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6.18pm: Quotes from Obama's victory speech in Chicago:
"But above all I will never forget who this victory belongs to, it belongs to you," Obama said.
He said the victory was created by "working men and women" who dug into their pockets.
He said it also came about by young refusing the label of apathy.
"Even as we celebrate tonight we know the challenges that tomorrow brings will be the greatest of our lives.
He also made mention of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The road ahead may be long, the climb may be steep," Obama said.
He went on to say: "We will get there, I promise you, we as a people will get there," Obama said.
He was then interrupted by the crowd chanting: "Yes we can, yes we can".
Obama then spoke of the need to bring democrats and republicans together.
He said democrats needed to display "humility and determination to heel the divide that has held back our progress".
6.10pm: Hillary Clinton has called the election of Barack Obama as US president "an historic victory for the American people".
The wife of former president Bill Clinton, Senator Clinton narrowly lost the Democratic Party's presidential nomination to Obama before endorsing the Illinois senator.
"This was a long and hard fought campaign but the result was well worth the wait," Clinton said.
"Together, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and a Democratic Congress, we will chart a better course to build a new economy and rebuild our leadership in the world."
6.04pm: Barack Obama says to the crowd at Grant Park and to America:
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who wonders if the dreams of our fathers could not be met, then tonight is your answer."
He pointed to the huge lines of voters around polling places. "They waited in numbers not seen before in this nation's history."
"They believed that this time must be different".
He said that America is not a collection of red or blue states, Republican or Democrat areas, but the United States of America.
5.58pm: Obama has walked onto the stage at Grant Park in Chicago to make his victory speech. Results are still coming in from around the US with Obama taking Colorado for just the second time. McCain held his home state of Arizona. Obama is currently making his opening remarks in his acceptance speech.
5.42pm: Barack Obama has accepted John McCain's concession and has asked his Republican rival for help in leading the country.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said McCain called Obama moments after The Associated Press and television networks declared the Illinois senator the next president.
Gibbs said Obama thanked McCain for his graciousness and said he had waged a tough race. He also said the Arizona senator was consistently someone who has showed class and honour during this campaign as he has during his entire life in public service.
Gibbs quoted Obama as saying, "I need your help, you're a leader on so many important issues."
5.40pm: According to CNN George W. Bush has called to congratulate Barack Obama and invited him to stay at the White House and be shown around. Bush will remain in the White house until mid-January then yhand over to Obama.
5.35pm: A crowd of almost 100,000 are waiting to hear Barack Obama speak at Grant Park in Chicago, reports NBC.
Mayor Richard Daley said he would not be surprised if a million chicagoans took to the streets to watch the address on a large television screen outside the park, reports NBC.
5.33pm: Prime Minister Helen Clark has issued a statement congratulating Barack Obama for becoming President of the United States.
She said the NZ government is looking forward to working with the new Obama administration.
"New Zealand and the United States have a long history of friendship and co-operation. We look forward to building on what is already a strong relationship with the United States.
"Senator Obama will be taking office at a critical juncture. There are many pressing challenges facing the international community, including the global financial crisis and global warming. We look forward to working closely with President-elect Obama and his team to address these challenges."
Helen Clark also paid tribute to Senator John McCain.
"I commend Senator McCain on a hard-fought campaign, and wish him well for the future."
5.31pm: Obama has written this message to his website, Barackobama.com:
'You proved that change can happen. You built an unprecedented grassroots organisation in all 50 states that brought a record number of people into the political process - many for the first time, many for the first time in a long time.
Our success required unprecedented resources, and our, the Democratic National Committee played a major role on the ground efforts that generated record turnout up and down the ticket.'
5.24pm: In the final nail in the coffin for the McCain presidential bid, NBC network has just projected that Barack Obama has won a close fought race in Florida.
The victory gave the Illinois senator all 27 electoral votes from the fourth most populous US state. While Florida voted Republican in eight of the 10 previous presidential elections, most opinion polls since late September had given Obama a slight edge.
