Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures as he concedes the presidential race at a rally in Phoenix.
Arizona may be the only state where mothers can’t tell their children they can grow up to be president. It’s an old joke that John McCain liked to tell on the campaign trail. It now rings true.
McCain follows in the footsteps of Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrats Mo Udall and Bruce Babbitt — Arizonans who lost presidential bids. The consolation prize for McCain — he managed to defeat Barack Obama in his home state Tuesday and came closer to the White House than any Arizonan since Goldwater.
“The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” McCain told supporters at the Arizona Biltmore. “Today I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much, and tonight I remain her servant — that is blessing enough for anyone and I thank the people of Arizona for it.”
With 91 percent of precincts reporting, McCain had 53.9 percent of the vote in Arizona to Obama’s 45 percent.
“John McCain solidified his base here in Arizona,” said Doug Cole, who interned for McCain when he was a congressman in 1985 and worked on most of his elections ever since. “He’s well-liked here in Arizona, and I think the results exemplify that.”
Cole said it’s time for the country to rally around Obama, “as John McCain so eloquently said in his speech tonight.”
“That was probably John McCain’s best speech, it was magnificent,” he said. “It was a speech about closure and, you know, the election’s over now and we need to move on and we need to back our president, and that’s a great message.”
He said it’s too early to talk about McCain’s political future beyond 2010, but “John McCain is a world figure and will remain so as long as he wants to remain so.”
Arizona State University pollster Bruce Merrill predicted the major statistic that factored into McCain’s Arizona win will be age.
“We have a lot of older people, and a lot of older veteran people,” he said. “You’ve got to keep in mind that the same winds that blow across the rest of the country blow across Arizona.”
As far as McCain’s political future, Merrill said he’ll become the most powerful Republican senator in the country. “He’s the titular head of the Republican party for the next couple of years,” he said.
Arizona’s state historian, Marshall Trimble, said he wasn’t surprised McCain carried Arizona.
“He should have,” he said. “This is his state. I thought it might be close because the Democrats have been very strong in Arizona. We’ve been well-served by Democrats — and I’m a Republican.”
Trimble said he hopes McCain stays in politics. His term in the Senate is up in 2010.
This race was a bit tighter than McCain’s previous contests in Arizona, reflecting changes in the state’s population. McCain had never lost an election here and won his last two re-election races with more than two-thirds of the vote.
McCain never relinquished the reliable and sizable base that has long supported him in Arizona.
“I think he’s very honest, very truthful,” said Ruth Naliborski, 55, of Flagstaff. “He’s done a great job as our senator.”
Arizona saw a modest amount of TV advertising from the campaigns and few public appearances by the candidates. The race here centered largely on lining up volunteers, canvassing neighborhoods, working phone banks and handing out yard signs to supporters. Both campaigns had dispatched volunteers from Arizona to campaign in nearby states, such as New Mexico.
For the Republican candidate, the goal was to tap into his political base here without spending a lot of money, so contributions from Arizona could be sent to McCain efforts in more competitive states. The Obama campaign staked its hopes in Arizona on thousands of volunteers and a belief that McCain was vulnerable back home.
With less than a week before the election, as a reputable poll showed the race tightening, Obama bought air time on local TV in Arizona. Previously, the only ads running in Arizona were part of national commercial buys that happened to run here.
Alex Corral, a registered Democrat who supported Bush in 2004, cast a vote in Tempe for Obama this time.
“I’m more or less looking for change like everybody else,” Corral said.
Political scientists and the McCain campaign said that if Arizona hadn’t been McCain’s home state, it would probably have stood with Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada as battleground states in the West where both campaigns invested heavily.
Arizona has a long history of supporting Republican presidential candidates. Bill Clinton in 1996 became the first Democrat to prevail here since Harry Truman in 1948. George W. Bush carried the state as the Republican nominee in 2000 and 2004.
Since the 2004 election, the state’s political dynamics have changed in a subtle way.
