News & Current Affairs

November 5, 2008

Obama wins historic US election

Democratic Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight… change has come to America,” the president-elect told a jubilant crowd at a park in Chicago.

His rival John McCain accepted defeat, saying “I deeply admire and commend” Mr Obama. He called on his supporters to lend the next president their goodwill.

The BBC’s Justin Webb said the result would have a profound impact on the US.

“On every level America will be changed by this result… [it] will never be the same,” he said.

Mr Obama appeared with his family, and his running mate Joe Biden, before a crowd of tens of thousands in Grant Park, Chicago.

“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,” he said.

He said he had received an “extraordinarily gracious” call from Mr McCain.

He praised the former Vietnam prisoner of war as a “brave and selfless leader”.

“He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine,” the victor said.

He had warm words for his family, announcing to his daughters: “Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”

Congratulations… You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life
President George W Bush

But he added: “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep… But America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”

From red to blue

Mr Obama captured the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, before breaking through the winning threshold of 270 electoral college votes at 0400 GMT, when projections showed he had also taken California and a slew of other states.

HAVE YOUR SAY

I find myself strangely emotional about this. I want to go wake up my neighbours and hug them

Amy Scullane, Boston

Then came the news that he had also seized Florida, Virginia and Colorado – all of which voted Republican in 2004 – turning swathes of the map from red to blue.

Several other key swing states are hanging in the balance.

In Indiana and North Carolina, with most of the vote counted, there was less than 0.5% between the two candidates.

However, the popular vote remains close. At 0600 GMT it stood at 51.3% for the Democratic Senator from Illinois, against 47.4% for Arizona Senator McCain.

The main developments include:

  • Mr Obama is projected to have seized Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada – all Republican wins in 2004.
  • He is also projected to have won: Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon.
  • Mr McCain is projected to have won: Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Georgia, Louisiana, West Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota.
  • Turnout was reported to be extremely high – in some places “unprecedented”.
  • The Democrats made gains in the Senate race, seizing seats from the Republicans in Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Colorado. They also increased their majority of the House of Representatives.
  • Exit polls suggest the economy was the major deciding factor for six out of 10 voters.
  • Nine out of 10 said the candidates’ race was not important to their vote, the Associated Press reported. Almost as many said age did not matter.

LOSSES AND GAINS
Key states
Projected gains for Obama in former Republican states of Ohio, New Mexico, Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada
Senate seats
Virginia: Democrat Mark Warner replaces retiring Republican John Warner
New Hampshire: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen unseats Republican John Sununu
North Carolina: Democrat Kay Hagan replaces Republican Elizabeth Dole
New Mexico: Democrat Tom Udall replaces retiring Republican Pete Domenici

Several states reported very high turnout. It was predicted 130 million Americans, or more, would vote – more than for any election since 1960.

Many people said they felt they had voted in a historic election – and for many African-Americans the moment was especially poignant.

John Lewis, an activist in the civil rights era who was left beaten on an Alabama bridge 40 years ago, told Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church: “This is a great night. It is an unbelievable night. It is a night of thanksgiving.”

Besides winning the presidency, the Democrats tightened their grip on Congress.

The entire US House of Representatives and a third of US Senate seats were up for grabs.

Democrats won several Senate seats from the Republicans, but seemed unlikely to to gain the nine extra they wanted to reach the 60-seat “super-majority”, that could prevent Republicans blocking legislation.

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September 22, 2008

Quiet Biden back to the fore

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 12:09 am

Quiet Biden back to the fore

Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally in Ohio, 17 September 2008

Joe Biden’s task is to paint his rival Sarah Palin as untried and untested

Amid the hyper inflated excitement that still follows Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wherever she goes, it is sometimes easy to forget that she has a rival for the job – Joseph Biden.

Remember him? You know, the grey-haired guy Barack Obama picked to be his running mate on the Democratic party ticket.

When he strode out onto the stage in Denver to accept his party’s nomination, Joe Biden had the media’s full attention.

Two days later it was gone. And it seems he has struggled ever since to get it back.

What happened? Sarah Palin happened. Everywhere she goes, a large media posse follows.

In contrast, Joe Biden’s press plane travels the country with a large number of conspicuously empty seats.

Supporters of the Delaware senator say he is quietly getting on with the job, going from town to town, meeting voters, patiently answering their questions and making the case that he and Barack Obama represent the real change in the race for the White House.

Blue collar votes

On the campaign trail Joe Biden has been trying to stress that, with every fibre of his working class roots, he understands the pain of ordinary American families in these troubled economic times – understands in a way, he says, that his old friend John McCain simply cannot.

