CHICAGO — Four more years, the Chicago crowd chanted.
President Barack Obama had kept his title as president after securing both the electoral and popular vote.
The crowd waited for about two hours before the Obama family took the stage at McCormick Place in Chicago.
A round of waves. A parting hug. And then the address to the thousands in person and the millions watching that helped vote him into office.
“Tonight, in this election, you the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the us of a the best is yet to come,” Obama said.
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Obama supporters who were supposed to stand in front of the stage came streaming into the hall. They walked down a parted sea with general crowd members on one side and the wall of media on the other.
Like celebrities on the red carpet, some waved and flashed big smiles. Others cracked a grin as they walked down the path. One young man enthusiastically fist-pumped Obama’s victory.
It was their night, too. Their man had won.
Jorge Zamora, 18, is a senior at Chicago Bulls College Prep. He’s a member of the school’s first graduating class.
He was just happy his girlfriend’s mother secured him a ticket to watch history happen, he said. He is grateful for Obama’s past actions about education.
“He’s never given up on education,” Zamora said. “I’m a little poverty kid trying to come up in the world. He’s not going to give up on us.”
Earlier that evening, with state results sporadically pouring in, two 2011 IU graduates joined the crowd.
Christian Hines, a self-described cautiously optimistic Obama supporter, and Kate Suffern, a big Obama fan, entered the hall at about 8:30 p.m.
Hines said he thought Obama would eek out the victory despite a predicted close race. But they were prepared to stay into the evening, at least through the announcement of key battleground states.
“We’ll be here late,” Suffern chimed in, smiling at Hines.
Throughout the evening, music by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen kept the mood upbeat as crowds waited for results and waited for their re-elected president to take the stage.
“It’s so electric in here,” Hines said. “You feel the energy when you walk in the door.”
The growing crowds roared as New York, New Jersey and Michigan were called for Obama.
Following behind the IU students was Chicagoan Scott Goehning, 24, who last week voted early, inspired by Obama’s act of early voting.
“For me, it was an easy choice,” Goehning said. “Not only his economic policy, but as a 24-year-old, I can stay on my parents’ health care until I’m 26.
“It’s nice to have a president who would look me in the eye and say that I should be able to marry anybody that I want to.”
Periods of quiet chatter masked by music, often Motown hits, were punctuated by ecstatic cheers as Obama took each state. American flags started appearing late in the evening, spreading throughout the crowd to add to the increasingly vocal cheers.
Proudly wearing her 2008 and 2012 Obama pins on her Obama-printed sweatshirt, 74-year-old Leota Johnson of Kentwood, Ill., had her heart set on an Obama victory.
“I believe if we don’t get Obama, I’ll leave the country,” Johnson said.
Fifteen hours earlier, Elyse Remenapp, 19, left the polling place at the Spertus Institute along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. She voted absentee in Michigan’s elections days ago but never got her keepsake from her first time voting — that small red, white and blue sticker.
“I just wanted a sticker because I’m proud to have voted,” she said, a small square of white paper in her hand.
“Ballot Receipt. Nov. 6, 2012. General Election. Thank you for voting.”
She tried to score a sticker from Spertus, telling officials she already voted, but walked away with the slip of paper after learning the precinct wasn’t handing them out.
But she’s not that upset, she said. She’s more concerned about her health care coverage in the coming years, given her future career.
Remenapp, golden hair flowing from her knit cap in the cool Chicago morning, has a preexisting medical condition that could put her insurance coverage in jeopardy.
“I’m majoring in something that doesn’t guarantee me excellent medical coverage,” she said. “So, I might be relying on my parents for insurance if I’m denied health care because of my preexisting condition.”
She put her trust in Obama.
“I’m nervous,” she said. “I hope it goes the way I want. It’s important. It’s my health care.”
The college student joined other Obama backers casting their ballots Tuesday morning in Chicago. Busy moms. College students. Dedicated volunteers.
Some are first-time supporters. Others are long-time Democrats.
All were voters.
Boaz Smith, 42, is a barber just finishing a trim on a customer. It’s just after 11 a.m. at Headrest Barbershop, a few blocks away from the Spertus precinct.
One of Smith’s cousins is a staunch Republican. That doesn’t sit well with Smith. It’s a rarity in his family and among customers in the shop.
“I love him, but we’re never going to agree on that shit,” Smith said.
People’s mamas and girlfriends are on the table for discussion at Headrest. So is politics, but customers supporting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney might just find an Obama logo shaved in the back of their heads.
The youngest barber in the room, Josh Kruel, 23, said jokingly that it reflects the consensus of the room: Obama, especially with his policies on extending health care coverage, is moving along the right track.
“I think Romney is full of shit,” Smith said. “He blew me with that 47 percent. He wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it.”
Herb Hunter, 56, nods his head as Smith slowly trims the salt-and-pepper hair on the side of his head.
“A lot of the things he wanted to do was blocked by the Republicans,” Hunter said.
He’s doing the best he can with the mess he had to clean up, Smith said. But he’s doing right by the American people, securing more health care coverage for his seven children.
On Tuesday night, when he leaves the shop, Smith will go home to watch the election results pour in with three of his children and his grandfather.
The voices of 100 volunteers mix indistinguishably with only bits and pieces of sentences escaping clearly audible.
They’re calling Wisconsin voters and plan to reach out to Iowans later in the day, all with a simple message to re-elect Obama.
It’s about noon at the Obama for America Chicago Field Office. It’s a wonderland for any Obama supporter.
Cardboard cutouts of first lady Michelle Obama and her husband greet every visitor.
Clippings are taped around the room, as is an American flag, a pop-art photo of Obama and countless campaign posters.
Big Bird says, “Thank you, Mr. President,” from above the printer. Michelle reminds volunteers to keep their phone volume low. A list of office rules starts with “#1. Win the election.”
Debbie Mesloh, a media volunteer at OFA, said the field office could support about 125 volunteers at a time. During the last four days, these volunteers have generated about 20,000 calls each day.
“The Obama campaign since 2008 has been about personal contact,” Mesloh said.
Posters reading “African Americans for Obama,” “Young Americans for Obama” and “LGBT for Obama” reflect that idea.
One sleepless volunteer, Emily Carson, has just taken a break from the phones. She plans to attending the election night watch party at McCormick Place, Obama Headquarters, later Tuesday evening. But for now, it’s full steam ahead on calls.
“The mood here is pure excitement,” Carson said, smiling.
Obama, too, smiles from her black T-shirt.
She’s confident of an Obama win, she said. His policies and track record will pull him through.
But nothing is certain.
“I feel like there’s been so much progress that’s happened,” Carson said. “A loss would be heartbreaking.”
When Obama took the stage early Wednesday morning, he addressed how far the nation has come and what is yet to be accomplished.
“I returned to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about our future and the work there is to do,” Obama said.
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