Obama carries heavy burden after landslide win
AFP - Thursday, November 6
CHICAGO (AFP) - - US president-elect Barack Obama Wednesday confronted the economic and military enormity of what lies ahead as the planet rejoiced in America's election of its first black commander-in-chief.
In a political earthquake not seen since Ronald Reagan's 1980 landslide over Jimmy Carter, Obama rewrote the electoral map Tuesday by sweeping John McCain aside in Republican bastions, and his party acquired a hammer-lock on Congress.
The 47-year-old Democratic Illinois senator crushed McCain with an inspirational message of hope and change. But on January 20, he will inherit a terrible legacy of war and economic convulsion from President George W. Bush.
"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," Obama told 240,000 people gathered at a joyous victory party here.
However, he also accentuated the seismic shift of what many African-Americans thought they would never live to see, as an orgy of celebration erupted in cities nationwide.
"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," he said.
The Democrat and his incoming vice president, Senator Joseph Biden, must work in short order to douse the economic blaze while winding down the war in Iraq and renewing the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Obama is promising to renew bruised ties with US allies, and to engage some of the nation's fiercest foes such as Iran and North Korea. He has vowed to tackle climate change and guarantee health care for nearly all Americans.
Obama had a quiet start to his first day as president-elect, breakfasting with his wife Michelle and their two young daughters before hitting the gym and later heading on a planned visit to his Chicago campaign headquarters.
Washington's favorite parlor game began in earnest as rumors swirled over who he might tap for his cabinet. The secretaries of treasury, state and defense will be defining elements of the Obama administration.
News reports suggested Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel had already been tapped to be Obama's White House chief of staff. Campaign aides refused to discuss the reports about the hard-nosed, foul-mouthed Washington player.
Congratulations poured in from world leaders , along with demands to turn a page on Bush's divisive foreign policy. China and Russia both pledged "constructive" dialogue with the Obama government.
Top advisers to the next president will attend a White House summit being convened by Bush on November 15, as 20 world leaders thrash out a coordinated response to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The outgoing president offered generous praise to his mansion's next occupant. Pledging his "complete cooperation" in the transition of power, Bush invited Obama and Michelle to the White House at their earliest convenience.
"This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes -- and four decades later see (their) dream fulfilled," he told reporters in the Rose Garden.
With results confirmed from 46 states and the District of Columbia, Obama had 349 Electoral College votes, which are awarded state by state, smashing past the magic number of 270 needed for victory.
McCain had just 163 electoral votes, according to several estimates, and Obama joined a select club of presidential victors to win as well more than half of the popular vote , tallying 52 percent to 46 percent for the Republican.
The race was still too close to call in North Carolina and Missouri. But Obama beat McCain in all of the other major battlegrounds including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1964 to take Virginia and Indiana, in a historic political realignment after Bush's razor-thin victories in the past two elections.
Democrats also gained an unshakeable grip on power at the other end of Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue.
They took at least five more Senate seats to number 54 to the Republicans' 40. With another two independent senators who have generally voted with the Democrats, that left them four short of a "super-majority" that could overcome Republican stalling tactics.
But it was still enough to help Obama execute his ambitious agenda.
In the House of Representatives, the Democrats picked up 20 more seats for a total of 252, against 173 for the Republicans.
McCain was gracious in defeat after a toxic campaign in which he called Obama a woefully inexperienced "socialist" who would surrender to terrorists.
Noting that Obama's election was a moment to cherish for African-Americans , the Arizona senator told downcast supporters in Phoenix: "Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours."
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President-elect Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd following his victory speech at his election party in Chicago on November 4, 2008. Obama was Wednesday set to begin shaping his White House team, facing a barrage of daunting global and domestic challenges after sweeping to victory as America's first black president.
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