JOE BIDEN
Joseph Biden addresses the crowd in Illinois as Barack Obama sits
Ran for presidency in 1988
Delaware senator since 1972
A straight talker, who makes occasional gaffes

That, of course, was partly why he was picked: to appeal to an important part of the electorate with which Barack Obama has consistently struggled to connect – blue collar workers.

It was also assumed that Mr Biden would act as the sharp-tongued attack dog, allowing Mr Obama to remain above the fray.

With his long experience in the Senate, especially on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, it was argued that Joe Biden could simultaneously fill the perceived gaps in Mr Obama’s resume and go toe to toe with John McCain – one old scrapper to another.

Mr Biden has stuck to his task. But he has not set the world on fire. Then again, perhaps he was not meant to – that has always been Barack Obama’s strong suit.

Joe Biden was meant to be the reassuring older hand helping to guide the charismatic presidential challenger safely towards the White House.

He was, in a way, the classic “do no harm” pick for vice-president.

Veep debate

Despite concerns about his reputation for long-winded ramblings, sprinkled with the occasional spice of verbal gaffes, Joe Biden has hardly put a foot wrong.

Two recent quotes have raised some eyebrows though, and, interestingly, perhaps raised his media profile again.

  • First, he said Hillary Clinton may have been a better choice for the vice-presidential nomination (after all the effort at the Denver convention to heal party wounds, why on Earth would he want to expose that scar again?)
  • Then he said that wealthy people should consider it their patriotic duty to pay higher taxes. That brought rapid fire from the McCain-Palin campaign team and at least got the television pundits talking about him again

But it is his next big moment in the spotlight that will really test Joe Biden’s calibre – the vice-presidential debate in Missouri on 2 October.

Insider v hockey mom?

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin actually have some things in common.

Both claim to speak the language of the ordinary, hard-working, American family. Both eschew ivy league intellectualism. Both have sons serving in Iraq.

Sarah Palin, file pic

Like Joe Biden, Sarah Palin eschews ivy league intellectualism

But, of course, it will be the differences everyone will be focusing on.

Joe Biden’s task will be to paint his opponent as untried and untested; too risky to place a heartbeat away from the presidency.

But he has to make that case without appearing patronising or demeaning, or in any other way opening himself up to the charge of sexism.

The silver-haired, battle-hardened, Washington insider versus the self-styled hockey mom from the remote reaches of Alaska.

It is one of the most keenly anticipated bouts of the entire election, and perhaps more than any of its predecessors, it could have a real influence on the outcome.

August 23, 2008

Obama picks Biden as running-mate

Obama picks Biden as running-mate

File image of John McCain with Barack Obama, August 2007

Mr Obama could benefit from Biden’s foreign policy clout, analysts say

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has announced that Joe Biden will be his running mate in November’s election.

Mr Obama’s choice, confirmed on his website, comes ahead of next week’s Democratic Party convention.

Mr Biden, a 65-year-old veteran lawmaker, has over three decades of Senate experience and is highly respected on foreign policy issues.

Republican contender John McCain could announce his choice next week.

Speculation is mounting that Senator McCain may name his running mate on 29 August, his 72nd birthday and a day after the Democrats wrap up their convention.

‘Impressive record’

The announcement came shortly after several US media networks began reporting that Mr Biden had been chosen.

“Barack has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate,” a brief statement on Mr Obama’s campaign website said.

Senator Joe Biden (file image)

“Joe Biden brings extensive foreign policy experience, an impressive record of collaborating across party lines, and a direct approach to getting the job done,” it said.

The two men are expected to appear together at a rally in Springfield, Illinois, later in the day.

Mr Biden has represented the state of Delaware in the US Senate since 1972.

He is known as a strong orator and chairs the Foreign Relations Committee – something analysts say would balance Mr Obama’s self-confessed lack of foreign policy experience.

The son of a car salesman, he is also expected to appeal to the blue collar workers with whom Mr Obama has struggled to connect.

OFFICE OF THE VICE-PRESIDENT
Second-highest executive officer in the United States
Assumes the top role if the president cannot continue in office
One of four statutory members of the National Security Council

The senator ran against Mr Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination but dropped out after failing to gain enough support.

The McCain camp called the choice of Mr Biden an admission by Barack Obama that he was not ready to be president.

“Biden has denounced Barack Obama’s poor foreign policy judgement and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realising – that Barack Obama is not ready to be president,” McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said in a statement.

John McCain has reportedly not yet settled on a running mate.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are reported to be under serious consideration for the role.

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