Obama leads in earliest vote
US: Buoyed by a surge in support from young voters, Barack Obama
could become the first Democrat to capture traditionally Republican
Virginia in more than four decades Tuesday, helping him clinch the White
With more than five million Virginians registered to vote statewide,
including 500,000 mostly young new voters, election officials reported
heavy turnout as polling stations opened earlier than much of the rest
of the country. Callers to a national voter hotline reported
experiencing long lines and voting machine problems but despite the
technical problems, Obama supporters were optimistic.
“This is the right time for the pendulum to swing in favor of the
Democrats and Virginia will set the stage for an Obama victory,” said
Richard McClevey, an ex-State Department employee campaigning in the
southwestern town of Blacksburg for the 47-year-old Illinois senator.
Obama came up a big winner in the presidential race in Dixville Notch
and Hart’s Location, New Hampshire, where a tradition of having the
first Election Day ballots tallied lives on.
Democrat Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6
in Dixville Notch, where a loud whoop accompanied the announcement. It
was the first time Dixville Notch chose the Democratic candidate since
At least four independent polls over the last week showed Obama has
an edge by up to nine percentage points over Republican Senator John
McCain in traditionally conservative Virginia, which last voted for a
Democrat for president in 1964.
had agreed on one thing during the longest presidential campaign in
US history - their promise to slam the door on the era of George W.
But they were deeply at odds over how to fix the nation’s crumbling
economy and end the 5 1/2-year war in Iraq, the issues that sent Bush’s
job approval plummeting to a record low at the end of his eight-year
Record numbers of Americans were expected at polling stations across
the US adding their ballots to 29 million citizens who had already voted
in 30 states. The early vote tally suggested an advantage for Obama,
with official statistics showing that Democrats voted in larger numbers
than Republicans in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa. All four
states voted for Bush in 2004.
Sad news overshadowed the campaign on Monday when Obama announced the
death of his grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped him
deeply. Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86 when she died of cancer late Sunday
“She’s gone home,” Obama said, tears running down both cheeks as tens
of thousands of rowdy supporters at the University of North
Carolina-Charlotte grew silent as he announced Dunham’s death. The
family said a private ceremony would be held later.
He explained to the North Carolina audience how Dunham inspired his
campaign by her lifetime of hard work and sacrifice.
“In just one more day we have the opportunity to honour all those
quiet heroes all across America,” Obama said. “We can bring change to
America to make sure their work and their sacrifice is honoured. That’s
what we’re fighting for.” Obama wrapped up his campaign by speaking to a
crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people in Manassas, Virginia, near
the site of the first major battle of the American Civil War that ended
slavery, before heading home to Chicago to await the election returns.
McCain, a 72-year-old four-term Arizona senator, ended the contest on
Monday with a frantic and grueling dash through several traditionally
Republican states still not securely in his camp or even leaning to
McCain stopped in Florida, Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico and Nevada.
And he again passed through Pennsylvania, the only state that voted
Democratic in 2004 where he still hoped for a win.
He was closing out the endurance test past midnight at a home-state
rally in Prescott, Arizona, a state where Obama has been running
television commercials in the campaign’s final days after polls showed a
On election eve, the 47-year-old Obama, a first-term senator from
Illinois, was favoured to win all the states Democrats captured in 2004,
when Bush defeated Democratic Sen. John Kerry. That would give him 251
He was leading or tied in several states won by Bush, giving him
several paths to the 270 vote threshold - such as victories in Ohio or
Florida, or in a combination of smaller states.
McCain, meanwhile, must hold as many Bush states as possible while
trying to capture a Democratic stronghold, such as Pennsylvania.
While no battleground state was ignored, Virginia, where no Democrat
has won in 40 years, and Ohio, where no Republican president has ever
lost, seemed most coveted. Together, they account for 33 electoral votes
that McCain must win.
Obama sprinted into the lead after economic concerns overwhelmed the
war in Iraq, as the primary concern among voters. Even though Republican
experts argued the race was tightening, several polls suggested Obama’s
lead was growing.
A USA Today/Gallup poll published on Monday found likely voters
nationwide favouring Obama by 11 points over McCain, 53-42 per cent,
with a margin of error of two percentage points. Other polls showed
Obama with a seven or eight percentage-point lead.
Polls conducted by Quinnipiac University showed Obama with
significant leads in two critical swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania,
and tied with McCain in Florida, where the prize is 27 electoral votes.
A win for Obama in any of these three states would be hard for McCain to
The American presidential election amounts to separate contests in
the 50 US states plus the District of Columbia, home to the capital
city. At stake are 538 electors, with the winning candidate needing to
capture at least half plus one. Electors are apportioned to the states
roughly according to population.