So much for a long and tense election night.The lingering question was when Mitt Romney would place a call of congratulations, a gesture that did not come until near midnight on the East Coast, as the GOP team in Boston hoped against hope for a miracle that would not come. Only after the call finally arrived, and Romney delivered a gracious concession speech, did the president and his entourage start to make their way to the victory celebration.
President Obama stepped on the stage at 12:36 Chicago time, overwhelmed by cheers. His victory, after a brutally expensive and hard slog of a campaign, continued his history-making story. Now he was not just the first African American president, but the first African American president to win reelection and the third president in succession to be elected to two terms, the first such run since the Founding Fathers’ trio of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, in the era when blacks were enslaved and not allowed to vote.
The night’s convincing early end marked the final act of a campaign-closing, 36-hour drama for no-drama Obama, a passion play tinged with nostalgia, framed by fierce competitiveness and touched, as always with him, by a bit of luck.
Tuesday began with the president crashing to sleep in his old bedroom on the South Side and awakening to the bright chill of a day that would decide his political fate. Up and at it early for a phone interview with a popular black radio program and a conference call on Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the president was out the door and inside the back of his limousine by 8:53, dressed for success in dark suit, white shirt and silver-and-black striped tie as his motorcade wended through the familiar streets of his adopted home town.
In the final hours before the election was decided, as the weather turned dank and drizzly, he stopped by a field office to call volunteers in neighboring Wisconsin, cranked up the vote again with a series of satellite television interviews from the Fairmont Hotel, gunned his left-handed, barely jumping jump shot in a ritual good-luck game of pickup hoops with old pals and a few pros at an athletic club, and picked up the state-by-state scoop from hard-wired political aides (mostly decent weather in key battlegrounds; mildly encouraging exit polls; Sandy apparently more determinative than the first debate; heavy turnout, long lines in key precincts). Another round of swing-state TV interviews occupied him in the late afternoon. Then, in the darkness, he rode home to Kenwood on the rim of Hyde Park to eat dinner and chat with family and friends — and to wait.