- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Democrat Barack Obama amassed an early lead Tuesday, including a projected win in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, as his epic election battle with Republican John McCain drew to a close.

U.S. media projected wins for the Democrat in Vermont, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia. McCain was projected to win in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama and Arkansas.

Obama was also projected to win in Pennsylvania, a battleground state that McCain had declared a must-win.

Obama had 102 electoral votes to McCain’s 49; 270 is needed to win.

Americans packed schoolhouses and streamed in long lines around city blocks to participate in an election dominated by a battered economy at home and war abroad and which offered a certain history-making result.

Obama and McCain campaigned to the very last minute, offering voters a choice between the first black president or a war hero whose runningmate would shatter the political glass ceiling for women.

McCain visited campaign volunteers after a rally in Colorado where he urged supporters not to give up despite polls and pundits predicting a Democratic victory.

“America is worth fighting for,” the Arizona senator told a crowd of several thousand at an airport hanger in Grand Junction. “Nothing is inevitable here.”

When Mr. McCain came to the press area of the Straight Talk Express this evening on his way back to Arizona, his wife Cindy and close friends Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman joined him. The trio had tears in their eyes.

The Arizona senator spoke, without tears or any sign of emotion:

“Well, my friends, this is our last flight on this airplane together and so I just wanted to stop back. Yesterday I know was really a fun day, starting out at the crack of dawn and ended up at 2 am, we went 3,700 miles yesterday. We had a great ride and were looking forward to the election results tonight. Feelin good, feelin confident about the way things have turned out.

“Weve had a great ride, a great experience and its full of memories that we will always treasure, including the last one up there in Colorado, where people were so warm. And the enthusiasm, as you have seen, in rallies has really been quite remarkable and quite heart warming.

“So weve spent a lot of time together. Some have been together for almost two years, others most of the ones that rode around in the van with us and on the $39.99 flight to Manchester. So any way, weve had a great time, I wish you all every success and look forward to being with you in the future. Thanks very much.”

The campaign pit a self-described maverick and war hero against a freshman senator with a golden tongue and a disciplined campaign.

Polls had McCain slightly ahead in September until a global economic crisis shifted support to the Democrats who portrayed themselves as better able to deal with financial adversity.

Exit polls showed that the economy was the main issue on voters’ minds as they went to the polls on Tuesday.

According to an Associated Press exit poll, six in 10 voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the nation and half the voters said the economy is in poor shape.

The historic nature of the contest between the first African-American presidential candidate and a Republican ticket featuring a woman candidate for vice president drew record turnout. Forty million of 153 eligible voters voted early and turnout could exceed 75 percent in battleground states such as Virginia.

There were also reports of voting machine problems and other irregularities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, another battleground state. Both campaigns have teams of lawyers at the ready to challenge the vote.

Jim Delgado, a longtime retired government worker in Washington, D.C. , said he was thrilled to be voting for Mr. Obama.

Second in line after arriving at 5:30 a.m. at the St. Francis Hall polling place, he called the Obama candidacy “the fruit of the civil rights movement.”

Jerry Fritsch of McCain’s home state, Arizona, said he has nephews in the Marine Corps and preferred McCain because Obama might “screw with the Marine Corps.”

While the Arizona Republican campaigned in traditionally GOP states, Obama made a last foray to Indiana before returning to Chicago to await the results.

Polls give the Democrat a good chance to win in Indiana, which President Bush won by 20 percentage points in 2004, but the Illinois senator said he was taking nothing for granted.

“It’s going to be tight as a tick here in Indiana,” he said. “So the question is who wants it more.”

Earlier, both candidates voted in their home districts.

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joseph Biden and Republican Sarah Palin also voted at home.

“Tomorrow, I hope, I pray, I believe that I’ll be able to wake up as vice president-elect and be able to get to work,” Palin said after casting her ballot in Wasilla, Alaska. “I’m so anxious to get to work for the American people.”

Palin, who has indicated that she might want to be the Republican standardbearer in 2012 if Obama wins, said she recognized the historic nature of the current campaign.

“It bodes so well for the progress our great country is making,” she said. “This is the land of possibilities and opportunities.

Christina Bellantoni and Joseph Curl contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire services.

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