CINCINNATI (Reuters) - Americans woke with joy, cautious optimism and frank worry on Wednesday after the historic win by Democrat Barack Obama, who went from long shot to president-elect on the promise of change.
Just hours after Obama’s victory speech to thousands of cheering supporters in Chicago, ordinary Americans headed to work clutching coffees and carrying newspapers that proclaimed Obama’s place in history as the first black U.S. president.
“I’m excited. It’s a huge step in the right direction,” nurse Kim Andrews said as she headed to her hospital job in Cincinnati’s dawn.
Obama rode a wave of voter discontent to triumph over Republican John McCain, while his fellow Democrats won increased majorities in Congress, as Americans emphatically rejected Republican President George W. Bush’s eight years in office.
Andrews, 23, said she cried as she watched Obama’s victory on television late on Tuesday night, amazed that America had taken such a great step in its long and troubled racial history.
“It shows that anyone can do anything,” Andrews said.
Detroit media publisher Brian Boyle was equally thrilled.
“I feel much better about the world today than I did yesterday, I think the world feels much better about our country today than they did yesterday. It was a really amazing night,” said Boyle, 43.
“I just think Barack is really uniquely qualified to go out and build bridges and build an alliance of world leaders that are committed to making the world better,” he added.
Even McCain supporter John Ward cheered Obama’s victory as a great historic leap for America.
“Who would have thought we’d gotten this far? I think it’s great for the country,” said Ward, 44, a Cincinnati information technology worker.
“I’m a conservative, but I liked a lot of what Obama had to say, and I think it’s going to be a good change for the country after a rough eight years.”
Obama, the son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas, warned supporters Tuesday night that he faces huge challenges from a deep economic crisis and two wars, and cautioned he will not be able to please everybody.
McCain, a fellow senator and war hero who conceded defeat just hours after polls had closed, urged his supporters to unite and work with Democrats to steer the country through the tough times ahead.
But some Republicans expressed disappointment with Obama’s win and resentment of the media for a perceived pro-Obama bias during the long and often bitter campaign.
“The press had it sewn up for him months and months ago ... Everything they wrote was so pro-Obama,” said Scottsdale, Arizona, coffee shop worker Patti Sutton.
Sutton said she’ll support Obama — “He’s my president” — but remains worried about the changes he may bring.
“My biggest concern is that we’re going to pull out of Iraq too quickly, and pay more taxes ... He’s got great advisers in Colin Powell and Warren Buffett, and he’s going to need them,” Sutton said.
Some voters also worried Obama’s win could stir up racist resentment, possibly even threatening his safety.
“It a great thing but a scary thing,” said Cincinnati nurse Natasha Johnson, 28. “There have already been two failed assassination plots ... there are still a lot of people who don’t agree with this.”
Two white supremacist skinheads were arrested in October over plans to shoot Obama and kill other blacks, but the plot appeared unsophisticated. Obama received Secret Service protection early in his historic campaign.
Additional reporting by Soyoung Kim in Detroit and Tim Gaynor in Arizona; Editing by Eric Beech