On this day November 4th in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, decisively defeated his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to become the nation’s 44th president and the first African-American to be elected to the White House. Obama, who was 47 at the time, won 365 electoral votes and amassed nearly 53 percent of the popular vote while McCain, 72, won 173 electoral votes and more than 45 percent of the popular vote.
Obama had officially announced his presidential candidacy on Feb. 10, 2007, in Springfield, Ill. His first-place finish in the Iowa causes in January 2008 did much to validate his candidacy. In an extended primary season, he outlasted Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the early front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Not since 1960, when Democratic Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts narrowly captured the White House, had a sitting U.S. senator successfully claimed the nation’s highest elected office. Along the way, Obama prevailed in such traditional GOP strongholds as Virginia and Indiana, although he lost West Virginia, which had supported Kennedy in both the 1960 primary and general elections. Obama clinched his victory by winning such hotly contested states as Florida and Ohio.
After the vote count left no doubt of the final outcome, Obama spoke to a large throng of supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park, his adopted hometown. “If,” he said, “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, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. … It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”