCain appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and a week earlier he was a guest “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
The election also was marred by charges by republicans that a long-established grassroots organization known as ACORN that gives legislative voice to low and moderate income citizens — who traditionally register as Democrats — had registered many people to vote who didn’t exist. ACORN, which once employed Obama as an attorney, vehemently denied any intentional wrongdoing, but acknowledged that a small number of the 1.3 voter registrations it turned in were indeed invalid. ACORN officials said this was due to overzealous canvassers who were being paid on a per registrant basis.
Democrats, meanwhile, charged that republicans were systematically disqualifying democrats from the election rolls and hiding behind a 2002 law called the Help America to Vote Act in doing so.
John Ennis, co-founder of nonpartisan watchdog group called Video the Vote, was in the crucial state of Ohio Tuesday videotaping the voting process to ensure everything went smoothly. The organization is a national network of citizen journalists, independent filmmakers and media professional working together to document voter suppression and disenfranchisement. He said 3,000 members of the organization took video cameras to polling places throughout the nation and recorded the event.
Ohio had been particularly troublesome in the past, Ennis said. He cited several instances in recent elections in which citizens were told they were not registered and other cases in which people were required to wait for two hours or more before they could vote.
It was apparent to him that Ohio had straightened out deficiencies in its election process that were still evident as recently as the primary earlier this year. While initially hesitant about announcing who he voted for, Ennis conceded that he had voted for Obama.
“An Obama presidency would be a really good start to dealing with a lot of the issues that America is in. It would be a really good start,” Ennis said.
The campaign set new highs in terms of fundraising, and Obama was criticized by Republicans for that. Obama reportedly raised $750 million, mostly in the form of contributions of $100 or less. Much of that was collected through sophisticated email campaigns that targeted registered democrats.
David Gruder, a San Diego psychologist and author of the book, “The New IQ: How Integrity Intelligence Serves You, Your Relationships and Our World,” said the two candidates combined raised $1 billion and lengthened the campaign to two years. “$1 billion is obscene,” he said.
Yet he praised Obama fundraising methods and predicted that the young chief executive would be able to “reach across the aisle” more easily than McCain would. He said many people have compared Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his ability to educate the public about relevant issues. Yet, he said a more accurate comparison might be made to Harry S. Truman.
Democratic power brokers were surprised by Truman’s refusal to kowtow to them, Gruder said, adding, “I feel that Obama will have a soft, velvety way of telling Democrats to go to hell.”