5.22pm: Senator John McCain is speaking right now to a crowd in his home state of Arizona to concede defeat to Barack Obama.
He told the crowd; "We have come to the end of a long journey. They have spoken and they have spoken clearly."
To boos from some in the crowd, he said he had called to congratulate Barack Obama, his Democrat opponent.
McCain said Obama had earned his respect for his perseverance in the nearly two year campaign.
This was a "historic election", especially for African-Americans as Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States.
5.18pm: National Party leader John Key spoke to media soon after the conclusion became clear, saying it was a "historic" win and congratulating Mr Obama on the win.
"I look forward, if I am Prime Minister of New Zealand, to having a strong working relationship with him. It is certainly a very historic day for America."
Asked how it would impact on the New Zealand election, he said there was clearly a strong mood for change in the USA but it was "dangerous" to draw too many parallels.
"Whether that will pervade to a strong mood for change in New Zealand we'll only find out on Saturday night. Here's hoping."
He said it was important from New Zealand's perspective that work toward a free trade agreement with the United States continued.
He hoped the work with the P4 to include America would continue.
"We are at a strategic disadvatnage because Australa has one and we don't. At this stage, while it's difficult to determine whether Mr Obama in fact would have that prerogative from Congress or wish to progress an FTA with New Zealand, if I'm Prime Minister then I will work very hard to make sure our case is firmly heard in Washington and ultimately NZ is successful if at all possible in getting an FTA with the USA."
5.00pm: CNN calls victory for Obama, saying he now has 297 electoral college votes.
4.53pm: In breaking news, the crucial battleground state of Virginia has been given to Barack Obama by a Fox News projection.
If right, the result breaks the state's 40-year history of backing Republicans in the race for the White House.
Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black US president, was narrowly leading McCain in opinion polls before the election and the state was widely considered a tossup. He is the first Democrat to carry Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
The victory gives Obama Virginia's 13 electoral votes, and the capture of a traditionally Republican state.
4.50pm: Numbers for the so-called battleground states are being updated.
In Montana: Obama has 17,480 votes on 51 per cent, while McCain has 15,956 votes on 46 per cent. Those results are based on voting from only three precincts.
In Indiana: Obama has 1,176,197 votes with 49 per cent, while McCain has 1,191,021 with 50 per cent. Those results are based 90 per cent of precincts reporting.
In Misouri: Obama has 474,065 votes with 48 per cent, while McCain has 497,730 with 51 per cent. Those results are based 34 per cent of precincts reporting.
In North Carolina: Obama has 1,806,397 votes with 49 per cent, while McCain has 1822,682 with 50 per cent. Those results are based 86 per cent of precincts reporting.
In Florida: Obama has 3,553,070 votes with 51 per cent, while McCain has 3,378,887 with 49 per cent. Those results are based 80 per cent of precincts reporting.
16.22pm: A good win for McCain with CNN giving him Texas' 34 electoral votes lifting him to 135, but still trailing Obama by a significant margin.
4.15pm: In a sign of John McCain's frustrating election campaign, most of the US networks are reporting that his own home state of Arizona is too close to call.
Traditionally a Republican stronghold, most pundits expected it to be a reasonably easy win for McCain.
However, the state is now far too close to call, says NBC.
Arizona has 10 electoral votes, which makes it a sizeable prize. However, it is important to note that less than 10 per cent of the vote has been counted.
16.15pm: CNN calls Arkansas for McCain but the big state, with 55 electoral votes, is California and that's a Democrat hotbed. Obama favoured to take California and become the next president of America.
16.03pm: CNN has called Iowa for Obama and Kansas for McCain.
16.02pm: As we await further results, here is a wrap-up of some of the key media sites in the US:
USA Today has a headline: "Experts: Voter turnout could be 'unprecedented". It says the vote in parts of the US has been extraordinary and carries pictures of people distributing water to people queuing to vote. Read it here.
