Barack Obama, still basking in euphoria at home and abroad over his stunning election as the 44th U.S. president, faced the more mundane task Wednesday of putting together a new administration and dealing with the twin problems of war and financial crisis.
At noon ET, with 97% of U.S. precincts tallied, the popular vote was 52% for Obama and 46% for McCain, with the Democrat leading by more than 7 million votes.
But the count in the Electoral College was much more lopsided —349 to 147 in Obama's favor as of early Wednesday —with North Carolina still to be decided.
The 47-year-old Obama, a first-term senator who campaigned across the country for 21 months, planned to remain in Chicago for the rest of the week.
In his first post-election misson, the president-elect took time off for a workout at the gym. Wearing a baseball cap and holding a newspaper, Obama left his Chicago home in a SUV, waving at onlookers through the glass.
He planned to meet with the media later this week as he moves quickly to begin assembling a White House staff and selecting Cabinet nominees, particularly a Treasury secretary.
The Associated Press reported that Obama had offered Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the job of White House chief of staff, but it was not known whether he had accepted.
ABC News reports that Obama has added Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, former Clinton Transportation and Energy Secretary Federico Peña, and former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley to his transition team.
While Obama turned to tasks at hand, the man who will become his predecessor offered his thoughts on the historic election.
In brief remarks at the White House, President Bush said Obama's election was "especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes and four decades later see a dream fulfilled."
He said he had invited the president-elect to visit the White House soon. "It will be a stirring sight to watch President-elect Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the white House," he said.
The president also emphasized that he would keep the president fully informed during a time of transition and would fulfill his chief responsibility of protecting the nation.
"The world can be certain that this commitment will remain steadfast under our next commander in chief," he said.
As for Obama, the president-elect set the tone for the tasks ahead in an address before a jubilant crowd of 125,000 people at Grant Park in Chicago late Tuesday.
"We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," Obama said. "There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair."
He said there would be "setbacks and false starts" ahead as the nation grappled with war and economic crises.
"The road ahead will be long," he said. "Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."
Tears were mixed with joy as the cheering audience listened to the acceptance speech of America's first African-American president.
Such emotional outpourings occurred across the country: