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Smaller crowds than 2008, but Obama’s supporters in Chicago still party

Attendees cheer as results come President Barack Obama's electinight event McCormick Place Chicago Ill. Tuesday November 6 2012. | Andrew

Attendees cheer as results come in at President Barack Obama's election night event at McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill., on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:15AM

The crowds weren’t the size as 2008, when Barack Obama made history in Grant Park before a sea of an estimated 240,000 ecstatic supporters.

But Chicago still came out strong Tuesday night for the sequel, with thousands jammed into a hall in McCormick Place, basking in his re-election.

And outside the Thompson Center in the Loop, about 500 people watched the returns on a huge screen in a light drizzle. Some smoked cigars and most roared when the screen flashed good news about Obama. Some women watched while perched atop men’s shoulders.

They waved signs, took pictures and cheered.

Kelly Meekma of Palatine said she wanted to return to Chicago to celebrate with her Democratic friends as she did in 2008.

“It’s more important this year than it was then,” Meekma said.

Semhar Amdemichael of Chicago came out to celebrate. The immigrant from Eritrea said she backs the president for his stance on immigrants’ and women’s issues.

“He’s done so much,” she said.

In Hyde Park and neighboring Kenwood, where the Obama family lives, diehard Obama supporters found a sense of community and shared love.

“Hallelujah!” said Charles Proctor, 68, a Los Angeles resident visiting his friend Charles Allen in Chicago, as the two finished dinner at Clarke’s on 53rd Street. “Just hallelujah.”

Allen, of South Shore, said Tuesday’s win confirmed again that America is a land of equal opportunity.

“For me since I’m 68 years old, it’s really in my lifetime, I’m glad American proved to be America — fair to everybody,” he said.

Clarke’s waitress Alisha Armstrong, 23, waved a small American flag while saying she felt her vote for Obama counted.

“I’m glad,” she said. “Change, moving forward — I’m down with it all.”

“This is wonderful,” said Rena Porter, 53 of Hyde Park, sitting at Clarke’s on 53rd Street as Obama was declared the winner. “I was nervous all evening.”

At the Hyde Park Hair Salon, home to Obama’s barber and a party Tuesday evening, the crowd erupted when Obama was declared the winner.

“I’m completely elated that the president is going to be our president for four more years,” said Aaron Green, 34, of Gary, Ind.

Two hours before a winner was declared, at one of Obama’s favorite neighborhood spot, Valois cafeteria, Verona Wainwright, 51, of Woodlawn sat alone, preferring to watch election returns there instead of alone on her couch.

“Here it’s just pins and needles, watching the numbers flow across the screen,” she said. “I don’t feel good. I’ve lost my spirit.”

Muriel Lipson and Maureen Wolf drove to Hyde Park from their Edgewater high rise to work the phones at the Obama campaign’s Hyde Park office before watching the results over pie at Valois.

“We felt that it was being close to the president,” Wolf said, adding “Go blue or go home.”

Loud cheers went up at the Hyde Park Hair Salon when CNN reporters announced electoral votes for Obama. But those at the party admitted it was relatively mellow compared to 2008.

“In 2008, it was definitely historic,” said David Hollis, 41, of Merrillville, Ind. “There’s nothing like the first time.”

The Checkerboard Lounge hosted an election night party complete Blue Hawaiian cocktails to honor Obama’s birthplace.

“Everybody in Hyde Park loves him and supports him,” said Joyce Drake, 47, who stopped by the election night party at the Checkerboard on her way to the Obama event at McCormick Place. “I am very confident that he is going to win. I feel it. I claim it.”

Kathleen Owens, 43, of Chatham, dressed for the Checkerboard in a T-shirt with a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama and the words “Fired Up! Ready to Go!”

“I felt like I wanted to be out in Hyde Park supporting him,” she said. “I just wanted to be where he’s at celebrating with him.”

Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika

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