Talking Points Memo blog is watching the Virginia race very closely. Virginia is a traditionally Republican state but Obama was making significant inroads.
"They're starting to adjust them now against actual returns. They've now tightened a bit in McCain's direction. They're now at 52 per cent-46 per cent for Obama. So looks promising but this one is definitely still wait and see." Read it here.
3.49pm: While the states - and their electoral college votes - are running strongly for Obama, the popular vote is much closer.
CNN is reporting that, with 23 per cent of the total vote counted, John McCain has just over 49 per cent to Obama's 50 per cent.
Each has around 19 million votes, with Obama leading by just 320,000, so far.
Meantime CNN has called New Mexico and its five electoral votes for Obama, and Louisiana and its nine electoral votes for McCain. The overall tally now stands at 199-78 to Obama.
3.35pm: CNN calls Ohio for Obama. Obama now leads McCain 194 to 69.
3.33pm: In a huge - and potentially devastating blow to the candidacy of John McCain - Fox News, NBC and CBS are calling the crucial state of Ohio for Barack Obama.
The key battleground state has backed the winning White House candidate since 1964.
Most opinion polls before the election showed Obama with a narrow lead in Ohio, but the state, which provided a critical win for President George W. Bush in 2004, was considered a tossup. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio.
The victory gave Obama all of Ohio's 20 electoral votes, providing a big boost toward the 270 needed to win the presidency in the United States' indirect system of choosing a leader.
3.30pm: The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a huge crowd is gathering in the central Grant Park cheering every new return which shows hometown Senator Barack Obama ahead in the US presidential race.
3.27pm: CBS News is quoting a senior aide for John McCain as saying: "At this point, we need a miracle."
3.23pm: CNN projects West Virginia and its five electoral votes for McCain. Now 174-69 to Obama.
3.14pm: CNN has just called Georgia and its 15 electoral votes for McCain. Now 174-64 to Obama.
3.01pm: CNN has called a further five states for Obama including Michigan (17 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10) and New York State (31). Obama leads 174 electoral votes to 49.
3.00pm: One of the small victories for Obama which has been overlooked is the state of New Hampshire.
This was the state where Hillary Clinton tipped over a buoyant Obama in the Democrat primaries and also gave McCain his comeback in the Republican race.
The Republicans had hoped that it might tip to their column, but instead it has gone solidly for Obama.
The state, in the northeast of the United States, has only four electoral college votes in the country's indirect presidential voting system but was, nevertheless, a morale-boosting victory for Obama early in the polling results.
2.54pm: New York-based Kiwi journalist Bernard Lagan said Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod has just been on TV "essentially forecasting a win".
"I don't think he would ever have said that unless they were pretty sure," Lagan said.
He said earlier today he and his daughter walked through parts of Harlem.
"She wasn't at school today because her school has been turned into a giant polling booth," Lagan said.
He said Harlem, an Obama stronghold, is home to many Americans with family from the Dominican Republic and Africa.
"There was this strange atmosphere in Harlem, a mixture of anxiety about what was going to happen, it was almost like this feeling you get before a storm breaks - the world seems to spin.
"People were voting, listening to music and hanging around in big groups. A lot of people were just hanging around, waiting for tonight to see which way it goes," Lagan said.
He said he was also on Broadway downtown.
"If you just stop and listen to conversations around you, everyone's talking about the election," Lagan said.
2.46pm: Every second hundreds of tweets are flowing into Twitter's US Election 2008 feeder. Simply click here and experience the election as it happens here.
2.45pm: Democrats took a third seat from Republicans in the Senate, putting them on track to win a majority with 52 seats in the 100-member legislative body, major US news networks said.
Virginia's Mark Warner filled a seat being vacated by veteran Republican Senator John Warner, who is of no relation to the winner, according to CNN and Fox, while Democrat Jeanne Shaheen unseated Republican John Sununu in New Hampshire, said NBC and CBS.
