By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Obama wins, a bit later than expected

In an instant-reaction piece for the Guardian, I look at Barack Obama’s victory – which came somewhat later than might have been expected based on the pre-election polls, but which proved to be decisive enough.

Nice speech by John McCain. Obama’s up in a few minutes.

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A day to savor the symbolism


  1. O-FISH-L

    An unequivocal congratulations to all of the Obama supporters on your historic win tonight. Job well done! Congrats!

  2. Jimbo

    From what I saw, the networks were quite cautious about calling — or even implying the outcome — when it was clear that Obama would win. With the call of Ohio, around 9:30, and knowing the West Coast was solid blue — that was it. But when Keith Olbermann tried to point that out on MSNBC he was hushed by a co-host.

  3. Steve

    1968 was a rough time in many ways, and Robert Kennedy symbolized for me the one best hope for a path though the situation the nation was in.I pray that Obama will be, at long last, a fulfillment of that hope – that he will govern with a sense of thoughtfulness and resourcefulness, and inspire and lead Americans in working together for the betterment of our nation and our world.McCain’s speech was a gracious and earnest expression of true patriotism. It was the most inspirational speech I have ever heard him give. I hope that instead of fading quickly into the background, McCain continues his call for unity throughout an Obama administration, not with an eye towards capitulation, but allowing an honest and respectful consideration of Obama’s policies and actions in office.

  4. Aaron Read

    RE: your Guardian piece, my wife and three of my students were in WEOS with me tonight; the students were doing the bulk of the reporting (and doing an excellent job, I might add).All three, like a lot of the HWS student body, were hardcore Obama supporters. All were exceptionally superstitious; not quite able to believe it was “for real” until California was called for Obama at 11pm…at which point they all jumped up and down and squealed with delight (take that at face value).As an Obama voter (but not really an Obama supporter so much as a McCain detractor) I certainly wasn’t disappointed, but I had to keep reminding them to stay objective in their reporting on the air.But I gave them free reign to jump around once the mics were off. 🙂

  5. Ani

    “It’s hard to put into words what that means” put tears in my eyes. For me, as a mother of African-American young men, it makes me feel safer, makes me feel my sons are safer, makes it easier for me to leave behind ugly, painful, and upsetting events of the past.

  6. Ani

    I just read McCain’s acceptance speech, and I have to say that I thought it was not balanced — lot’s about Obama’s historic achievement, little about his personal abilities; however much McCain disagrees with Obama on policy, McCain could have found more substantial points on which to recommend Obama to the American people who supported McCain.

  7. mike_b1’s model was dead on.

  8. LFNeilson

    I’m reminded of Doonesbury when Nixon resigned, showing the White House overgrown with brambles and gloom, then clearing out to beautiful sunshine and flowers.zzzzzzz

  9. acf

    It’s going to take more than a generously credited as gracious speech to make up for one of the nastiest campaigns in my memory. ‘Oops, sorry, my bad’ won’t do it. Now, we’ll see if it was just words, and an effort to work with the new president and strengthened Democratic majority, or if it will be back to usual with filibusters and obstruction of the new agenda.

  10. Vox

    Congradualations to President-elect Obama!I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I am truly sad to see this campaign end. I enjoyed it every step of the way.We just so happened to switch over to FOX news to hear Brit Hume call Ohio for Obama. You could actually feel the silence thicken in the already morgue-like studio.And what’s up with CNN’s holograms? It is a Star Wars world.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Acf: Heh. Wait till you see my new Guardian piece, which will be up later today. I think you’ll like it.

  12. mike_b1

    Bob Bennett wasted no time in pointing out that Obama’s win means the glass ceiling for blacks is now broken; in his words, “the Great Stain” has been cleaned.As if.What he managed not to say was much more instructive: That blacks can no longer complain about being second-class citizens. It’s every man for himself now; no more handouts. (Even if the person who broke the white man’s lock on the White House is as close to perfect as could be — a man with no demons, a straight-A student with two Ivy League degrees and a history of good deeds — not to mention half-white.) Of course, Bennett himself would never dare venture into a ghetto to see that the odds against escaping it are almost as high as winning the presidency.

  13. Aaron Read

    It’s going to take more than a generously credited as gracious speech to make up for one of the nastiest campaigns in my memory. ‘Oops, sorry, my bad’ won’t do it.Sadly, for many people it is. Last night, after his concession speech, my wife immediately was saying that McCain “earned back a smidge of the respect she used to have for him”. I had to emphatically remind her that it was far more likely that the McCain of 2008 was “the real McCain”, and the supposedly honorable maverick of lore was the real fiction. As Dan so often reminded us, there’s no such thing as a candidate that’s better than their campaign.Integrity is like virginity, you can only lose it once. No matter what McCain says or does, we should always remember his incredibly slimy campaign.

  14. Tunder

    lfneilson: your reference to the Doonesbury cartoon showing the White House after Nixon resigned made me think of one of the more humourous images from last night’s happenings. There were some location shots of people outside of the White House gates, six-people deep, cheering and celebrating. I could almost imagine everyone holding pitchforks and torches ready to drag Bush’s butt out and say the hell with waiting until 1/21/09.A great night and a thank you to Dan and bloggers for helping me maintain my sanity over the past couple of months.

  15. Stella

    While holding pitchforks and torches in high regard, tis the guillotine that warms cockles…The very real damage to our nation may never be fully repaired. The lives of my children and grandchildren have been adversely impacted by BushCo.

  16. Michael Pahre

    In your Guardian piece, you wrote, “Things were considerably closer this evening than the final pre-election polls would have suggested.”While Virginia may have been closer than pre-election polls predicted, other states were bigger wins than the polls predicted (Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico) and others closer than predicted (e.g., Indiana, Montana).Overall, however, the poll averages were pretty damn good one day before the election., which uses overly-sophisticated, multivariate modeling that geeks like me appreciate, predicted a 6.1% point spread nationwide. As of earlier today, the national average was 6.04%. Absolutely impressive. was a little further off at 7.6%, but still pretty close.I think that the delayed call of the election dates back to network policies instituted after the 1980 presidential election. Growing up in Washington State at the time, I knew many people who were driving home from work to go vote, yet heard Carter on the radio conceding. Many of them then decided to vote for John Anderson instead, so that he could meet the 5% threshold for future public financing.West Coasters were outraged at the networks, who then promised never to call an election — and the parties promised never to concede formally a nationwide election — until after the polls closed on the West Coast.We all knew at 9:30 pm that Obama had the win because there was no McCain path without both Ohio and Pennsylvania. I think the network talking heads had to kill time to make the official call, stating the obvious, until West Coast polls closed.CNN John King’s divorced-from-any-reality-whatsoever screen scenario elicited immediate channel-surfing from me.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Michael: The final result was eerily close to the polls, but the margin between Obama and McCain widened overnight

  18. mike_b1

    Dan, are you referring to some of the late polls that had the margin within 3 with 24 hours to go? Because that tightening wasn’t reflected in’s figures; in other words, their model accounted for the fluctuation. And part of that was explained in their comments: that many pollsters “put their fingers on the scale,” massaging their results in order not to be too far out of the consensus.

  19. Steve

    Just to throw in my 2 cents – it seemed that only the polls of polls (538 and RCP were the ones I looked at) were really good. As Mike points out, 538’s compensations for the built-in known biases of certain polls was well-designed (VORP for polls – baseball stat-heads unite!) but RCP did almost as well with less technology – maybe the averages all washed out.Individual polls weren’t all that accurate – Gallup had Obama by 11! What the heck was that about? This is supposed to be a reputable poll?Nate Silver really did some wonderful work.

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