Obama stays behind closed doors as election results come in
(CNN) — The final curtain isn’t likely to fall on this presidential election until the wee hours of Wednesday morning, November 7th — but President Barack Obama’s moment to exit the stage came more than 24 hours earlier.
With the imposing Iowa State Capitol looming over a soggy crowd that bore near-freezing temperatures in windswept Des Moines, Obama made his last major appearance of the 2012 campaign to urge the more than 20,000 supporters to maintain the enthusiasm that first catapulted him from a fresh-faced senator to presidential front-runner nearly five years ago.
Flanked by first lady Michelle Obama and rock star Bruce Springsteen, Obama’s final bow came in the Hawkeye State as the clock approached midnight there, marking at long last the arrival of Election Day and the end of the president’s last campaign — 105 rallies after kicking off his re-election effort in Ohio and Virginia seven months prior.
To be sure, when Air Force One touched down in Obama’s hometown of Chicago 60 minutes later, the president’s role as a candidate was all but done.
The next time he appears on a stage, it will be to address supporters in a ballroom Tuesday night having either just secured four more years in the White House or having conceded the race to a President-elect Mitt Romney moments earlier.
As for Election Day itself, Obama is largely lying low, as has long been his practice when it comes time for voters to head to the polls. That’s not to say the president has closed the book on entirely on his re-election effort. Aides say Obama will sit for a string of satellite interviews with television stations in battleground states in a final effort to get his message out.
Earlier Tuesday, he sat for nearly a dozen satellite interviews with local television stations in swing states, including two each in Iowa, Ohio and Florida — states the president’s campaign has particularly focused on. Markets in Nevada and Colorado also got interviews. And in the afternoon, the president sat for an additional six interviews in yet more battleground markets.
Meanwhile, the president also turned up at a campaign field office in Chicago on Tuesday to shake hands with volunteers.
“I just want to say how grateful Michelle and I am for all the families, all the communities who have welcomed us, into their homes in some cases, into the neighborhoods, and have in some cases worked so hard on our behalf,” the president said at the stop.
“The great thing about these campaigns is after all the TV ads and all the fundraising and all the debates and all the electioneering. It comes down to this, one day, and these incredible folks who are working so hard,” he said.
But for all intents and purposes, Obama has remained largely out of sight Tuesday, containing whatever nerves he feels behind closed doors surrounded by friends, family and a circle of advisers who have been with him since the early days of his 2008 presidential race.
A heavy dose of nostalgia and reflection is also expected, given that, win or lose, Obama will never run for political office again. Some of the president’s senior advisors, including David Axelrod and David Plouffe, were spotted wearing Obama 2008 fleece jackets Monday. Meanwhile, other veterans of the 2008 campaign, such as speechwriters Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes, are also on hand for the president’s final sprint.
“It’s like the end of a long-running series, and all the characters are coming back,” Axelrod mused.
Perhaps with an eye toward recreating some of 2008’s magic, Obama reconvened a game of pickup basketball that he got in the habit of playing every Election Day during that year’s drawn out primary process.
Senior campaign aide Robert Gibbs said instructions were sent several days ago to Reggie Love, the president’s former body man and frequent basketball companion, to organize an Election Day game.
The game kicked off shortly after 2 p.m. at the Attack Athletics facility in downtown Chicago. A White House aide said that in addition to Love, “friends and staff” were participating in the game, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Obama friend Mike Ramos.
“I think it’s safe all rituals will be observed,” said Gibbs, who also noted that the one time the president didn’t play basketball on an Election Day was when he had a surprise loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 New Hampshire primary.
“We won’t make that mistake again,” he joked.
One thing the president did not do was visit any additional battleground states, Psaki said, even as Romney plans meet and great voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania until polls close.
That was a calculated decision not to get in the way of the campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts in the battleground states, said Stephan Cutter, a senior adviser to the campaign.
“On Election Day, the last thing you want to do is take your GOTV staff off from getting people out to the polls,” she told CNN.
Instead, the president knows his fate is largely out of his hands and instead in those of the thousands of grassroots operatives and volunteers who are charged with getting voters to the polls across the country.
Speaking to a Virginia crowd Saturday night, Obama mused that he now feels like a “prop” because there is little left he can do with so few hours remaining until voters issue their final judgment.
“It’s up to the volunteers,” he told the Virginia crowd. “It’s up to somebody knocking on a door. It’s up to somebody making a phone call.”
Ultimately, the president spent the majority of his time Tuesday simply trying to stay at ease with a close circle that includes the first lady and old friends such as Martin Nesbitt and Marvin Nicholson.
He also put the finishing touches on two speeches — one if he wins the election and one if he loses.
And just as the first wave of results flowed in, the president sat down to dinner with the first lady, his two daughters and mother-in-law — all of whom flew in from Washington earlier in the evening.
At that final rally in Iowa on Monday night, Bruce Springsteen ended his 30-minute concert with his classic, “In the Land of Hopes and Dreams,” crooning, “Well, you don’t know where you’re goin’ now, but you know you won’t be back.”
It was a fitting end for a president who doesn’t yet know his future but is certain his days as a candidate are forever over.
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