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06.11.2008 Feature Article

Detailed activities of Obama on the day of elections

Detailed activities of Obama on the  day of elections

Wrap up As the extraordinary spectacle of the first African-American winning the presidency was taking place on stage, something extraordinary was taking place offstage: Mr. Obama was raking up a stunning 338 electoral votes, at least so far. Mr. McCain was left with 156. Race, it seemed, had melted away as an issue.

Something else was happening too. While the whole world was standing back in amazement that America had elected its first black president, Mr. Obama asked not to be seen as a black man.

As in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Denver, he did not mention the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by name.

Yes, he told a gripping story. But it was not his story. He framed the journey of the civil rights struggle through the person of a 106-year-old woman in Georgia, Ann Nixon Cooper, who voted today.

She was “born just a generation past slavery” but for many years couldn't vote for two reasons, he said, shifting the attention slightly off the matter of race: “because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”

The vivid historic symbols were hers: “She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that 'We shall overcome.' Yes we can.”

He shifted the focus again so that her story was not solely about race.

A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination,” Mr. Obama said, conveying the passage of time.

And then this: “And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.”

It was arguably the most stirring part of an otherwise unremarkable speech. And it came at the end. The occasion called for more grandeur than Mr. Obama seemed to allow himself. His muting of the racial component perhaps signaled the way he intends to govern, not as the black president but, as he said, the president of the whole country.

Name That Tune | 12:54 a.m.

Ah, one mystery solved. The music swelling in the background was “The Patriot,” composed by John Williams, reports our diligent colleague, Jeff Zeleny.

Taking It In | 12:22 a.m. The Obamas and the Bidens all trail off stage now, leaving Mr. Obama alone briefly to absorb the applause. Michelle awaits him in the wings and they exit, arm in arm. Family Affair | 12:19 a.m.

The vice-president elect, Joe Biden, comes out on stage with Mr. Obama, and then their wives join them, and the rest of the Obama and Biden clans file out, including Mr. Biden's mother, as slow, majestic music swells around them.

Multitasking | 12:14 a.m.

Even as Mr. Obama speaks, “he” is texting his supporters. Amazing! “We just made history,” the text says. “All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion to this campaign.”

Honouring a 106-Year-Old Woman | 12:14 a.m.

Mr. Obama then honors a woman named Anne Nixon Cooper, who is 106 years old and lives in Georgia, who voted today. She had been in Selma. She has heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Yes we can, he says. “This is our moment, this is our time.”

Addresses McCain Supporters | 12:11 a.m.

Mr. Obama speaks to those who did not vote for him, saying he hears their concerns. “I will be your president too,” he says. And he speaks to the world: “Our stories are singular but our destiny is shared.” And he declares: “A new dawn of American leadership is at hand.”

The Scene | 12:08 a.m.

Along with the presidency, you've got to give Mr. Obama the prize for stagecraft. This is an extraordinarily well-framed scene. Mr. Obama is standing on an open blue stage with flags waving behind him before an ocean of people.

A Puppy! | 12:04 a.m.

Mr. Obama praises his wife and daughters, who he says “have earned the new puppy” that he promised them. He briefly mentions his grandmother, who died last night, and others in his family. “I miss them tonight,” he says.

Praises McCain | 12:03 a.m.

Mr. Obama says he received a “gracious” call from Mr. McCain. “He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine,” he says, calling Mr. McCain “brave and selfelss.” Mr. Obama congratulates Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin “for all they have achieved” and says he looks forward to working with them “to renew this nation's promise.”

'Tonight Is Your Answer' | 12:00 a.m.

“Hello, Chicago,” he begins. “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,” Mr. Obama says, “tonight is your answer.”

“It's a long time coming, but because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” he says.

The Future First Family | 11:57 p.m.

President-elect Barack Obama is taking the stage in Grant Park. He strolls out, casually and somewhat somberly, with his wife Michelle and their two daughters. As he has so often in this tumultuous campaign, he seems preternaturally calm.

Oprah | 11:47 p.m.

Oprah has arrived at the VIP section in Grant Park, so Mr. Obama's victory speech is clearly about to get underway, reports Jeff Zeleny.

Representative Rahm Emanuel was also among those who arrived with his family to hear the speech. “It's a great night for America,” he said as he walked by. “We'll never be the same tomorrow.”

Asked whether he was going to be chief of staff, Mr. Emanuel snapped: “Are you?” He did not answer the question. A few minutes later, Oprah Winfrey walked into the grassy area where top supporters and campaign workers were gathering. Asked what she thought of the moment, she turned and flashed a wide smile and threw both thumbs into the air.

