In Obama's hometown, voters are confident of his victory
An army of volunteers spent Election Day calling neighboring states in a race against time, yet most showed little doubt that Obama might lose the White House.
On the day that brought to a close months of campaigning, President Barack Obama seemed confident in his reelection. Unlike his rival Mitt Romney, who voted this morning (Obama opted for the early vote) and went to visit two swing states - Obama remained in Chicago. In accord with his "no drama" image, between running calls with volunteers at one of the Chicago "Obama for America" centers, one of 21 campaign offices in Illinois, and giving a long row of interviews focusing on battleground states media - he found time to play his traditional election day basketball game and dine in his house with his family.
In the morning, volunteers in the Obama campaign centers were engaged in a race against time - in Illinois, Obama was expected to easily win, so they were calling neighboring Wisconsin and Iowa, toss-up states - but people here didn't seem nervous at all. Frank Diaz, a retired bank worker who spent over the past three weeks at least 5 hours per day making calls for Obama, told Haaretz he is 100% confident the president is going to carry the elections. "I never doubted it even for a second," he said. I told (voters) to vote for the president for three reasons - his support for the middle class, the economy and education. For me, the education is especially important - now we are number 17 globally, I want us to get back to be number one. And I want his diplomatic push globally to keep this country safe - Governor Romney was speaking of his friend Benjamin for 20 years, your leader - but what he's done to help him with Iran, Palestinians?"
Diaz says he has never met Obama in person, but has been following his career for years. "I am a community organizer myself now," he says. "Republicans say he is a community organizer as a negative thing - but he also spent 10 years as a professor in the University of Chicago. He was a State Senator. He was one of the first to officially to criticize the war in Iraq. He has been doing many things people do not have the guts to do. The initiative, leadership - we should praise him for what he is doing."
At night, he wasn't one of thousands expected to join President Obama at the McCormick center convention building in Chicago, saying he needs to decompress - sit in front of the TV and watch the results, with coffee, "until the last vote is counted."
Debbie Mesloh, volunteer spokeswoman, says volunteers do not have talking points - it's a voter-to-voter, personal contact. There are some ground rules however: On the walls, there are posters advising them to "talk quiet like Michelle Obama," so that everybody will listen; never hang up on people, and "keep calm and make calls." To encourage volunteers, there are pictures of Barack Obama - including one of him hugging a victim of Hurricane Sandy, and one of Big Bird saying "Thank you, Mr. President." There is his large cardboard figure (plus his wife's) - and, maybe most important - a large piece of paper saying "Hope is..." - filled with hundreds of personal definitions volunteers added. "Hope is having a good job and not much debt after college", wrote one. "Hope is a Latina on the Supreme Court" (Obama appointed two women to teh Supreme Court - Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan). "Hope is Jesus." "Hope is peace". "Hope is employment." "Hope is change for the better."
In Chicago this day, there were people coming up to the sixth floor of one of the office buildings downtown to belatedly register to vote. Due to the changes in assigning polling stations, some voters got frustrated when they turned down, - and even more frustrated when they tried to log in to the website to check their new polling place - and found that it had collapsed because of the high traffic.
Lucy Herrera, lawyer, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago, smiles as she gets out of the polling station located at the Harold College building. She received her citizenship four years ago, just in time, she says, to vote for Obama for the first time. "Obama is better for immigrants. I am sure he will be reelected, and he will do something to legalize these many decent, hard-working people, who came to this country for a better future." There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., but so far the Obama administration has not succeeded succeed in offering a major reform to resolve their status).
Alexis Douglas (31), sommelier in a local restaurant, brings with her to the voting booth her 5 year old daughter, Ella. "Exciting", Ella says. For whom did we vote? Alexis asks. "Obama," the girl replies. "Because he cares for women rights, and education," her mom says. "I have nothing against Romney, he just seems to live in his world that is inaccessible for most of us. He suggested students who want to open businesses to take loans from their parents - I don't know people who can actually do that."
This time, the Obama campaign didn't opt for the huge party at Grant Park, like they did in 2008 - despite the fact that the main headquarters are located in one of the nearby buildings. One of the reasons probably was tha rain pouring down in Chicago; the other - despite being confident that he has the numbers to win, as the President told reporters Tuesday morning - these are important, but hardly historic elections. Obama opted for a more modest party, but tens of thousands of supporters are still expected to cram into the McCormick center, which was decorated with big American flag.