In a historic victory, Barack Obama was elected the 44th president Tuesday, demonstrating the broad base of support from Americans excited by his message of change and worried about the economy.
The young Illinois senator, the first black candidate to win a major party's nomination, soundly defeated his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Holding on to every state that voted for his party in the last election, the Democrat ran up a convincing electoral margin by winning traditionally Republican states such as Virginia, Colorado and Indiana. Two more states, Missouri and North Carolina, were too close to call early this morning.
With 91 percent of precincts reporting nationally, Obama had received 52 percent of the popular vote to McCain's 47 percent.
Sixty million Americans voted for the Democrat, while 54 million chose the Republican.
As the night went on, Obama racked up victory after victory in states McCain had said he needed to win - including successes in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Though McCain trailed badly throughout most of the night, it was not until polls closed in West Coast states that television networks declared Obama the winner.
Brown students, many of whom had supported the Democrat throughout his campaign, celebrated on the Main Green in droves after networks called the election for Obama around 11 p.m. Hundreds of students gathered around the flagpole - shooting off flares, loudly congratulating one another and, in some cases, taking off their clothes and sprinting across the Green.
Appearing before a crowd of more than 100,000 in Grant Park in his hometown of Chicago, Obama addressed the nation at midnight for the first time as president-elect, conscious that the rest of the world was watching closely.
"If there is anyone out there," he said, "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 - tonight is your answer."
"I was never the likeliest candidate for this office," he said. "We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington."
But "change," he concluded, invoking a centerpiece of his campaign, "has come to America."
McCain conceded the race in a speech before supporters in Phoenix shortly after media called the election for Obama. "The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," he said.
"Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country," he added.
Though polls made Obama the clear front-runner in the eyes of voters and the media in the weeks before the election, the Democrat fought a disciplined campaign through the final days.
A first-term senator and the youngest man to be elected president since John F. Kennedy, Obama, 47, waged a relentless battle against accusations that he was inexperienced, too liberal or that he had questionable relationships in his past.
But over nearly two years of campaigning, Obama was able to successfully brand himself as a transformative politician, capturing widespread dissatisfaction with an unpopular president and selling his unique message of optimism.
He attracted young people and African-Americans in record numbers but insisted on building a broad coalition of Americans by not defining his candidacy in terms of his race.
The vice president-elect, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, is expected to bring his expertise in foreign affairs with him to the administration.
Many of Obama's fellow Democrats had good nights as well, as the party expanded its current majorities in the House and Senate.
As of early this morning, Democrats had picked up five seats previously held by Republicans. Democrats captured open seats in Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia and knocked off Republican incumbents John Sununu in New Hampshire and Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina, raising the number of Democrats to 56.
Three more Senate seats - in Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon - were still too close to call, but all signs pointed toward Democrats falling short of the 60-member "filibuster-proof" majority some had dared to speculate about.
In the House, Democrats appeared to have picked up a net of about 20 seats, widening their existing majority.
Among incumbents who were defeated was Republican Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, the last remaining House Republican representing New England.
Around the country, a number of states considered contentious ballot initiatives, which met with mixed success.
Both Arizona and Florida passed constitutional bans on gay marriage in those states, and California also appeared to be leaning in the direction of enacting such a ban as of early this morning, with about three-quarters of the state's precincts reporting.
Californians also appeared to have narrowly rejected a constitutional amendment that would require parental notification for abortions performed on minors - although half the precincts were yet to report.
In South Dakota, a restrictive ban on abortion was defeated, and Washington passed a law allowing doctor-assisted suicide under some circumstances.
In Rhode Island, voters approved two measures to allow the issuance of bonds to create public park spaces and to fund transportation in the state.
- With reporting from the Associated Press and CNN