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True colours

Political analysts in the United States suggest that the 2008 presidential election was not a difficult one for Barack Obama to win. That they believe so perhaps says more about the country's new acceptance of racial difference even than the election itself, but his opponent had set himself a mountain to climb. His support for an unpopular war, his party affiliation with a unloved president and the onset of national financial difficulties were difficult enough obstacles to overcome without the selection of the gaffe-prone Sarah Palin as running mate. (Our favourite howler was when she asserted that if the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance was good enough for the founding fathers then it was good enough for her. The phrase was added in 1954 as a riposte to the atheistic Soviet Union.)

In increasingly desperate circumstances, John McCain ran a negative campaign that offended even that most cynical of Republican strategists, Karl Rove. He declared, for example, that the Democrat candidate had legislated to teach sex education to children before they could read (Obama had merely supported a law that taught kids to defend themselves from sexual predators).

The St Petersburg Times runs a fact-checking monitor that attempts to establish how truthful candidates are. It suggests that of all McCain's election claims, just 38 per cent could be rated 'true' or 'mostly true'. The speech in which McCain conceded defeat was dignified and generous; his appeals to the Republican 'base' via ill-founded attacks were not.

In response to this Barack Obama promised a new kind of politics. A positive campaign that epitomised the hope and optimism of his rhetoric. And his historic election victory has indeed given rise to the hope that the USA can address its internal injustices and renegotiate its relationship with the rest of the world.

The St Petersburg Times also monitored Obama's campaign. America has a lot to look forward to. It has a President who tells the truth as much as 50 per cent of the time.