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2008 Presidential Election: Main Story

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Obama's Path to Victory
Electoral Map
Obama Trivia
A Study in Contrasts
List of 2008 Primaries and Caucuses
How the President Is Elected
The Electoral College
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The United States of America has its first nonwhite President. Barack Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, is the third President from Illinois. The first one freed the slaves, and the second one won the war to keep the slaves free. Two hundred and twenty-one years after the Constitution declared slaves to be three-fifths of a person, an African-American has been elected the leader of America.

In a clear victory on November 4, Obama won the Presidency over his Republican opponent, John McCain. Obama becomes the 44th President on Jan. 20, 2009. On that day, Joe Biden becomes Vice-president.

Obama won states in all sections of the country, including many that the current President, George W. Bush, had won handily in both 2000 and 2004. The Electoral College vote total as of early Wednesday morning was 349–163, with two states (Missouri and North Carolina) still too close to call. The total popularity vote had Obama ahead by five percentage votes and more than 6 million votes.

Even though Obama has won a clear victory, he still faces a big struggle. The financial crisis is by no means over. The election of the new president will no doubt usher in a renewal of confidence in the minds of many voters and investors. However, the number of financial institutions that have already failed or are in financial trouble is significant. The federal bailout package will be a piece of the puzzle, but many experts believe that more work will need to be done to shore up a troubled financial sector.

The two wars that American troops are now involved in will be a major focus as well. Obama has pledged to the end the war in Iraq as soon as is practicable. The amount of money being spent on that war is mind-boggling. The other war, in Afghanistan, will likely continue, since that country is thought to be the current home base of Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The public image of the United States has taken a beating in recent years, and Obama will no doubt have to work to reshape that perception, putting the best face on the American presence in the world.

Another major challenge that Obama will face is how to unite the country. Much of the Republican Party's strategy in the past few months was a version of divide and conquer. It would be all too easy for the newly anointed leaders of the U.S. to be tempted into a sort of payback mentality, including punitive actions to make up for past wrongs. That is precisely what Obama and his fellow Democrats must avoid, many analysts think, in order to keep moving forward. Obama has sold himself as a bipartisan candidate. How he deals with both his own party and also with the opposition remains to be seen, but his performances on the national stage in the past several years have included glimpses of the kind of cooperation that many people think will be sorely needed and respected in the challenging years ahead.

 
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