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05 Nov 08. The FT reported that Barack Obama was elected president of the US on Tuesday night and declared a “new dawn of American leadership”, but warned the country of sacrifices and difficulties in the years ahead.

On a night when Congressional Democrats increased their majority, Mr Obama scored a crushing victory over John McCain, his Republican rival, becoming the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to win the White House with significantly more than 50 per cent of the vote.

In doing so, he easily defended the Democratic state of Pennsylvania and added a clutch of former Republican-held states, including Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America,” he told his supporters at crowded celebrations in Chicago. “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.”

Striking a cautionary note, he added: “This victory alone is not the change we seek… It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice… And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores… a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.” In an ambitious speech, he also echoed Lincoln and Martin Luther King and reprised his campaign call:
“Yes we can.”

Earlier, Mr McCain had conceded the election to the new president elect in a
speech in his home state in Arizona. “Senator Obama has achieved a great thing
for himself and for his country,” he said. “I pledge to him tonight to do all in
my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face… I wish
Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president.”

Mr Obama was also congratulated by President George W. Bush, President Nicolas
Sarkozy of France, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, and other world leaders.The news also cheered equity markets in Asia, which rallied. In Hong Kong stocks initially rose by 6 per cent.

“Mr President-elect, congratulations to you,” Mr Bush told Mr Obama in a telephone call. “I promise to make this a smooth transition,” he said, inviting the future president and his family to visit the White House soon, at their convenience.

On Tuesday night a large crowd gathered outside the White House chanting “Yes we can” and ”Obama!”.

Little known when he launched his Democratic candidacy 22 months ago and still barely four years out of the Illinois state senate, the 47-year-old first-term US senator harnessed the support of African American and Hispanic voters, youth, those threatened by recession and people more generally unhappy with eight years of the Bush administration to score an overwhelming victory.
Within hours of the close of polls, Mr McCain’s hopes of stemming the Democratic tide foundered in the face of projections that a block of states had abandoned the Republican cause.

By early Wednesday Mr Obama was projected to win at least 338 electoral votes, well beyond the required 270.

The giant rally in Chicago’s Grant Park started the celebrations hours before returns from Pennsylvania showed Mr McCain would not secure the Democratic prize he targeted.

Obama aides said the senator had no plans for Wednesday – no announcements, no cabinet, no nominations.

By the close of polls, election-watchers estimated as many as 135m of the 188m registered had cast their ballots. That would represent the largest percentage turnout in a US presidential election for 100 years.

Late on Tuesday night Mr Obama e-mailed a thank-you note to his supporters. “We just made history,” he said. “All of this happened because of you.”

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