Americans crowd polling stations in historic election

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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