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Shaun Ley's US odyssey.

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Eddie Mair | 07:45 UK time, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Shaunley.JPGThe co-presenter of the Radio 4 Election night show has just filed this - at 0740 UK time. He'll be reporting live (when will he sleep?) for PM tonight. You can read more of Shaun's writings by going to Categories on the right and clicking on Shaun's section.

"... And yes, I am in a bar. After all, it may be almost 6am in the UK, but it's only 1am in Washington.

Well, what a night it's been. When the dust settles, take a look at the electoral map of the USA. Look at the previously red/Republican states which turned blue/Democratic. That's the measure of Barack Obama's achievement. His is certainly not the biggest win in the Electoral College (think Reagan trouncing Mondale in 1984) and some of the States fell only by narrow margins. Yet Obama can claim to have won in most of the US, with the possible exception of the deep south,

It probably doesn't seem like it right now, but winning was the easy bit. The economy is tanking; American soldiers are dying in two foreign countries; and for all the euphoria overnight, this is politically a highly polarised country.

Supporters of President-elect Obama hope that he'll be a leader of the calibre of Lincoln or Kennedy.

The less optimistic scenario is that he finds himself like Herbert Hoover, who was elected exactly eighty years ago. Hoover had the misfortune to be in office when Wall Street crashed, and although he'd been one of those most critical of the way the economy was being managed, he got the blame. He even gave his name to the encampments of the homeless which sprang up in the wake of the Great Depression, Hoovervilles.

But let's not be unduly pessimistic. This is an extraordinary night in the social as well as political history of the United States; one the Senator and his supporters are entitled to savour, and one those who didn't support him need time to come to terms with.

Barack Obama will be the 44th President; but spare a thought for number 43. George W Bush has to turn up for work at the White House as normal this morning. He's still President until January 20th next year; but now before he makes any decisions he'll have to consult with the Obama transition team.

In January 2001, I was in Washington on the morning of President Bush's first inauguration. You couldn't move for stetsons, as Texans celebrated their arrival in DC. I'd never seen them worn by women or by men in dinner jackets; but they were that week, with rhinestones to boot.

Many of those Texans have long since left DC; I wonder what the Obama crowd will be like, and how long they'll last ?

I'd go on, but even if you've stuck with me this far, I'm sure you've had enough. In any event, they've just thrown us out of the bar.

Good night, or perhaps, to quote another President, that should be "it's good morning again in America.""


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