While Republicans still make up the largest political group in Arizona, their strength in voter registration has slipped 2 percentage points since 2004. Democratic registration dipped less than 1 percentage point since then.
The most significant change came among Independents, who now account for 27 percent of all voters, compared to their nearly 25 percent in late 2004.
Associated Press Writer Jacques Billeaud contributed to this report.Barack’s big win
Obama’s big win
Around the country and around the world, many celebrated the election of Barack Obama to the White House.
Producer: JUDY CARLOCK and DYLAN SMITH/Tucson Citizen
Slide 1 of 19.
President-elect Barack Obama speaks in Chicago.
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President-elect Barack Obama speaks in Chicago.
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A sea of supporters wait for Obama to speak.
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Vice president-elect Joe Biden holds one his grand-daughters during President-elect Barack Obama's election night party.
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Oprah Winfrey waits with Stedman Graham at the election night party for President-elect Barack Obama at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night.
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Michelle Moore, of Boise, takes a picture of her husband Tom Moore, as he stands with a Barack Obama life size cutout at the Idaho Democratic Headquarters at the Hilton Garden Inn in Boise, Idaho.
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The crowd reacts as it is announced on television that Barack Obama has been elected the President of the United States at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night.
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Christine King Farris, sister of civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., is embraced by Rushie Jones after a cable news channel projected Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as the winner during an election-night party at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Tuesday.
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Jesse Jackson weeps as returns come in.
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A group in Japan celebrates Obama's win.
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A member of Democrats Abroad in the Philippines gestures as she watches results leading to the predicted victory of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama during an election watch in suburban Manila, Philippines on Wednesday.
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Kenyan family members of U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama celebrate after his victory in the U.S. election was announced, at the family's homestead in Kogelo village, Kenya. The village is where Obama's step-grandmother lives. Barack Obama's Kenyan family erupted in cheers Wednesday, singing "We are going to the White House!" as Obama became the first African-American elected president in the United States.
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Emily Berkson, from Chicago, left, and Krista Anne Nordgren from Chapel Hill, N.C. watch the speech of President-Elect Barack Obama in an overflow area of Grant Park.
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Obama celebrates with his daughter, Malia.
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U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Kopecky, 24, from Manitowoc, Wis., left, phones home as a television broadcasts U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul, Iraq
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Obama kisses his wife, Michelle, after his acceptance speech.
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Marissa Wilkes, left, and Ladona Miller react as they learn of Barack Obama's victory during an election party for Senator-elect Kay Hagan in Greensboro, N.C., Tuesday.
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The marquee of the famous Apollo theater proclaims the victory of President-elect Barack Obama early Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008 in the Harlem section of New York.
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In Phoenix, U.S. Sen. John McCain, with running mate Sarah Palin, reassured crowds at the Arizona Biltmore, silencing when they booed Sen. Barack Obama.
Source: The Associated Press
Text of Republican John McCain’s concession speech Tuesday in Phoenix, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions.
MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.
My friends, we have — we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.
A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.
To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.
In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.
This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.
I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.
But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.
America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.
Let there be no reason now … Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.
Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.
Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.
These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.
It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.
We fought — we fought as hard as we could. And though we feel short, the failure is mine, not yours.
MCCAIN: I am so…
MCCAIN: I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We do, too (OFF-MIKE)
MCCAIN: The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.
I’m especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother … my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.
I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.
You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate’s family than on the candidate, and that’s been true in this campaign.
All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.
I am also — I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen … one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength … her husband Todd and their five beautiful children … for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.
We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.
To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.
I don’t know — I don’t know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I’ll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.
This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.
I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.
Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.
AUDIENCE: USA. USA. USA. USA.
MCCAIN: Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama — whether they supported me or Senator Obama.
I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.
Americans never quit. We never surrender.
We never hide from history. We make history.
Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.
By Amanda Lee Myers, Andrew Bagnato