In addition, Democrat Kay Hagan was projected to win North Carolina's seat from Republican Elizabeth Dole, according to Fox and CBS.
Prior to today's vote, Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate with 49 seats and the support of two independents.
2.40pm: Other networks have now begun to add the crucial Pennsylvania state electoral votes to the Obama column.
Fox News and CNN has just announced that they are projecting Obama to win Pennsylvania, the sixth most populous state in the US with a haul of 21 electoral college states.
Fox News is here.
Another 21 electoral votes for Obama who is taking control of the race.
2.39pm: Most US networks are now saying that Virginia, traditionally a Republican state which has recently been trending towards the Democrats, is too close to call.
Virginia, which has changed in its political complexion with an influx of suburban voters moving away from the areas around Washington DC, has a crucial 13 electoral votes.
With a third of the votes counted, McCain is leading 55-45 per cent.
2.33pm: CNN has called New Hampshire (4 electoral votes) for Obama. He now leads 81-34.
The liberal and irreverent Daily Kos website has asked its readers what's keeping them going into the night as the election results are counted on the east coast of the United States.
The results - including, caffeine, sex, drugs, hope - are here.
2.26pm: NBC, which has been among the fastest of the US networks in calling states, has just projected that Obama has taken a massive lead in the electoral college vote - 103 votes to 34.
The 103 includes its call - so far not backed up by another networks - of the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania for Obama. Pennsylvania, a mix of urban and suburban liberals around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as large tracts of Republican-leaning rural areas, is the sixth most populous state in America and has 21 electoral college votes.
2.22pm: CNN is reporting Obama with a 53-47 per cent lead in Florida with 30 per cent of the vote in. There are 27 electoral votes available in Florida.
2.19pm: The New York Times is now reporting that in some states there has only been a small "uptick" in voting among the young.
It cites Virginia as having had no change in the percentage of black votes from 2004 and only a marginal increase in younger voters from the Bush-Kerry race.
Details are here
14.15pm: The win in Pennsylvania - if proved correct - could be one of the deciding moments of this election.
Senator Obama poured millions of dollars into advertising in the state, which has a mix of urban and suburban areas around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh but with rural, Republican-leading areas elsewhere.
2.10pm: CNN says initial results from Florida look good for Obama. McCain is failing to reach the same numbers Bush recorded in 2004. A similar trend is happening in the swing state of Indiana.
14.07pm: In breaking news, NBC is now projecting that Obama will take the key battleground state of Pennsylvania.
The state has been a swing state which both sides needed to win the race for the White House.
It has a crucial 21 electoral college votes.
2.05pm: CNN has just called eight states for Obama. Among them, Massachusetts (12 electoral votes), Obama's home state Illinois (21), Maine (4), New Jersey (15) and Columbia (3). Obama now takes a provisional electoral vote lead of 77-34.
2.49pm: CBS and Fox news are both calling West Virginia for McCain. But Fox has also called the state of Delaware for Obama. Delaware is the home of Obama's running mate Joe Biden. The preliminary electoral vote total stands at 13-6 to McCain.
2.40pm: Polls are closing along the east coast of the United States and have just closed in two key swing states. Indiana (11 electoral votes) and Virginia (13) have been toss-ups for most of the recent weeks of the election campaign.
Virginia, traditionally a Republican state, has shown signs of trending to Obama in recent state polls. Indiana, another Republican state, has been more solidly McCain although at least one state poll of five main polls had Obama ahead and two had the race too close to call.
2.34pm: Ohio, North Carolina and west Virginia have just closed polling. No candidate has ever gone to the White House without winning Ohio. Obama also with the early lead in Florida where 27 electoral college votes are available.
1.30pm: ABC News is reporting that exit polls are not showing a huge upswing in the number of young or black voters.
