The Collegian
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Students watch as Obama becomes the next U.S. president

More than 150 elated students in the Tyler Haynes Commons embraced, shouted and cried shortly after 11 p.m., when the polls closed on the West Coast and television networks announced that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States, the first black American to win the office.

"This is now a country where you really can be anything," said Dwayne Foster, a freshman. "There are no more excuses. The election] wasn't even close. It was decisive. He won fair and square."

Obama narrowly won Virginia's 13 electoral votes in a state that hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Obama captured 1,796,756 votes -- 51.7 percent of the total -- while McCain took 1,641,704 votes, about 47.2 percent, according to Virginia's State Board of Elections. Voter turnout was tremendously high in Virginia, with 70 percent of active voters casting ballots.

Richmond City overwhelmingly favored Obama, who garnered nearly 80 percent of the city's vote with all precincts reporting. McCain had just under 20 percent. At the Westhampton Baptist Church -- the precinct where most University of Richmond students voting in Richmond cast ballots -- the race was much closer. Obama won 51.8 percent of the vote, and McCain won 47.5 percent.

Obama, who had been running what had been described as a "post-racial" campaign, recognized the historical significance of being elected 48 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible ... tonight is your answer," Obama said.

He appeared before a crowd of 125,000 in Grant Park, Chicago, to claim victory shortly after Sen. John McCain conceded in Arizona. Americans watched red states President George W. Bush had won in 2004 turn blue. It was the first time since 1964 that the Commonwealth had sided with a Democrat for president.

More than 200 students gathered in the Commons to watch the returns. The majority of the students present were Obama supporters. The group members began watching election coverage at 7 p.m., when the first polls closed, anxiously sipping on sodas and stirring sugar into large cups of coffee.

During the first hour, the states aligned predictably to the results of the 2004 presidential election. But the evening starting tilting toward Obama, first, when Pennsylvania was called for the Democratic nominee, despite McCain's fevered efforts to win the state.

Shortly after Pennsylvania was called for Obama, Ohio fell to the Illinois senator.

When the election was called for Obama, the room erupted in jubilation. Students hugged and ran around the room screaming, giving the Commons the atmosphere of a rock concert. Andy Gurka, the area coordinator at the University Forrest Apartments, said he had never seen such an outpouring of emotion from the Richmond student body.

In the Richmond mayoral race, Dwight Jones defeated his main rival, City Council chairman Bill Pantele. In the senate race, former Gov. Mark Warner soundly defeated Republican Jim Gilmore, delivering the second U.S. senate seat to the Democrats. Democrat Jim Webb defeated George Allen in 2006 to claim the other senate seat.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Contact staff writer David Larter at

Support independent student media

You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.

Donate Now