By Daniel Silliman
Barack Obama won Tuesday night, becoming the nation's first African-American president.
The 47-year-old Democratic senator from Illinois took the White House by defeating Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states.
A huge crowd thronged Grant Park in Chicago to cheer Obama's victory -- a triumph the Associated Press trumpeted as improbable, overcoming racial barriers as old as America itself.
Obama, in his first speech as president-elect, noted that he was an unlikely candidate. He once described himself as "a skinny kid with a funny name," but on Tuesday, he told a thundering crowd that "change has come."
The Democratic candidate played hard for Georgia, deploying a volleys of ads and squads of volunteers to try and sway this traditionally conservative southern state. At the end of the night, though, Obama couldn't take the state's 15 electoral votes.
With 89 percent of the state's precincts reporting, almost 55 percent of Georgia's voters cast their ballot for McCain, leading Obama by more than 300,000 votes.
On the south side of Atlanta, though, McCain supporters seemed to sort of concede, even as they voted.
In Henry County, where McCain took about 52 percent of the vote, the chairman of the county GOP was glad it was over.
"It has been a very aggressive campaign by both parties," he said. "At the end of the day, this will still be one nation under God."
In Clayton County, where more than 79 percent of the vote went to Obama, the results of the state race didn't taint the victory.
Aleem Brown, an 18-year-old Clayton County resident voting for the first time, said he was proud to vote for Obama.
"I take it as an honor," said the African-American teen, "that I could be a part of something this big. I've learned from this experience that every vote counts."
According to the Associated Press' exit polls, six out of 10 Georgia voters cited the economy as their No. 1 issue, at the polls. The concern didn't seem to push voters in either direction, though.
Connie Aldrich, a small business owner from Rex, said she went to the polls thinking she's "really had some hard times in the last three months."
"Everything's been a struggle," said the 54-year-old. "I'm hoping that things will turn around for the best."
Tavares Harris, an 18-year-old Clayton State University student, said the economy is even a concern to college students.
"The recession ain't no joke," Harris said. "You need things for college, like everyday necessities. But you have to wait. Money is short. Finding a job is difficult, too."
Obama, in his victory speech, acknowledged the challenges ahead -- "Two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," he said.
But he promised to be honest with the nation, and invoked Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, in a call to come together and overcome those challenges.
"So let us," Obama said, "summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder."
The Associated Press and staff writers Joel Hall, Johnny Jackson and Curt Yeomans contributed to this report.