Over two years of campaigning, in two dozen debates, in hundreds of rallies, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised to bring change to America.
Now he will have the chance to do it — as the 44th president of the United States of America.
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“And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t,” Obama said tonight in his victory speech, “we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: Yes, we can.”
The three major television networks called the election for the Illinois senator at 11 p.m. after Obama won several critical swing states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, which no Republican has made it to the White House without winning.
“The new dawn of American leadership is at hand,” Obama said to a rapt audience of more than 225,000 in Chicago’s Grant Park.
In his concession speech at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, McCain congratulated Obama, thanked his vice-presidential candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin, and expressed his unwavering love for America. He promised more peaceful years ahead.
“Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country,” he said. “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next President our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences.”
McCain emphasized the historical significance of Obama’s election for African-Americans.
“Inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who once believed they had little at stake in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving,” he said.
McCain’s speech came just minutes after the networks declared the race for Obama, and about three hours after Connecticut fell into the Democrat’s column. The Associated Press projected at 8:05 p.m. that Obama would defeat the Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to win the Nutmeg State’s seven electoral votes. CNN, NBC News and ABC News also put the state in Obama’s column immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m.
Obama’s win comes as little surprise. Among Connecticut voters, Obama had led his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, by as much as 25 percentage points in polls. With 83 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, Obama led McCain by 21 points, 60 percent to 39 percent.
In other races, the A.P. is projecting that Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of New Haven, will win a tenth term representing Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District. In the 4th Congressional District, Democratic challenger Jim Himes defeated Rep. Chris Shays, who had been the last Republican House member left in New England.
As predicted, Connecticut voters turned out in droves at the polls today. By 3:30 p.m., more than half of the state’s registered voters had cast their ballots, and Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz ’83 said turnout could exceed 90 percent.
“All over the state, registrars and our teams on the ground are saying they have never seen this kind of turnout — ever,” Bysiewicz said. “Lines are long in some polling places, but the lines are moving, the poll workers and our new optical scan machines are handling the crowds well.”
But by the time Obama took the lectern in Chicago, those crowds had dispersed to homes around the state. In front of living room television sets — or projection screens in Yale dining halls — Connecticut residents and voters across the country watched Obama reiterate his message of hope.
In his address, the president-elect echoed the words of his campaign stump speeches — but in a distinctly presidential manor. He delivered words of hope but was quick to acknowledge the challenges America faces.
“We know the government can’t solve every problem,” Obama said. “But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.”
While he spoke about the enduring power of the American ideals — “democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope” — Obama warned that his victory is not the end, rather the beginning of a new journey for the United States.
“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term,” he said. “But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”
And, he reminded the crowd of the true winners tonight.
“I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to,” he said. “It belongs to you. It belongs to you.”