WASHINGTON – Barack Obama swept to victory as the nation's first black president Tuesday night in an electoral college landslide 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 historic triumph 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 Obama's home town of Chicago erupted in jubilation at the news of his victory. Some wept.
McCain called his former rival to concede defeat — and the end of his own 10-year quest for the White House. "The American people have spoken, and spoken clearly," McCain told disappointed supporters in Arizona.
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.
Shortly after 11 p.m. in the East, The Associated Press count showed Obama with 338 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed for victory. McCain had 127 after winning states that comprised the normal Republican base.
The nationwide popular vote was remarkably close. Totals from 58 percent of the nation's precincts showed Obama with 51 percent and McCain with 47.9.
A survey of voters leaving polling places on Tuesday showed the economy was by far the top Election Day issue. Six in 10 voters said so, and none of the other top issues — energy, Iraq, terrorism and health care — was picked by more than one in 10.
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.
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.
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