CBS says there are almost a million people in Grant Park.

Update | 11:35 p.m.

Our colleague Jeff Zeleny, who is in Grant Park with Mr. Obama, says that Mr. McCain called Mr. Obama at 10 pm Chicago time. In the call, Mr. Obama said he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them could work together to move this country forward.

“I need your help, you're a leader on so many important issues,” Mr. Obama told his rival, according to an Obama adviser, Robert Gibbs.

No Regrets | 11:27 p.m.

Mr. McCain refers to his campaign as “the most challenged campaign in modern times.” He says he doesn't know what he did wrong, “but I won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.” He refers to “my old friend, Joe Biden,” drawing boos from the crowd.

Even as he was conceding the race, Mr. McCain was ahead in North Carolina by .6 percent of the vote and behind in Indiana by .3 percent of the vote.

Shout-Out for Sarah | 11:25 p.m.

Mr. McCain gives a nod to his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, who gets a big applause as he calls her “one of the best campaigners I have ever seen and an impressive new voice in our party.”

'Failure Is Mine' | 11:24 p.m.

“We fought as hard as we could, and though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours,” Mr. McCain says. “The road was a difficult one from the outset.”

'A Historic Election' | 11:20 p.m.

“This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” Mr. McCain says.

Mr. McCain was initially booed by some in his crowd when he mentioned Mr. Obama's name but he seemed to turn them around. McCain Takes the Stage | 11:17 p.m.

Mr. McCain steps to the mic in Phoenix. “We have come to the end of a long journey,” he says. “The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.”

McCain Concedes Election | 11:09 p.m.

Mr. McCain has called Mr. Obama to concede, says The Associated Press.

'Worth It' | 11:07 p.m.

Representative John Lewis of Georgia, veterans of the civil rights movement, on NBC: “The struggle, the suffering the pain and everything we tried to do to create a more perfect union, it was worth it.”

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, said he spoke to his parents in South Carolina a few minutes ago. “I am so happy that they lived to see this moment,” he said. “It feels different to me being an American tonight.”

And the Crowd Goes Wild | 11:01 p.m.

The television networks are projecting Barack Obama “will be the president of the United States.” “This is more than election night in America, this is a momentous night in the history of our people,” says Bob Schieffer on CBS. Jeff Greenfield, also on CBS, says this is the fastest rise of a politician in American history.

Tom Brokaw: “This is not just a moment in American history, this is a profoundly important passage” out of the shadows of our racial history.

Some of the channels are letting the exuberant crowd in Grant Park speak for itself.

Monica Davey reports from Grant Park: When CNN called the race for Barack Obama the crowd in the streets here began screaming, jumping, waving fists, dancing in the streets. People here are hugging, long, long embraces. Some are crying. We hear from our colleagues outside the Times's office that it is like New Year's Eve in Times Square in New York.

Anticipation | 10:50 p.m.

Out of an abundance of caution, the network and cable channels are resisting actually calling the race, even as they have called various states and many of pundits are saying that Mr. McCain has virtually no hope now. This makes things seem oddly anti-climactic on television, but you can see the crowd building at Mr. Obama's gigantic rally in Grant Park. Tom Brokaw says on NBC that what is happening in the country now is “an anticipated story line.”

Honoring Tim | 10:47 p.m.

On MSNBC, an homage to Tim Russert: Chuck Todd, the political director, says that he is trying to imagine what state Mr. Russert, who famously wrote “Florida, Florida, Florida” in 2000 on his white board, would be focusing on tonight to explain the results. Mr. Russert wouldn't be writing about a state, Mr. Todd says, he would be writing: “Bush, Bush, Bush.”

Rove's Analysis | 10:42 p.m.

Fox just called Virginia for Mr. Obama. By a nose. Karl Rove says on Fox that the country is still center-right, even as it appears on the brink of electing Mr. Obama president.

A Closer Look at Ohio | 10:32 p.m.

Ohio is, of course, a place that will be studied, and fought over, for years to come. The economy seemed to be the driving issue here. Mr. Obama won white voters earning less than $50,000 by 52-46 percent over Mr. McCain.

Women in Ohio gave Mr. Obama a 10-point edge; in 2004, they divided evenly between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush.

Now a Word From Our Sponsor | 10:30 p.m.

