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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024


Sen. Barack Obama yesterday became the first black man to be elected president of the United States, defeating Sen. John McCain in a victory that reflected the nation's economic woes and tinted the electoral map decidedly blue.

"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," Obama said at a victory rally in Chicago's Grant Park.

The election was a large leap forward in the history of a country with delicate racial wounds that this presidential campaign helped to re-expose. But perhaps more importantly, it was a rejection of the Republican leadership that has guided the nation for the last eight years.

Obama, an Illinois senator, won states that months ago were considered solid Republican territory, while Democrats made significant inroads in the Senate and the House of Representatives. With four Senate elections still undecided at press time, the Democrats had picked up five seats, leaving them in control of 56 overall. In the House, meanwhile, Democrats gained at least 14 seats yesterday; 33 races were still undecided at press time.

"It's pretty much a total victory for the Democrats tonight," Political Science Lecturer Michael Goldman, a Democratic strategist, told the Daily late yesterday evening.

McCain, an Arizona senator, struggled to cement Americans' trust on economic issues, the primary concern on most voters' minds during a time when the country faces some of the worst financial turmoil in generations.

Dan Carol, the Obama campaign's national issues director, said voters saw McCain as out of touch on economic issues, citing a comment McCain made multiple times on the campaign trail. "When the economy's cratering and he says the fundamentals of the economy are sound, that was a tectonic shift. He clearly didn't get it, and Americans got it," Carol said.

"It was both a character question of, like, you have seven houses and you think the economy's fine, and it goes to [McCain's conservative] philosophy," he added.

Eighty-six percent of respondents to CNN's national exit poll yesterday said they were worried about the economy, and 63 percent said the economy was the number-one issue on their minds.

The war in Iraq, which Obama opposed from the outset and used as a wedge issue to set himself apart from fellow Democratic contenders in the primary elections, was patently secondary in yesterday's vote. Only 10 percent of voters called this the most important issue in the election, putting McCain, a decorated war veteran whom Americans trust more on foreign policy than Obama, at a disadvantage.

Obama energized young voters since the primary season and electrified minorities with his historic candidacy. His campaign mobilized these demographics in large numbers, allowing him to compete in states such as North Carolina and Indiana that until recently were considered solidly red. It was undetermined at press time whether Obama had won these two states.

While final turnout numbers have not been compiled, early tallies indicated that more young voters cast ballots this year than in 2004, which was already marked by a surge in youth turnout. Young voters chose Obama over McCain by a margin of 68 percent to 30 percent, according to numbers that the Tisch College of Public Citizenship's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) gave to MSNBC. "It's actually extraordinary," CIRCLE Director Peter Levine told MSNBC, saying that such a polarization of the youth vote was remarkable.

Associate Political Science Professor Pearl Robinson estimated that Obama won the support of between 93 and 97 percent of black voters who cast ballots. As a black woman, she said this election had a particular personal significance. "I felt that when I went to vote, marking that ballot was carrying history," she said.

"I tried to imagine, first of all, what it felt like for my parents not to be able to vote, and then what it felt like for me to be able to vote for them for Obama. In terms of my life, this was the most meaningful vote I have ever cast, and I don't expect to have another voting experience that will be like this."

McCain delivered a concession speech last night in Phoenix, Ariz. "We have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," he said.

McCain spent much of his speech honoring Obama's place in history as the first black president-elect. "America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of [the past]. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States," he said. "Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth."

Obama held his tens-of-thousands-strong victory rally at the Chicago park where rioters manifested their frustrations with the Vietnam War and the Democratic Party 40 years before during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said.

Tufts alum Liz Hoffman attended the rally and described the electric atmosphere. When Obama's victory was announced at around 11 p.m., "people just lost it," Hoffman (LA ‘08) said. "It was just deafening. There was laughing and a lot of people were crying."


Rachel Dolin and Rob Silverblatt contributed reporting to this article.

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