ABC is reporting: "They turned out - but not in overwhelming, ground-shifting numbers."
It is early in the counting so this may change, but the TV network is saying that the portion of the black vote is up just two points in most exit polls from 11 points in 2004 to 13 in 2008.
The link is here
1.28pm: McCain leading the vote count 8-3 in the early going. A CNN exit poll reports that 62 per cent of voters polled said the economy was the most important issue for them this election.
1.22pm: Fox News is reporting that one of the key areas of Pennsylvania, the suburban county of Bucks Country, outside Philadelphia, is voting heavily for Obama. Fox says that the County - usually a Republican enclave - is voting 2-1 for Obama, throwing a spanner into the works of McCain's efforts to win the delegate and vote rich swing state of Pennsylvania, where 21 electoral college votes are available.
1.14pm: CNN is projecting that Obama will win the small New England state of Vermont, traditionally a Democrat stronghold.
Vermont, in the north-east of the United States, has only three electoral college votes, due to its small population.
Vermont went solidly for Obama in the Democrat primary race, running well ahead of Hillary Clinton around 60 per cent to 40 per cent.
AP has also called Kentucky for McCain. Still neck-and-neck in the key battleground state of Indiana with seven per cent of the vote in.
1.55pm: Big news from Indiana and Kentucky where the first results are coming in. Indiana, traditionally a Republican stronghold, is blue at the moment, Obama with a 50-48 per cent lead but just two per cent of the vote counted. Kentucky very red, 67-31 McCain with 1 per cent of the vote in.
12.10pm: John McCain's plane is forced to abort a landing in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 'Straight Talk Air' Boeing 737 was coming into land when it suddenly accelerated before circling the airport again and landing safely. The pilot said the landing had been aborted because of runway traffic.
12.06pm: The first US polls are set to close in Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia in less than an hour.
11.55am: CNN reports that hoax calls have been made and e-mails and flyers had been distributed in some states, telling people that voting had been postponed.
11.35am: Election officials in the swing state of Ohio are reporting a massive turnout of voters but no major problems. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said there was brisk and orderly voting around the state.
11.25am: One in 10 voters said they were voting for the first time, and they were disproportionately young and non-white. Six in 10 of those voters were under age 30. One in five new voters were black and about as many were Hispanic.
11.19am: An AP exit poll finds six in 10 voters across the US picked the economy as the most important issue facing the country. None of four other issues on the list - energy, Iraq, terrorism and health care - were picked by more than one in 10.
11.17am: McCain campaign advisor Brian Jones told a media conference call: "We have seen some troubling instance of voting irregularities in a number of key battleground states&..incidents of voter intimidation..". Listen here
11.11am: Realclearpolitics.com has compiled data from 15 polls, with results showing Obama winning in all 15. The realpolitics.com average shows Obama leading by and average of 7.6% in those polls. The last Rove & Co electoral map points to a 338-200 Barack Obama electoral vote victory over John McCain, the largest electoral margin since 1996. Electionprojection.com backs up those numbers, also predicted a Democrat win at 338-200.
11.02am: A New York Times blog reports that actor Tim Robbins was angry to learn he was not in the printed and bound voter lists. "The issue is that they removed my name from the voting rolls," he said. "My name was there for the primaries."
10.53am: Rain-soaked voters in Virginia are dripping on optical-scan paper ballots making the papers impossible to scan. Officials are encouraging voters to dry off before filling out their form.
10.45am: Sarah Palin tells reporters after voting in Wasilla, Alaska: "Tomorrow I hope, I pray, I believe I will be able to wake up as vice president elect and get to work in a transition mode with president elect John McCain."
10.34am: Many Americans in New Zealand have already voted, U.S Consul General John Desrocher says there are more than 30,000 here, and 5,000 voting registration requests were received.
10.32am: Ohio voters in several counties are reporting that poll workers aren't accepting proper identification, forcing them to cast provisional ballots. Virginia's voting machine issues are mostly fixed, but some are still waiting in five to six hour lines.
