BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Thousands of miles removed from their hometown polling stations, American soldiers in Iraq watched a historic U.S. presidential election unfold Tuesday evening.
Tuning in at a forward operating base in southern Baghdad, soldiers watched on big screen televisions as Democrat Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States and the first African-American to hold the nation's highest office.
"Amazing", said U.S. Army Sgt. Melissa Quereau. "I'm shaking I'm so excited. History right there. History being made right now."
Strict military rules that keep partisan debates private could not hide many soldiers' intense interest in Tuesday's election.
Watch: U.S. troops following election
"It is a critical election", U.S. Marine Corps spokesman Cameron Renner said in Baghdad. "The changing parties can dramatically affect the events that happen to us out here in this combat zone".
Obama, who was opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has called for a withdrawal of all combat soldiers from Iraq within 16 months.
"Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been," he wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece in July.
During his victory speech at Chicago's Grant Park, Obama acknowledged tough foreign policy issues he now inherits.
"Even as we stand here tonight", he said, "we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us."
But back home, Iraq was not America's biggest concern. Sixty-two percent of voters polled Tuesday said the economy was their top election issue, according to early national exit polling.
It was far ahead of the Iraq war, which only 10 percent of polled voters named their top issue.
A majority of those voters voted for Sen. Barack Obama in all but two states, according to early exit polling results.
Meanwhile, in a Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad, seven people were killed and 20 others wounded when a bomb hidden underneath a vegetable cart exploded in a bus station, an official with the Iraqi Interior Ministry told CNN.
The seven were among 19 people killed in violence across Iraq Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said he welcomed an Obama presidency.
"The Iraqi government has a true desire to work and cooperate with the elected president in order to achieve the joint interest of the two countries, preserve the security and stability of Iraq, insure Iraq's full sovereignty and protect the interests of its people," he said.
- CNN's Phil Black and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report