Is it just us, or does it seem like there are a ton of commercials on? As we flip through the channels looking for news, there are so many commercials, we're tempted to stop and watch “The Office.”

More on North Carolina | 10:21 p.m.

In North Carolina, where it's still too close to call, blacks made up 22 percent of the vote; in 2004, they accounted for 26 percent. Seems surprising, given the substantial turnout of blacks for early voting and the enthusiasm for Mr. Obama. But the difference can be explained by this year's larger turnout overall. While more blacks voted this time, it looks as if a lot more whites voted too.

A Closer Look at Pennsylvania | 10:15 p.m.

We're getting more of a breakdown in Pennsylvania, and the numbers are pretty interesting. Mr. Obama did substantially better than Mr. Kerry in 2004 — and Mr. McCain did worse than Mr. Bush — in both the Philadelphia suburbs and in the Northeast, which includes Scranton.

Specifically, Mr. Obama swept the suburbs, 58-41 (in 2004, Mr. Kerry won 54-46). In the Northeast, Mr. Obama won 57-42, compared with Mr. Kerry's 51-49. How to explain the sweep in the more liberal suburbs along with the sweep in the more culturally conservative Northeast? In the suburbs, the Republican ticket may have been too conservative; also, the financial collapse was an issue there because home values have been high. In the Northeast, Senator Bob Casey vouched for Mr. Obama. So did Scranton native Joe Biden as well as Mrs. Clinton, whose family is from there.

But in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama (83 percent) did not do markedly better than Mr. Kerry (81 percent). Mr. McCain (16 percent) did slightly worse than Mr. Bush (19 percent).

In Pittsburgh and the western counties, Mr. Obama did exactly the same as Mr. Kerry, winning 53 percent, and Mr. McCain did exactly the same as Mr. Bush, with 46 percent.

In the central and northern parts of the state, Mr. Obama did better than Mr. Kerry and Mr. McCain did worse than President Bush.

Update | 10:08 p.m.

The Times has called Ohio and Michigan for Senator Obama.

The Excitement Gap | 9:42 p.m.

Talk about an enthusiasm gap. The exit polls show that, nationally, twice as many Obama voters (56 percent) are excited about him as McCain voters (28 percent) are excited about their candidate, according to exit poll data.

More on Virginia | 9:41 p.m.

Virginia is still a nail-biter: with three-fourths of precincts reporting, Mr. McCain is leading by about .3 percent of the vote.

The Scene in Grant Park | 9:34 p.m.

Our colleague Monica Davey is in Chicago and sends the following update:

The mood here in the northern section of Grant Park, where tens of thousands of people had gathered by 8:30 p.m. (Central Time), has grown giddy. With each CNN projection for Mr. Obama on the enormous TV screen, members of the crowd screamed, danced, shrieked. Some in the crowd hollered the states - even ones that had long been expected to be in the Obama camp - back at the screen: WISCONSIN! MINNESOTA! ILLINOIS! More from Grant Park.

More Call Ohio | 9:32 p.m.

CNN has just called Ohio too. And NBC and ABC gave projected Mr. Obama will win the Buckeye State. Rudolph W. Giuliani, former presidential candidate and former mayor of New York, is on Fox. He says of his friend Mr. McCain: “Nobody could have done better.”

Some Call Ohio | 9:24 p.m.

CBS and Fox New projects Ohio for Mr. Obama.

Bob Schieffer on CBS: “I think Barack Obama is going to be the president of the United States.” Katie Couric: “The cake is baked, in your view?” Mr. Schieffer: “Yes.”

Close Races | 9:23 p.m.

Some of the important races are neck-and-neck: North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. Mr. McCain has to win one if not all of these states. Here's the current snapshot:

In North Carolina, a quarter of the vote is in and Mr. Obama has a slight lead. Wake County (Raleigh), which has leaned strongly for Mr. Obama in the polls, has not reported yet.

In Virginia, with more than half the vote in, Mr. McCain has a slight lead. Mr. Obama is doing well in the northern suburbs of Washington, but Mr. McCain's vote is strong in the rural areas.

In Indiana, with 65 percent of the vote in, Mr. McCain is maintaining a slight lead, but there are still no results yet from Gary (Lake County).

Schmidt on the Plane | 9:13 p.m.

Steve Schmidt, who ran Mr. McCain's campaign, tells reporters on the McCain plane that no candidate “will ever have to run in a worse political climate.” He also pointedly did not defend the pick of Gov. Sarah Palin as the running mate.

