By Isaac Arnsdorf
CHICAGO, 7:39 p.m. — There’s enough paraphernalia and street peddlers for a ballgame. As the crowds stream toward Grant Park, they have a wide selection of Obama shirts, buttons and keychains. And though the first polls have barely closed, the merchandisers have already picked the winner.
It is Chicago after all, and a Connie’s truck is unloading deep dish pizza by the stack. A few hundred thousand people gotta eat!
The ages for the general public are at least an hour from opening, but people are already massing north of the ticketed event. Police have said they may have to restrict access depending on the numbers.
Even the skyline wants in on the fun. Arrayed around Grant Park, one skyscraper’s lights spell “USA,” and the spires of the Sears Tower are red, white and blue.
7:32 p.m. — Blitzer announced Obama with an early big lead in Florida. Crowd goes wild!
8:01 p.m. — Blitzer calls CT for Obama. No surprises, but the crowd goes wild.
8:15 p.m. — They’re playing CNN on the jumbotron here, and the crowd is playing this game where they try to drown out CNN’s reporter every time they put her on.
Obama’s podium is flanked with plexi-glass to protect him. Security is very tight here — stricter than airports.
9:01 p.m. — Obama is more than half-way there, but nothing really unexpected yet.
9:29 p.m. — The people keep swarming in, like a tidal wave every time they open a gate. There are 75,000 who have tickets, and hundreds of thousands more in the north end of the park watching a telecast.