Obama and McCain trade early state wins

Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain traded victories in several states they were expected to win on Tuesday, but Obama scored the first big win in their White House battle by capturing Pennsylvania.

McCain had targeted the battleground of Pennsylvania, won by Democrats in the last four elections, as his best hope of stealing a Democratic-leaning state but two television networks projected Obama would win there.

The loss leaves McCain with little margin of error in his quest for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to capture the White House. He must win nearly all of the remaining battleground states, which were carried by President George W. Bush in 2004.

Long lines greeted voters in many key states but no major breakdowns or irregularities were reported as at least 130 million Americans are expected to cast votes on a successor to the unpopular Bush.

With about 6.5 million votes counted across the country, Obama narrowly led McCain.

Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, would be the first black U.S. president. Opinion polls indicated he was running ahead of McCain in enough states to give him more than the 270 Electoral College votes he needs to win.

A victory for McCain, a 72-year-old former Vietnam War prisoner, would make him the oldest president to begin a first term in the White House and make his running mate Sarah Palin the first female U.S. vice president.

The winner will face a crush of challenges over the next four years, including the economic crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and an overhaul of the U.S. health care system.

After a campaign dominated by a debate over an economic crisis, exit polls showed 6 of every 10 voters listed the economy as the top issue.

Obama took command of the race in the last month as a deepening financial crisis reinforced his perceived strengths on the economy, and his steady performance in three debates helped ease lingering doubts among some voters.

Opinion polls before the voting showed Obama ahead or even with McCain in at least eight states won by Bush in 2004, including the big prizes of Ohio and Florida. Obama led comfortably in all of the states won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

Obama victories in either Ohio or Florida, or in traditionally Republican states where polls show he is competitive like Virginia, Colorado, Indiana and North Carolina, would likely propel him to the White House.

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