05 November 2008 04:07 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Democrat candidate Barack Obama has won a clear victory in the US presidential election, television networks projected on Tuesday.
The senator from Illinois has held a commanding lead in opinion polls for weeks. But Obama's supporters had feared an upset in the uncharted waters of his historic candidacy as the first African-American representing a major party and amid the biggest voter turnout in decades.
The vote counting went Obama's way early on, as he took key battleground state Ohio as well as making deep inroads in traditionally conservative states including Indiana and North Carolina, while holding on to blue-collar Pennsylvania and the northeast.
Obama's victory was complemented by strong gains in Congress by the Democrats, who already held control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Democrats had been expected to gain as many as 30 seats in the House, which would boost their majority to 263 against 172 Republicans.
Early returns showed the Democrats were on the way to wresting Senate seats from Republicans in several states, with North Carolina and New Mexico among the first to fall.
The Democrats have held 51 of the 100 Senate seats since the 2006 mid-term election. If they reach 60 seats, they would have a much stronger hand to force the passage of legislation.
Final results may not be known until Wednesday or even later.
The prospect of a left-leaning Congress working with a Democrat president has worried many business leaders, including some in the chemical industry.
Higher taxes and tougher regulatory burdens are at the top of the concerns, with energy policy another major issue for the chemical industry.
Obama has said he would consider expanded offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, but the focus of his energy policy is on conservation, renewable energy and new technology. The Democrat's declared willingness to seek better terms for the US in trade deals hold mixed promise for the chemical industry.
The potential for a more protectionist stance could help some domestic-oriented producers, but could hurt exporters that might face retaliatory tariffs.
Drawing upon a record-setting campaign war chest inflated by unprecedented grass roots support, Obama had worked hard to cast the election as a referendum on the deeply unpopular administration of George W Bush, who must step down in January after serving the maximum two terms as president during the past eight years.
Obama's central message that his Republican opponent John McCain would continue the same policies as Bush resonated loudly in recent weeks as financial markets went into turmoil and economic storm clouds gathered over an already anaemic economy.
The global meltdown sent the once-potent issue of the Iraq war to the background and neutralised McCain's advantage of experience in international affairs.
McCain had sought to distance himself from Bush by playing up his maverick reputation as one who had frequently bucked the Republican agenda and vowing to change the way Washington operates.
But McCain found it difficult to escape Bush's shadow, and his bold gamble on a virtual unknown as his running mate was widely judged to be a costly mis-step.
The choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin did initially breathe new life into the 72-year-old McCain's flagging campaign, but she soon became a liability in opinion polls amid intense and mostly unfavourable media attention.
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