WASHINGTON – His name etched in history as America's first black president, Barack Obama turned from the jubilation of victory to the sobering challenge of leading a nation worried about economic crisis, two unfinished wars and global uncertainty. "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep," Obama cautioned. Young and charismatic but with little experience on the national level, Obama smashed through racial barriers and easily defeated Republican John McCain to become the first African-American destined to sit in the Oval Office, America's 44th president. He was the first Democrat to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America," Obama told a victory rally of 125,000 people jammed into Chicago's Grant Park. Obama scored an Electoral College landslide that redrew America's political map. He won states that reliably voted Republican in presidential elections, like Indiana and Virginia, which hadn't supported the Democratic candidate in 44 years. Ohio and Florida, key to Bush's twin victories, also went for Obama, as did Pennsylvania, which McCain had deemed crucial for his election hopes. With just 76 days until the inauguration, Obama is expected to move quickly to begin assembling a White House staff and selecting Cabinet nominees. Campaign officials said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel was the front-runner to be Obama's chief of staff. The advisers spoke on a condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made. Democrats expanded their majority in both houses of Congress. In the Senate, Democrats ousted Republicans Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and John Sununu of New Hampshire and captured seats held by retiring GOP senators in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado. Still, the GOP blocked a complete rout, holding the Kentucky seat of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Mississippi seat once held by Trent Lott — two top Democratic targets. In the House, with fewer than a dozen races still undecided, Democrats captured Republican-held seats in the Northeast, South and West and were on a path to pick up as many as 20 seats.