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This Day in History: November 4th

Barack Obama Became the First Black President of the United States

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama became America’s first black president. The former Senator from Illinois defeated Arizona Senator John McCain to become the 44th president of the United States. His vice-presidential running mate was Senator Joe Biden of Delaware,

The former president was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He graduated from Harvard Law School and was a law professor at the University of Chicago before he launched his political career in 1996 and was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He was re-elected to his State Senate position in 1998 and 2000. 

He gained national prominence by winning the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois in March 2004. He got further national exposure when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston (John Kerry was the nominee) and made a call for unity among “red” (Republican) and “blue” (Democratic) states. Obama proved to be victorious and was elected to the U.S. Senate in a landslide.

On February 10, 2007, in Springfield, Illinois, Obama officially announced his plans to run for the presidency. Obama outlasted former New York Senator Hilary Clinton in the Democratic Primary to win the nomination.

Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign also employed an unprecedented use of social media and the internet for organizing constituents and fundraising. The 2008 presidential election saw record levels of voter turnout with more than 130 million people casting a vote.

Overall, Obama earned 365 electoral votes and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote, while his Republican challenger only captured 173 electoral votes and more than 45 percent of the popular vote.

Exit polls suggested that women helped propel Obama to his victory by backing him 56 percent compared to 43 percent backing McCain. Obama also held a slight edge with men but he did not win the support of white voters. White voters make up three-quarters of voters and McCain won their votes 55 percent to 43 percent. 

However, black voters (13 percent of the electorate) overwhelmingly voted for Obama 95 percent to 4 percent for McCain. Exit polls also showed that Obama was able to win two-thirds of voters from ages 18 to 29 (which is 18 percent of the electorate) and he won 66 percent of the Hispanic voter population.  

Barack Obama went on to run a successful reelection campaign in 2012. On November 6, 2012, he defeated the Republican nominee, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, to win a second term in the White House.

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