Obama takes strong lead

The Democratic candidate Barack Obama wins Pennsylvania to give him a decisive early lead in the US elections.

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 4: Jason Derker (L), of Stamford, Connecticut and Geoff Schneider (R), of Wilton, Connecticut hold a sign supporting Obama as they walk through a neighborhood on Election Day on November 4, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After nearly two years of presidential campaigning, U.S. citizens go to the polls today to vote in the election between Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Republican nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).   William Thomas Cain/Getty Images/AFP

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The Democrat Barack Obama took an early lead in the historic presidential race on Tuesday, including the big prize of battleground state of Pennsylvania, according to US media projections. US networks ABC and NBC called the vital eastern state's 21 electoral votes for the Democrat, but John McCain appeared to parry back, with Georgia, a traditionally Republican state that slipped into toss-up status in recent weeks, and its 15 electoral votes going to the Republican, according to Fox and MSNBC. Mr Obama won 10 other states and the capital District of Columbia to give him the lead in the first waves of results amid heavy voter turnout. Among them was the symbolic northeastern prize of New Hampshire, as well as Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and his home state of Illinois, media outlets including CNN, Fox, and CBS also reported. Mr McCain has won eight states - Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia - most considered safe Republican bastions, they said. Losing Pennsylvania is a major blow for Mr McCain, who had criss-crossed the state in recent weeks in an effort to strike an upset in one of the major battleground states. The tally puts Mr Obama ahead 103 electoral votes to 69 in the projections. The networks were citing rolling official state results along with exit polls conducted in several polling locations across the states. Other key battlegrounds Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia were declared "too close to call" as polls closed in at least 16 of the country's 50 states and the city of Washington. Each state in the country has a winner-take-all system for calculating presidential votes for the states, which means most are either solidly Democratic (blue) or Republican (red). The candidate who reaches the threshold 270 out of 538 electoral votes nationwide is declared the winner. It has been widely predicted that Mr McCain must win either Pennsylvania, Virginia or Ohio if he wants any shot at the presidency. *AFP