Barack Obama, Democratic senator from Illinois, has defeated John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, in both the electoral and popular vote. The electoral balance currently stands at 349 for Obama and 163 for McCain, according to the Washington Post; results from a few states are still pending. 270 electoral votes are needed to win. Either Obama or McCain would have represented a very different departure for science from President George W. Bush, although not perhaps that different from each other. During the campaign, Obama promised a host of changes, such as fresh investments in science and technology, including a $150-billion push in alternative energies; in his acceptance speech last night he cited “a planet in peril” among the many leading challenges for his presidency. The question now is whether those promises will be translated into reality come inauguration day on 20 January.
Thirty-five of the Senate’s 100 seats were up for grabs in this election. The Democrats strengthened their hold on the Senate, but have fallen short of the 60-seat majority that would have eased the passage of new legislation. The Washington Post reports the current balance at 54 Democratic, 40 Republican, and 2 Independent seats. But with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and in the executive branch, Democratic priorities such as climate-change legislation may now gain traction.