Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) won a resounding victory over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday, leading an electoral surge (Politico) that gave Democrats the White House and strong majorities in both chambers of Congress. Obama finished his nearly two-year run by making history as the first African-American to become president, riding a message of change and reform that resonated with a country on the brink of recession and engaged in two wars. The election drew huge turnouts and exit polls showed the economy was the top issue (WSJ) for nearly two-thirds of voters. Iraq and terrorism trailed far behind the economy as concerns, each chosen by 10 percent of voters as the top issue. In 2004, U.S. voters rated both terrorism and the economy equally as their leading concerns.
In his victory speech, Obama said the American people have convincingly called for change and must now demonstrate patience and reconciliation as they prepare to tackle problems including “two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” McCain, in conceding defeat, urged Americans to pull together to support Obama in confronting their economic challenges and defending “our security in a dangerous world.”
Analysts said Obama will face a raft of tough choices in the period ahead, including likely pressures from some constituents for more government activism and intervention (WashPost). In the immediate future, the president-elect now enters a critical transition period in which some past administrations have struggled to establish a solid foreign policy framework, as this new Backgrounder explains. CFR Issue Guides on the global financial crisis, Iraq, and Pakistan explore the challenging policy terrain ahead for Obama’s administration.
A pivotal front for initiating new spending and policy initiatives is Congress. In addition to boosting their House majority (TheHill), Democrats gained at least five Senate seats, which would bring them to control fifty-six of the one-hundred total seats. That’s four short of the number that would help Democrats stop opposition Republicans from blocking their agenda but still strengthens their hand (NPR). CQ Politics profiles the new members of Congress.
There were a number of energy measures on state ballots and results on this legislation were mixed (AP). A ballot measure requiring Missouri to produce 15 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2021 was approved while an initiative that would have obliged California state utilities to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 failed. A second failed California proposition would have granted $5 billion in rebates (LAT) for buyers of alternative-fuel vehicles. Amendment 58 in Colorado also failed (Denver Post). That measure would have ended a tax credit for the oil industry and redirected that money toward college funding.