AP - His storied election behind him and weighty problems in his face, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to the task of building an administration in times of crisis as Americans and the world absorbed his history-shattering achievement as the first black leader ascending to the presidency.
Obama won on his own terms, strategically and symbolically. He rolled up a series of contested states, from Colorado to Virginia, long out of Democratic reach. And his victory reflected the accuracy of his vision of a reshaped country. Racism, much discussed, turned out to be a footnote, and African-American turnout was not unusually high. Instead, Obama drew his strength from an array of racially mixed, growing areas around cities like Orlando, Washington, Indianapolis, and Columbus on his way to at least 334 electoral votes.
“Even as we celebrate tonight we know that the challenges tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” Obama told a crowd of more than 100,000 in Chicago’s Grant Park.
The assembled crowd had been strangely silent through the evening, even as Obama shut the door for McCain by winning New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and even after his victory in Ohio pointed toward a landslide, seemingly unwilling to accept or believe the impending victory.
Only at 11:00 p.m., when CNN declared that Obama had surpassed 270 electoral votes, did the crowd roar in approval.
"This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance to make that change," Obama said, standing between two bulletproof glass walls.
McCain, speaking in a somber concession speech outside the Phoenix hotel where he married his wife, declared that he had done what he could.
"I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election," he said.
Calling Obama "my president," McCain vowed to work with him to help repair a nation facing profound challenges at home and abroad.
"These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face," McCain said.
After booing Obama's name and offering a few jeers, the crowd came to recognize the history in the evening when McCain paid tribute to the nation's first black president by recalling his own favorite commander-in-chief.