By GEORGE PASCOE-WATSON Political Editor in NEW YORK and
EMILY SMITH US Editor GRANT PARK, CHICAGO
In his first speech as President Elect he told a mass rally in Chicago: “Change has come to America”.
The rookie Senator smashed Republican rival John McCain as he made history with a landslide victory.
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell called Obama’s election “historic” today and claimed Obama will be president for all Americans.
Democrat Obama won the race for the White House at precisely 4am this morning and will become the 44th United States President.
He passed the magical 270 votes needed to secure the White House after securing the key states of Florida and Virginia.
Thousands of screaming supporters burst into cheers and began flying the Stars and Stripes as they waited for the first black President to appear.
He told those gathered: “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
He said in his first words as president: “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.”
His victory speech was delivered before a multiracial crowd that city officials estimated at 125,000 in Grant Park, and possibly thousands more in the surrounding area.
Many cried and nodded their heads while he spoke, surrounded by clear bulletproof screens on his left and right.
He appeared on stage with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, ten, and Sasha, seven, poised to become the first family of colour ever to occupy the White House.
Every family member dressed in black and red, and Obama told his daughters during his speech that they would get the puppy he promised would come with a victory.
“Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” he said.
“There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.”
He was already suggesting a second term to accomplish his goals, saying he expected “setbacks and false starts.”
“We may not get there in one year or even one term,” he said. “But America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.”
To those who voted against him, he said, “I will be your president, too.”
Obama, an Illinois senator born 47 years ago of a white American mother and a black African father, sprinkled his address with references to the civil rights struggle.
He paid tribute to Ann Nixon Cooper, a 106-year-old daughter of slaves born at a time when women and blacks could not vote. She cast her ballot in Atlanta Tuesday, Obama said.
Early this morning Vietnam War veteran McCain, 72, was already preparing to concede defeat.
America voted in record numbers, standing in lines that snaked around blocks and in some places in pouring rain.
Voters who queued up and the millions who balloted early propelled 2008 to what one expert said was the highest turnout in a century.
It looks like 136.6million Americans will have voted for president this election, based on 88 per cent of the country’s precincts tallied and projections for absentee ballots, said Michael McDonald of George Mason University.
Using his methods, that would give 2008 a 64.1 per cent turnout rate.
“That would be the highest turnout rate that we’ve seen since 1908,” which was 65.7 per cent, McDonald said.
It also would beat the old post World War II high of 63.8 per cent in the famed 1960 John F Kennedy-Richard Nixon contest.
The total voting in 2008 easily outdistanced 2004’s 122.3million, which had been the highest grand total of voters before.
Obama entered the final hours of the election with a seven per cent poll lead over his rival but many held their breath for fear that Americans would never put a black man in the Oval Office.
But early today the map of America turned progressively blue as states fell to Obama’s romping Democratic Party.
The first sign of history changing came as Pennsylvania backed Obama.
McCain had poured millions of dollars into the state and regarded it as a must win.
But an hour later Ohio was projected to go Democrat in what was a crushing blow to the Republican effort.
Iowa was also due to fall to Obama – another hammer blow to the McCain camp.
By 3am Obama was projected to have netted 200 electoral votes and with California’s 55 votes guaranteed, he was a dead cert to smash the magic 270 needed to take Office.
Early projections said Obama was on course to hit 311 electoral votes to just 163 for Republican rival McCain.
Obama swept to victory as expected in Democratic states in the east and midwest of America shortly after 1am this morning.
Excitement was building as thousands packed into a Chicago park for Obama’s election night party.
There were scenes of jubilation as the crowd watched state after state being called for Obama on giant screens.
Up to a million people were expected to pack into Grant Park to get a glimpse of Obama on the historic election night.
Celebrities including George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, and Matt Damon were also expected at the bash to mingle with the Illinois senator and his family in his home town party.
Meanwhile, McCain’s election night party TURNED OFF the results last night as the results began rolling in for Obama.
The few thousand supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, watched as early red states were called for McCain.
But, moments before the crucial states of Pennsylvania and Ohio were called for Obama – the results were abruptly switched off.
Instead his sombre supporters were entertained by live music to cover the sinking feeling at the Biltmore Hotel.
In Chicago, the crowd were being whipped up into a frenzy as it was announced that Obama had won the state of New Mexico shortly before 3am GMT.
McCain’s campaign hit the rocks after the Lehman bank collapse over the summer.
He had a slight lead in the polls before the bank crash but his handling of the crisis was widely seen as disastrous.
McCain insisted the “fundamentals” of the economy was still strong even as the massive investment bank went under and tens of thousands lost their homes.
He then called off a live debate to travel to the White House with Obama for emergency bank rescue talks – only to refuse to back the President’s bailout plan.
Americans began to question his judgment but his decision to hire Sarah Palin as his running mate sent his poll ratings crashing.
It was discovered he appointed her his Vice Presidential nominee after just two meetings with her.
And she became a walking disaster for his campaign with her cringe-making lack of understanding of foreign policy.
She joked she knew about foreign affairs because she could “see Russia” from her home in Alaska.
Palin then paraded her own family on the world stage and was rarely seen without her new-born baby who has Down’s Syndrome.
It then was revealed her eldest daughter was pregnant by her redneck hockey-playing boyfriend and the pair are unmarried.