Obama’s home state tells him: ‘Yes, we can’

Elise Foley

CHICAGO – As Super Tuesday election results trickled in from across the country, Sen. Barack Obama assured his Chicago supporters that no matter what happened, his campaign would go on.

“There is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know: Our time has come,” said Sen. Obama (D-Ill.).

Obama supporters began to file through metal detectors at the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker Drive around 6 p.m., decked in “I’m an Obama-crat” shirts and pins. Reporters from as far away as Australia and Japan lined risers in the main room to videotape the event. Each time CNN predicted a state victory for Obama, the crowd erupted into applause.

The results of Tuesday’s 23 Democratic primary elections had yet to be finalized when Obama spoke at 10:45 p.m., but Obama told the cheering crowd that he believes he will win the democratic nomination over Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

“This fall we owe the American people a real choice,” Obama said. “We have to choose between change and more of the same. We have to choose between looking backward and looking forward.”

Before the polling ended, Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe said they were hoping to do well, but expected a Clinton victory in Super Tuesday states.

“We believed all along that February 5 was a daunting day for us,” Plouffe said. “We do think that the delegate total will be closer than we thought a few days ago.”

Later in the night, Plouffe said campaign projections put Obama at almost a tie with Clinton, but cautioned that later states were not included.

Obama’s supporters were more optimistic. Stephanie Howard, a 29-year-old Evanston resident, said she expected “America to surprise us” and vote in large numbers for Obama. She said she has seen a lot of support for Obama while making phone calls for the senator’s campaign during these past few months.

“I actually think he is going to do surprisingly well,” Howard said before polling closed. “When you work and volunteer, you hear from a lot of people, and there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for Obama.”

Kathleen Knorr, who is visibly pregnant, stood for five hours to see Obama speak.

“I wanted to see Obama in person, and I wanted to feel like a part of it,” said Knorr, Weinberg ’97. “I wanted to be doing more than just punching a ballot.”

The crowd chanted “Yes, we can!” and “Obama!” during his speech. Daniel Goff, who was born in New York but now lives in Chicago, said he supports Obama because the politician’s inspiring message.

“After such a long time we finally have someone we can believe in,” said Goff, 26. “The whole ‘Yes, we can’ mantra – it’s a movement that’s built on ourselves.”

Obama said he believes that he and his supporters can change the country.

“The challenges we face will not be solved with one meeting in one night. It will not be resolved even in a ‘Super-duper Tuesday’,” he said. “But we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we want to see.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]