The first blow for McCain came just after 8:30 p.m. New Hampshire, the state where he had twice staged comebacks, went for Obama. In Grant Park, a young man threw his arms up in the air and twirled in the dirt: "We're going to do it!" Then 15 minutes later on the jumbo screen, Wolf Blitzer, as large as a single-family home, announced that Obama had also won Pennsylvania. The crowd erupted. McCain had put his hopes on the traditionally blue state as a break against Obama's likely wins in other states.
The next blow for McCain came in Ohio. With two days left in the campaign, Obama had visited Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland. He out-organized McCain and outspent him. It paid off. There was no longer any way McCain could put together enough electoral votes. The pace picked up from there, with red states falling one by one for Obama: New Mexico, Iowa, Florida, and Virginia, where on the last night of his campaign Obama drew a crowd of 90,000, just outside Washington—miles away from the first battlefield of the Civil War. *
At the start of his campaign, Obama often concluded his speeches by telling the story of his Senate campaign and how he prevailed in the southern part of Illinois despite its history of antipathy towards blacks. He cited Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." On Tuesday, 221 years after the adoption of a Constitution that allowed slavery to continue, an African-American won the presidency. In Grant Park, as Barack Obama left the stage, you could see that arc bend.
Correction, Nov. 5, 2008: This piece incorrectly stated that Obama's victory was the first majority for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Jimmy Carter won a majority of the popular vote in 1976, with a count of 40 million to Gerald Ford's 39 million. (Return to the corrected sentence.)