|Secretary Of State Calls Obama 'Inspirational'|
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that as an African-American she is "especially proud" that Democrat Barack Obama has been elected the first black U.S. president.
Rice told reporters Wednesday that Obama was "inspirational" and Republican John McCain was "gracious" in defeat.
Rice said the State Department will do everything it can to make the transition to a new president smooth.
Obama easily defeated McCain in a triumph that reflected Americans' weariness with eight years of President George W. Bush's administration.
Bush on Wednesday also embraced Obama's election victory, saying he understands the message of change that was the centerpiece of his campaign.
At the Rose Garden of the White House, Bush promised Obama his "complete cooperation" in the transition work that will precede the transfer of power to the newly elected Democrat.
Bush also paid tribute to McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
He said that Obama's election was a historic breakthrough in a country that has had monumental civil rights battles.
"No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday," he said.
Capping an epic presidential campaign that began on the steps of the Illinois State House almost two years ago, Obama made history on Tuesday by becoming the first African-American to win election to the White House.
The Democratic freshman senator, now president-elect, is quickly shifting to the task of building a Democratic administration to lead the country out of war and into the financial recovery that he promised.
He plans to spend the rest of the week at home in Chicago, reviewing the hiring decisions he will have to make in the next 2½ months.
Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but said he wasn't focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.
However, Democratic officials said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has been offered the job of chief of staff in Obama's administration.
It is not known whether Emanuel has accepted.
Obama was shifting gears only a day after he acknowledged his joyful backers in a victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. He also spoke to those who voted against him, saying he hears their voices, needs their help and will be their president, too.
"If 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," Obama told tens of thousands of joyful supporters in Chicago's Grant Park. "America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do," he said. "This is our moment. This is our time."
"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other," Obama said. "In this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people."
Obama Praises McCain
The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama sealed his historic triumph by defeating McCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states -- Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa and more. And he offered praise for McCain, who he said "fought long and hard in this campaign."
"He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader," Obama said.
Speaking to a rally in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday evening, McCain congratulated Obama, saying that the two men -- and the country -- "have come to the end of a long journey."
With his wife, Cindy, on one side and Palin on the other, McCain urged supporters to put aside partisan differences and work to get "the country moving again."
"It's natural tonight to feel some disappointment. Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours," he said.
Obama "commands my respect," McCain said. "Sen. Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and his country and I applaud him for it."
Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will take their oaths of office as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2009.
As the 44th president, Obama will move into the Oval Office as leader of a country that is almost certainly in recession and fighting two long wars, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan. And he will do so with the Democrats also controlling both houses in Congress.
Popular, Electoral Vote Majority
Obama is the first Democrat in 32 years to win election with a popular vote majority. Jimmy Carter barely got past 50 percent in 1976. Obama tallied 52.3 percent to McCain's 46.5 percent with 94 percent of all U.S. precincts tallied.
The count in the Electoral College was more lopsided in Obama's favor over McCain -- 349 to 147 as of early Wednesday, with three states still to be decided: North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri.
Obama won states that have reliably voted Republican in presidential elections, like Indiana and Virginia, which hadn't supported the Democratic candidate in 44 years. Ohio and Florida, states that were key to Bush's twin victories, also went for Obama.
Obama has said his first order of presidential business will be to tackle the economy. He has also pledged to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
The economy was by far the top issue on voters' minds and a huge drag on McCain, whom Obama successfully tied to unpopular President George W. Bush.
Six in 10 voters picked the economy as the most important issue facing the nation, overwhelming other problems named by those taking exit polls. Obama was doing strongly with this group -- six in 10 of those naming the economy were backing the Democrat. The other issues listed in the survey -- Iraq, energy, terrorism and health care -- were all picked by one in 10 or less.
Further underlining voters' preoccupation with the economy, nine in 10 said it is in bad shape, and about the same number said they are worried about the economy's direction. Nearly six in 10 of both those groups were backing Obama.
Obama polled well among women, blacks and young voters, while McCain did better among whites and older voters, according to exit poll results reported by The Associated Press.
Obama won more than half the votes of women, a huge majority of the black vote and about 65 percent of ballots cast by those under 30 years old, the poll found. Obama also garnered a slight edge among male voters.
McCain won a slight majority of the white vote, according to The Associated Press poll results. He also held a slight edge among senior citizens, the poll found.
Celebrations Across Nation
As the victory party carried on in Chicago, there were celebrations across the country, including at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, himself a civil rights hero, was emotional as he took the pulpit before Obama's victory was announced.
"This is a great night," he said. "It is an unbelievable night. It is a night of thanksgiving."
As the news of a projected Obama victory flashed across a TV screen, the emotion reached fever pitch.
"At this hour, many of us never, ever, even until the last days, felt that we would ever see this," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, as he took the stage with his arms raised in victory.
On the other side of the country, in Oakland, Calif., traffic stopped in Jack London Square as celebrating drivers honked and crowds took to the streets, dancing to the music of a live band.
"This has been a long time coming," said Linda Bogard, 57, who wore a bright orange vest and matching baseball hat studded with rhinestones spelling "Obama." She threw her hands up in the air as if in prayer. "It's been a good fight and a great victory."