Chicago: President Barack Obama is larger than life — at least five metres tall beamed onto a giant television screen near McCormick Place where he delivered his victory speech.
“The best has yet to come,” he said, sending the thousands gathered here into a rapture.
For hours, they had waited in the damp drizzle and chilling cold — a party waiting to happen as the results unfolded painstakingly slowly on that big screen.
“Four more years. Four more years,” the thousands chanted as each state turned blue and in the president’s favour.
But all eyes were on Virginia — a key swing state. There, Romney took a lead in the rural south, but the larger suburbs went Obama’s way.
“This is history in the making,” a father told his young daughter as she tried to see the board. He lifted her up and sat her on his shoulders as she waved a small paper flag.
Earlier, at another gathering near the House of Blues, Republican Mark Walkowitz was cautiously optimistic for Mitt Romney.
“It’s going to be a long one,” he said as the numbers came up on the television screens. “Look — Obama’s doing great in Florida. He takes that, he’s back in.”
On Wednesday night, when the results showed Obama the winner with 303 electoral college votes to Romney’s 206, Florida remained the only state in the union still to decide — but it’s all irrelevant now.
Obama has the 270 college votes to return to the White House.
“Woo hoo. Obama. Four more years” said Kathy Mellows, wearing a Democratic Rosette and spilling a drink over it. “O-bam-A woo hoo!”
“Isn’t democracy wonderful?” Walkowitz quips. “Everyone gets a say. Sometimes their say is too loud!”
“Look at the polling numbers,” offers fellow Romneyite John Deary. “It seems to be a huge turnout. And the efforts in some states to curtail voters seem to have backfired.”
“Four more years. Four more years,” the crowd chants again outside.
Ohio has fallen Obama’s way.
“That’s huge,” Dreary says. “He’s going to win this thing.”
And win this thing he did — not by a landslide but through the support of urban voters, women and minorities.
“Daddy, when can I see Obama?” the girl asks from her perch on her father’s shoulders. “Soon honey,” he answers.
And then, Colorado and Nevada fall Obama’s way. Michigan, the northeast states and Wisconsin — home of Romney’s running mate Congressman Paul Ryan, who failed to deliver.
And then that moment, when networks get off the fence, stop predicting, stop permuting and procrastination — declaring the winner.
At 12.25am, the networks declared for Obama.
Those minutes in the drizzle and cold were warmed by sheer delight, joyous energy, relief at victory after a hard-fought and close campaign.
And finally, the president appears to accept victory. When he spoke, there were tears.
“Four more years. Four more years,” came the chants.
But then, there was that moment when the humanity of the president came out — Obama the father — talking eloquently of a child who had leukaemia and whose parents had lost everything trying to pay for her treatment.
Tears flowed. This was a crowd who listened to his every word, believing his every thought, willing him to lead them until 2016.
This is the Barack Obama the people of Illinois have come to love and cherish. A man who vowed to change and has the ability to change those who listen to his words.
“Daddy,” the girl says. “Do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
“Yes,” the father says. “Tell them all you were here.”