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World Leaders Hail Obama Win; Democrats Widen Leads in Congress

“At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, reported BBC News.

In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energizing politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future.”

And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said “everyone has the right to expect a fresh approach from the United States to all the most important problems, including … relations with Russia,” quoted BBC News.

In a speech at the White House on Wednesday, President Bush promised to cooperate with Obama during the transition. “No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,” Mr. Bush said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Obama’s election as the first black president an “extraordinary step forward” in efforts to overcome racism. “As an African-American, I’m especially proud,” she told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to spontaneous celebrations in several U.S. cities, Obama’s relatives in the Kenyan village of Kogelo, where his late father was born, cheered Obama’s win, saying, “We are going to the White House!” Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a public holiday in Obama’s honor.

On Wednesday, Democrats also celebrated their gains in Congress, although they did not secure a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Going into the election, Democrats controlled the House 235-199, and added at least 15 seats on Tuesday.

“Tonight, the American people have called for a new direction,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the AP reported. “They have called for a change in America.”

Senate Democrats gained at least five seats to reach 56 in the 100-seat chamber, with three races still too close to call Wednesday morning, according to the AP.

In North Carolina, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole lost her seat to state Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

Another incumbent, Republican Sen. John Sununu, lost in New Hampshire to former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Other Democrats who won Republican-held seats were former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, and cousins Mark Udall of Colorado and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

The GOP held onto other Senate seats, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Susan Collins in Maine and Roger Wicker in Mississippi.

The outcome of the Senate race in Minnesota between incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Al Franken remained too close to call Wednesday morning, according to the AP.

“The people have spoken,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on CBS’ “The Early Show.” “The Senate is going to have to work things out in a bipartisan way, and I think the test is going to be right there.”

Meanwhile, several ballot initiatives dealing with social issues passed, including a ban on gay marriage in Florida and Arizona. California’s Proposition 8 to terminate marriage rights for gay couples also cleared, 52 percent to 48 percent with most precincts reporting, according to the AP.

South Dakota struck down a statewide ban on abortions except in the cases of rape, incest or the woman’s health.

And voters in Michigan approved an expansion of stem cell research on discarded embryos from fertility clinics and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

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