10.28am: Watchdog Election Protection has received 48,000 calls since phones opened at 5:30am local time. In Florida many voters reported that optical scan machines weren't working. Ballot bins were also filled up, with poll workers collecting votes in bags, which is illegal. In Detroit, Michigan voters said they were waiting five hours in a 1000-long line because of understaffed polling station.
10.22am: Obama seemed to hold the edge in pre-election balloting, as officials reported that more Democrats than Republicans had voted in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and Iowa. All four states voted for Bush in 2004.
10.19am: Voters in San Diego have complained that a pro-Proposition 8 campaign is underway - illegally - at many polling places. Proposition 8 is California's proposed ban on same-sex marriage.
10.15am: McCain and Obama are both back on the campaign trail after casting their ballots. McCain has planned visits to Grand Junction, Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Obama's schedule involves a stop in Indianapolis before he returns to Chicago where he plans his traditional Election Day game of basketball.
10.03am: Starbucks planned to give voters free coffee on Election Day but has been forced to give one to everyone who asks for a tall brewed coffee. The company's original plan could violate election law in some states, it said.
10.00am:Republican John McCain's campaign sued the Virginia electoral board hours before polls opened, trying to force the state to count late-arriving military ballots from overseas. The former Vietnam POW, asked a federal judge to order state election officials to count absentee ballots mailed from abroad that arrive as late as Nov. 14.
9.55am: Virginia's secretary of state told reporters that up to 40 percent of the state's registered voters had cast their ballots by 10am, local time.
9.52am: Heavy rain plunged a handful of Los Angeles polling places into the dark, forcing some to move voting booths outside until electricity was restored.
9:50am: Nielsen Media Research says even though McCain trebled his ad purchases in seven swing states, he still fell behind Obama. McCain aired 708 spots on Sunday, 1900 on Monday while Obama aired 1463 and 3410 respectively in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
9:40am: The LA Times reports that lines to vote in predominantly African American neighbourhoods are extremely long, with many bringing along children and grandchildren.
9.30am: Pennsylvania is also reporting voting machine problems at a dozen locations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Election Protection reports campaign materials being illegally distributed in Pitsburgh.
9.26am: MSNBC reports that dozen of polling places are having machine malfunctions, forcing some to close completely.
9.23am: John McCain implores Colorado voters to help him out. "America is worth fighting for," he said, "nothing is inevitable."
9.19am: Election officials are reporting larger than 'normal' turnouts at polling stations on the East Coast. Voters are facing long queues at polling stations.
8:50am: In Kenya, people flocked to all-night parties to watch the U.S. election results roll in, determined to celebrate a moment in history. "Tonight we are not going to sleep," said Valentine Wambi, 23, a student at the University of Nairobi. "It will be celebrations throughout."
8:39am: Rap mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combes cast his vote in NYC, telling AP: "I'm not trying to be dramatic, but I just felt like, Martin Luther King, and I felt the whole civil rights movement, I felt all that energy, and I felt my kids,' he said.
8.35am: Two American astronauts - who have already voted - urged their compatriots to vote in a message broadcast by Nasa.
8.30am: Voting is complete in two towns in New Hampshire. Democrat Barack Obama defeated Republican John McCain by a count of 15 to 6 in Dixville Notch, and the town of Hart's Location reported 17 votes for Obama, 10 for McCain and two for write-in Ron Paul. With 115 residents between them, Dixville Notch and Hart's Location get every eligible voter to the polls beginning at midnight on Election Day. Between them, the towns have been enjoying their first-vote status since 1948.
7.15am: Welcome to nzherald.co.nz's live coverage of the 2008 US presidential election.
We invite you to check back regularly throughout the day for the latest news and commentary as America goes to the polls in support of Barack Obama and John McCain.
- NZ HERALD STAFF / AP