Obama, McCain await judgment of history
AFP - 1 hour 8 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Democrat Barack Obama faced a tense wait Tuesday to see if millions of American voters would enshrine him as the first black president or whether Republican John McCain would mount a shock comeback.
The two presidential rivals could do nothing but await their fates in a presidential and Congressional election which could see a rare political and generational realignment in the United States.
Tens of millions of people cast votes with America locked in a moment of national crisis, mired in the worst financial meltdown since the 1930s and tens of thousands of troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama had a solid lead in final national polls and held the edge in a string of battleground states that could still swing the election either way, as both candidates hunted the 270 electoral college votes needed to win.
All day, long queues snaked outside polling places as voters braved hours-long waits, rain, or shivering cold amid unanimous predictions of record turnout at the climax of the longest and costliest White House race in history.
First polls closed in parts of Indiana and Kentucky at 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) with another slew of potential swing states including Virginia, Georgia, and most of Florida halting voting an hour later.
That group could give an early indication of whether Obama , who has run a campaign vowing to forge hope and change, will perform up to polls which suggest he could be heading for a big victory, or whether voters will balk at putting him in the White House.
CNN reported that exit polls showed that the economy was the top priority, being named by 62 percent of voters, compared to Iraq with 10 percent, terrorism on nine percent and healthcare on nine percent.
Obama made a short election day trip to the midwestern swing state of Indiana, after casting his vote alongside wife Michelle with daughters Sasha and Malia close by.
"I feel great and it was fun, I had a chance to vote with my daughters," he said.
"I noticed that Michelle took a long time though. I had to check to see who she was voting for," the Hawaiian-born US senator from Illinois, 47, said with a laugh.
Obama later showed up with some friends at a Chicago gym for his traditional election day game of pickup basketball.
McCain kept silent as he voted in his home state of Arizona, but later led a boisterous rally in Grand Junction, Colorado , promising supporters: "We're going to win it."
His running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin , cast her ballot in her hometown of Wasilla and said she was "optimistic and confident" of becoming the first woman US vice president.
Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Obama's running mate, voted in his home state with his 91-year-old mother and wife Jill.
There were already signs that predictions of massive voter turnout were being fulfilled.
More than 100 million people were expected to trek to the polls, while 30 million advance ballots were cast in the state-by-state electoral battle, as Democrats hoped new and younger voters would sweep them to victory.
There were also scores of reports of malfunctioning voting machines and sporadic accounts of small-scale incidents at polling stations.
McCain's campaign filed suit complaining that Virginia counties failed to send absentee ballots to military personnel soon enough for them to vote on time.
In the south side of Chicago, there was joy and disbelief that an African American candidate seemed to be on the threshold of the presidency.
"I think that we're gonna get him," said 92-year-old Roby Clark as he waited to vote for Obama at a Baptist church in Chicago.
"Through God's blessings, I think we're gonna get him," said Clark who vividly remembers being forced to sit at the back of a bus in the segregated southern United States.
In Christianburg, Virginia , Norma Jean Lundis said she voted for McCain because he "stands for what I believe in -- less government, lets me control my money, the right to bear arms, life begins at conception, marriage between man and woman."
Obama and McCain, one of whom will become the first sitting senator elected president since John F. Kennedy in 1960, neared the finish line on Monday with competing cross-country campaign blitzes.
McCain, leveraging his heroism as a Vietnam war prisoner and decades of experience in Washington, would be at 72 the oldest president inaugurated for a first term if elected.
Obama was to await the voters' verdict in Chicago. McCain huddled with top aides at a posh hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. Bush stayed out of sight at the White House.
The two candidates waged a bitter and often hotly personal feud for months, culminating in rival 11th-hour get-out-the-vote blitzes on Monday in many states that Bush won easily in 2004.
Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and white mother from Kansas, would become the first African American president after a stunning rise to the pinnacle of US politics.
He promises to alleviate the economic pinch for the middle class and repair ties with US allies, weigh opening talks with foes such as Iran and Cuba, bring troops home from Iraq and refocus on the Afghan war.
McCain, who has fought to distance himself from Bush, has lambasted Obama for "socialist" tax policies, and argues his rival is unprepared for an age of global turmoil while accusing him of wanting to retreat in defeat from Iraq.
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