[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/05/art.obama.elex.bigscreen.jpg caption="President-elect Barack Obama looks out into the crowd after his acceptance speech at Grant Park in Chicago"]
John P. Avlon
First things first: Today is a great day for America. We have a new President of the United States. Behind that remarkable fact are the statistical trends and milestones that made Barack Obama's election possible. So take a second to study the numbers so you can sound smarter in election-related conversation, or just get some perspective to further appreciate this moment.
By winning 52 percent of the popular vote, Barack Obama joined the ranks of FDR and LBJ in being the only Democratic presidents to get more than 51 percent of the popular vote in the past 100 years. Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton never cleared that hurdle. That's an achievement in itself.
In many ways, last night was a step towards realignment. A few days ago I posted an analysis of six swing counties that could determine the election's outcome. Barack Obama carried each and every one by a margin close to 10 points. Obama won the swing voters in the swing counties in the swing states that he needed to win this election.
Amid record turnout, Obama was able to build a broad coalition reminiscent of Bobby Kennedy's mythic 1968 campaign. He appealed especially to students, voters under 40, African-Americans and Latinos. He split middle class voters with McCain but won moderates by 60 percent and independents by a 5 point margin. And while his victory is not a liberal ideological mandate, it is a mandate for a change away from the polarized politics of our recent past.
American's hope and faith have been invested not just in the figure of Barack Obama but in his essential message of transcending old divides in our politics between left and right, black and white, red states and blue states.
The fact that Obama, as the first African-American nominee, was able to win the swing states and put red states in play including those in the South, such as Virginia and (it looks like) North Carolina demonstrates the historic success of his election outreach. The Democrat's 50-state strategy has broadened and changed the electoral map. Now those shifts must be reinforced.
It's said that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Now begins the time for President-elect Obama to begin making cabinet appointments and announcing policy priorities that reinforce the inclusive and essentially centrist nature of his realigning victory.
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