Election 2008

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

Obama Is Projected Winner of Presidential Election

November 04, 2008 10:49 PM
by Liz Colville
Unofficial results from several states indicate that Barack Obama, the first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, has won enough seats in the Electoral College to defeat John McCain. McCain delivered his concession speech at 11:15 pm EST.

Swing States Help Obama Capture Majority

Ill. Sen. Barack Obama has been elected to the presidency of the United States, according to unofficial election returns currently available. As of 11 p.m. several TV networks had called key states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado in Obama’s favor. In those states, 51 percent, 83 percent and 35 percent of the precincts reported, respectively.

Sen. Obama’s apparent victory came as several polls in the final week of the presidential campaign narrowed, suggesting Sen. McCain could clinch the presidency. Key states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia seemed increasingly up for grabs as Nov. 4 approached, with RealClearPolitics’ “Battleground States” polling aggregator adjusting several of the swing states from the “leaning Obama” category to the “toss-up” category.

But Sen. Obama, who raised tens of millions more in campaign funds than Sen. McCain, opting out of the capped public financing system established in 1972, may have been able to win these states by a get-out-the-vote effort that saw many new Democrats added to the registrar. In September, the Huffington Post reported that the Democrats “have a lead of 11 million registered voters over Republicans,” although both parties accelerated their efforts as registration deadlines approached.

The candidates’ tax plans made up the brunt of discussion at rallies and debates in the final weeks of the election. Sen. Obama’s promise to bring tax relief to the middle class is considered to have been a factor in boosting his poll performance and votes he obtained in industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Background: Economy turns race in favor of Obama

As the economy became the focal point for Americans following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, it also became a major talking point for the presidential candidates. Sen. Obama attempted to align Sen. McCain with the Bush administration by highlighting how often the Republican candidate had voted with President George W. Bush and that McCain's economic policy, which traditionally has emphasized federal deregulation, is the same as Bush's policy.

In response to the downturn, Sen. McCain shifted his economic platform to one that encouraged more regulation and encouraged relief for retirees and homeowners. He also proposed a capital gains tax cut. At rallies, Sen. McCain’s campaign conveyed the idea that Sen. Obama would raise taxes on all Americans in order to afford the public programs he wants to implement.

Sen. Obama countered that he would provide a tax break to Americans who make less than $200,000 a year and argued that Sen. McCain’s tax policy favored the wealthy because it counted on U.S. businesses to help grow the economy.

Opinion & Analysis: Rebranding McCain, the Washington Outsider

Pundits have argued that Sen. Obama’s economic pitch successfully redefined McCain’s maverick status as really just “more of the same,” a slogan that Obama’s campaign has often repeated. “The Republican brand's in trouble for all these guys,” party strategist Alex Castellanos told The Washington Post in October. “It seems like an eternity ago, but it was only a few weeks, that the Republican brand was defined as populist, outsiders, McCain-Palin who are going to change Washington. Now we're back to a Republican brand that is George Bush, economy, and Wall Street and Washington insiders. That's hurt everybody.”

But it was Sen. Obama’s “politics of hope” that seemed to clinch the deal. While Charles R. Kesler argues in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that in Obama’s case, the “messenger” is more novel than the “message,” the young senator is nonetheless convincing in his crusade against the “politics of cynicism.”

“Cynicism is Mr. Obama's all-purpose explanation for the ‘gridlock and polarization’ that characterize our small politics today, that rob Americans of "our sense of common purpose—our sense of higher purpose,” Kesler writes, quoting words that Sen. Obama used in his keynote address at the 2004 DNC.

Key Player: Barack Obama (1961- )

Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Kenyan goat herder-turned-economist father and a mother from Kansas; they divorced when Obama was 2 years old. Raised in Hawaii by his mother and maternal grandparents, Obama attended Occidental College and Columbia University and then worked as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991. After working for Project Vote, at a law firm (where he met his wife Michelle) and as a lecturer at the University of Chicago, Obama joined the Illinois Senate in 1996 and the U.S. Senate in 2004, defeating Republican and fellow African-American Alan Keyes.

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