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According to a 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, shattered more than 200 years of history Tuesday night by winning election as the first African-American president of the United States.

A crowd of nearly a quarter-million jammed Grant Park and the surrounding area in Chicago, where Obama addressed the nation for the first time as its president-elect at midnight ET. Hundreds of thousands more — Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million Chicagoans jammed the streets — watched on a large television screen outside the park.

“If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is 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 declared.

“Young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans have sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of red states and blue states,” he said. “We have been and always will be the United States of America.

“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America,” he said to a long roar.

McCain notes history in the making

Obama congratulated his opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for his “unimaginable” service to the United States, first as a prisoner of war for 5½ years in North Vietnam and then for nearly three decades in Congress.

McCain called Obama to offer his congratulations at 11 p.m. ET, Obama’s chief spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told NBC News. Obama thanked McCain for his “class and honor” during the campaign and said he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them could work together.

“The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” McCain told supporters in Phoenix, saying that he “recognized the special significance” Obama’s victory had for African-Americans.

“We both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still have the power to wound,” McCain said.

“Let there be no reason for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth,” said McCain, who pledged his support and help for the new president.

President Bush called to congratulate Obama and promise a smooth transition of power on Jan. 20, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

“Mr. President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters,” said Bush, who invited Obama and his family to visit the White House as soon as it was convenient.

The president also called McCain to say that he was proud of the senator’s efforts and that he was “sorry it didn’t work out.”

“You didn’t leave anything on the playing field,” Bush said.

Broad, deep victory

Campaigning as a technocratic agent of change and not a pathbreaking civil rights figure, Obama swept to victory over McCain, whose running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was seeking to become the nation’s first female vice president.

Obama beat McCain by 52 percent to 46 percent, and he could realistically claim a mandate with nearly two-thirds of the Electoral College. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had 349 electoral votes compared to 173 for McCain, with only North Carolina and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District left to declare.

And Obama should have a strongly supportive Congress to work with. Not since 1993 has an incoming president had such strong majorities in both houses of Congress.

Democrats will hold 258 of the 435 seats in the House and at least 54 of the 100 seats in the Senate, where t wo independents also caucus with the party. Four seats remained undecided, meaning the party mathematically could reach a procedurally important “supermajority” of 60 or more votes in the Senate, but NBC News projected that it would not reach that threshold.

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