Obama set to transform political face of the US

Barack Obama will finish his campaign to become the first African American president of the United States with the same calm message of hope and change for the nation as he started more than 20 months ago.

A politician from whom the world expects great things, Mr Obama described the 2008 election as a “defining moment” for Americans who were looking for “real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives”.

Repeatedly breaking fundraising records and drawing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of supporters at rallies, he simultaneously showed he was tough enough to beat the Clinton political machine in a prolonged and often bitter primary season while keeping his cool on the trail, perhaps keen to avoid the image of an angry black man.

As he became the first presidential candidate in 16 years to air a 30-minute primetime infomercial on several US TV networks, he declared: “I will not be a perfect president. But I can promise you this – I will always tell you what I think and where I stand.”

The advert, which cost about £2 million, emphasised his financial dominance over rival John McCain and was seen in more than 20 per cent of homes across the country.

“America, the time for change has come,” he said to loud cheers as the commercial cut to him on stage as a live campaign event in the battleground state of Florida.

“We can choose hope over fear, and unity over division; the promise of change over the power of the status quo.

“We can come together as one nation, and one people, and once again choose our better history.”

The 47-year-old Illinois senator’s message of hope and change comes at a time when many Americans are unhappy with an unpopular war in Iraq, disillusioned with the nation’s position in the world, and suffering at home from a global financial crisis.

His high rhetoric and record-breaking rallies, including an audience of 200,000 people in Berlin, have seen him compared with a Messiah-like figure.

And he took his national convention to an outdoor stadium, standing in front of a stage resembling a Greek temple, or a federal building in Washington, as he accepted his party’s nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“America, we are better than these last eight years, we are a better country than this,” he said, as he compared Mr McCain with the unpopular President George Bush.

His former rival Hillary Clinton said he was her candidate in what was arguably the most important speech of her life and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, declared Mr Obama was “the man” to lead America.

On his way to becoming the first African American nominee of any major political party, Mr Obama also confronted the key issue of race in a bold speech in March.

He said America could not afford to ignore the race issue and added that incendiary comments by his former pastor the Rev Jeremiah Wright reflected the “complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect”.

On foreign affairs, he has vowed to pull troops out of Iraq and talk to Cuba’s new leader Raul Castro.

He hopes to create a subsidised public health care plan - to provide health care for anyone who wanted it - and has put the reduction of greenhouse gases as one of his chief domestic goals.