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Gary Younge
Obama elected as lone black senator

Mr Obama, who delivered the most memorable keynote speech of the Democratic national convention in August, easily beat conservative Republican, Alan Keyes.

Exit polls suggested Mr Obama, 43, would trounce Mr Keyes with around 70% of the vote - a considerable win given that the contested seat was vacated by a Republican.

The race had attracted considerable attention because both candidates were black - a rarity in a contest for the Senate, which has only had three black senators in the post civil war period.

Mr Obama's victory was helped by the mishaps of his opponents. In June he held a double digit leader over his previous Republican challenger, Jack Ryan, when Mr Ryan's campaign collapsed because of a sex scandal.

In a desperate bid to find a replacement the Republicans found Mr Keyes, a deeply religious conservative who is anti-gay and anti-abortion and who was unable to reach beyond a narrow, conservative base.

But Mr Obama also made his own luck. Running on an impressive record as a state senator with an ability to bridge gulfs of race and partisanship, his affable manner quickly won over wary Democrats to gain him the primary.

As one of the few Democrats likely to win a seat vacated by a Republican he was propelled to the limelight at the Democratic party convention.

The son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, who was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, he has sold himself as a man capable of transcending racial boundaries while preserving strong roots in black Chicago, where he lives.

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