Our colleague, Elisabeth Bumiller, was on the plane; here's some of the Q & A with Mr. Schmidt: Q: As the campaign has come to a close, are you happy with it?

A: I think we did our absolute best in this campaign in really difficult circumstances. We had some tough cards to play all the way through and we hung in there all the way…. You look back in the middle of September, economic collapse of the country, a number of different things we did the best we can in historically difficult circumstances from a political climate. It is highly doubtful that anyone will ever have to run in a worse political climate than the one John McCain had to run in this year.

Q: What were the hardest things you faced? A: The global economic collapse in the middle of September occurring at a time when we were ahead in the race, dropping the right track number to roughly five, six, seven percent, which are numbers I don't think will ever be seen again in any of our lifetimes, it was very difficult. It was a bad economic environment throughout the election, where people were angry at the incumbent party and at the end of the day, I don't think there's another Republican the party could have nominated that could have made this a competitive race the way that John McCain did… The president's approval numbers, you know, were not helpful in the race. But the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people and that was a big albatross.

Q: And the pick of Palin for you guys? Are you happy with that? A: You know, well uh, I'm not going to do… there'll be time for all the post-mortem in the race. Q: But are you happy with what she's done for the ticket?

A: I think that, you know, I think well know in a few hours what the results are, you know and I, there'll be a time for all the post mortem parts of it. That's not this afternoon before the polls close.

To the Nines | 8:53 p.m.

Coming up at 9 p.m. Eastern, polls close across a wide swath of the country, from Rhode Island to Arizona. Several key states are set to begin tallying votes, including Michigan, North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin. And polls close in New York, too.

Catholics in Pa. | 8:43 p.m.

White Catholics in Pennsylvania gave a slight edge to Mr. McCain, but the so-called Clinton Democrats, who voted for Mrs. Clinton in the primary, swung to Mr. Obama, about 80-20.

Indiana | 8:43 p.m.

Hey, Indiana — remember Indiana, from, like an hour ago? About half the vote is in and Mr. McCain has a very slim lead.

Flashback | 8:33 p.m.

Among all white voters, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain ran about evenly. Senator John Kerry lost white voters in Pennsylvania the state to Mr. Bush in 2004 by 9 points Among black voters, Obama was backed by 96 percent of them, compared with 84 percent for Mr. Kerry in 2004.

Not Over | 8:39 p.m.

Nicolle Wallace, a McCain spokeswoman, says on Fox, that this race is “far from over.” And, she says, their political director, Mike Duhaime, says they don't have enough information to confirm that Pennsylvania has gone for Mr. Obama.

More on Pennsylvania | 8:37 p.m.

This is a bad sign for Mr. McCain — but only if Mr. Obama scores in the red states that he has made competitive. Republicans can win without Pennsylvania, witness George W. Bush in 2004. But this makes it much harder for Mr. McCain. He has to hold a bunch of those red states.

And now: CNN calls Pennsylvania.

Race a Positive | 8:28 p.m.

According to exit polls, about a quarter of people in Pennsylvania said race was a factor — but it was a positive force. Six in 10 of those who said race was a factor said they voted for Mr. Obama.

In the primary, 19 percent in Pennsylvania said race was a factor; 59 percent of those voted for Senator Hillary Clinton, while 41 percent voted for Mr. Obama.

Meanwhile, Fox News calls Pennsylvania for Mr. Obama.

Pennsylvania | 8:08 p.m.

MSNBC pundits are focusing heavily on Pennsylvania shortly after the network called the state for Obama. NBC News called Pennsylvania shortly after the polls closed (as did ABC News), but we haven't seen any votes in.

“The Keystone state is not there for the Republicans this year,” Chris Matthews says of Pennsylvania on MSNBC.

Voter Disapproval | 8:08 p.m. Voters are unhappy with President Bush; more than 7 in 10 say they disapprove of the job he is doing. But it looks as if Mr. Obama was only marginally successful in linking Mr. McCain to Mr. Bush. Half of voters say Mr. McCain would continue Mr. Bush's policies (they support Mr. Obama), but only slightly less than half say Mr. McCain would take the country in a different direction (and they support Mr. McCain.)

New Hampshire | 8:02 p.m. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have all called New Hampshire for Barack Obama.

Polls Closing in Many States | 8 p.m. It is 8 p.m. and there is an outbreak of not-very-surprising calls. For Mr. Obama: Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maine, Delaware, Maryland. For Mr. McCain: Oklahoma, Tennessee. Credit: New York Times.

The Chronicle
The Chronicle, © 2008

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