Inside Obama’s Party

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It’s 8:30pm CDT in Chicago and Obama’s victory party at the Hyatt in downtown Chicago is just starting to fill up. Most of the select attendees are long time volunteers or donors. After a messy South Carolina victory party where hundreds of people, including many press, were locked out by the fire marshal, the campaign was very careful about how many tickets they would allot for this soiree. All of which is to say, that even though doors opened at 6pm, most people knew Obama will not speak until after 10pm at the earliest – when the California polls close.

The crowd cheers whenever Obama wins a state or is shown to be leading. They boo Hillary’s wins, and all the GOP victories. But almost none of them are expecting Obama to win decisively tonight. “It’ll be really close, I believe, all the way to the convention,” said Ray Broms, 61, a retired Chicago teacher who has spent the last two weeks working the phones for Obama. Propping up his elbow on a metal divide, Broms sighs and digs his right fist into his cheek. “Yes, I’ll be going into work tomorrow. We’ve got Wisconsin next.”

Suneeta Fernandes plans on driving to Wisconsin to canvas there for Obama. But tonight the 29-year-old law student is enjoying a glass of white wine and cheering her favorite candidate. “Unfortunately, the best we can hope for tonight is more momentum,” Fernandes said.

After a game of basketball this afternoon, Obama’s at home watching the returns with his family, including Michelle’s mother and brother, Craig Robinson (the head coach of men’s basketball at Brown University in Rhode Island) and his family. Meanwhile, the Hyatt’s cash bar is flowing and Obama’s supporters are happily settling in for a long, long night.