Democrat Barack Obama has become the first African-American elected president of the United States. The Illinois senator defeated Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

In cities across America, large crowds gathered to celebrate the election of the first African-American U.S. president.

VOA reporter Kane Farabaugh was in President-elect Obama's home city of Chicago, Illinois, where tens-of-thousands of jubilant supporters celebrated in Grant Park.

"Everybody here has the largest smiles," he said. "There's a lot of laughing, there's a lot of hugging, there's a lot of embracing. Certainly, I don't think this moment is lost on anyone here. I think the precedent is set, the sort of historic moment that it is going to become certainly is not lost on anyone here. There's a few tears, but certainly many more smiles. I would say that the atmosphere here is jubilant."

A short time later, Senator McCain delivered his concession speech. In his home city of Phoenix, Arizona, the Republican candidate encouraged his supporters to get behind Mr. Obama.

"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," he said.

Senator Obama captured almost all of the so-called "swing" states, where the election is most competitive.

Each of the 50 U.S. states is allotted electoral votes, depending on the size of its population and congressional representation. In most states, the candidate who wins the largest part of the popular vote wins all of that state's electoral votes. The winning candidate must get at least 270 electoral votes out of the total of 538.

Voter turnout in this year's election is expected to be among the largest on record, and there were long lines at many polling stations across the country. Voter registration has increased by seven percent since the last presidential election in 2004.

The slumping U.S. economy was the top issue on voters' minds, and Mr. Obama was able to link McCain to the policies of his fellow Republican, President George Bush. An Associated Press exit poll showed that six of every 10 voters named the economy as the most important issue facing the country.