Americans crowd polling stations in historic election

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena (L) and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe gesture as Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake (unseen) presents a supplementary budget to parliament, marking the first economic policy statement of the new government which came to power earlier in the month in Colombo on January 29, 2015. Sri Lanka's new government announced hefty taxes on top companies in a bid to raise revenue, accusing the previous regime of fudging the figures and leaving the economy in a "sad state". AFP PHOTO / Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2008 (AFP) – Americans crowded polling stations Tuesday to vote in their historic election, with front-running Democrat Barack Obama seeking to become the first black US president and Republican rival John McCain battling for a comeback. With predictions of record turnout, long queues stretched in the dark from polling stations waiting to open in states including tightly-contested Virginia, neighboring Maryland, and New York.

“The last eight years has been a horror story,” said Michael Smith, a 54-year-old salesman, standing in a queue of hundreds stretching around the block at a polling station in Manhattan. He said he would vote for Obama.

“The country itself is slipping in the (popularity) polls,” he said. “In the end that’s what people are going to vote for today — a new direction.”

History’s longest, costliest White House campaign ended with Obama the hot favorite, enjoying wide leads in national polls and the edge in a string of battleground states which could swing the election either way. Unusually high turnout by new and younger voters were expected to help Obama, however, analysts said.

In the eye of the worst financial storm since the 1930s and with US troops embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both