Illinois Never in Doubt but Obama Lost Some Fans
Updated at 3 a.m., Chicago time
After NBC and CNN projected President Obama's re-election, the president sent a message shortly thereafter on Twitter at 10:14 saying simply, "This happened because of you. Thank you."
Illinois, of course, was never in play. Our state's 20 electoral votes were stuck in the president's back pocket as far back as his inauguration in 2008.
But in 2008's historic election, President Obama carried every collar county in northern Illinois. In 2012, the president narrowly lost out to Mitt Romney in Kane County, Kendall County and McHenry County, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Voter turnout again was very strong. Local polling places even reported lines at 6 a.m. with voters waiting to get in. Where the momentum in 2008 focused on electing the first black man to the presidency and turning the page on eight years of George W. Bush, 2012 focused on Obama's handling of the economy.
Mokena's Dan Stacey, 64, didn't want to see Obama get four more years.
“I voted because I think it’s time for a change,” said Stacey, 64. “We’re heading the wrong direction.”
While the diminished support in the traditionally conservative, far-flung suburbs isn't a surprise, even in Chicago Obama drew 100,000 fewer votes in his re-election than he did in 2008. In staunchly Republican DuPage County, Obama held a 4,000-vote majority, but four years ago he secured a 45,000-vote margin of victory. The president drew 65,000 fewer votes in suburban Cook County and 30,000 fewer Will County voters backed the president.
Suburban residents interviewed by Patch Tuesday said the economy and the president's record on jobs were their reasons to vote against Obama.
"This election bears serious significance for our future," said Sheila Brady of Orland Park outside her Fernway Elementary School polling place around 11 a.m. "Our economy is still questionable. And we've heard constantly in the weeks leading up how important it is to vote this time."
During the day, poll watchers were discussing the possibility that the nation would face an excrutiating wait to the election's outcome. But by 10:15 p.m., CNN and NBC were projecting Obama the winner.
Well before 11 p.m., the race was called for Obama and the crowd at McCormick Place began to party. Still, at 10:42 p.m., the Romney campaign was telling reporters the GOP nominee wasn't ready to concede. As Ohio and other swing states began to fall for Obama, just before midnight Romney conceded.
"I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation," Romney told his supporters.
The Obama campaign won the most expensive presidential race ever, with both parties raising about $2.6 billion. The race was filled with negative campaigning on both sides, from President Obama attacking Romney’s business experience with Bain Capital to Romney lambasting Obama’s handling of the economy.
Illinois, solidly blue, didn't get to see much of either candidate in this campaign. The only visit the president made to his home state late in the campaign came Oct. 25, when he returned to the South Side to cast an early ballot at the Martin Luther King Community Center. Obama is the first president to ever vote early in a presidential election.
But the crowd Tuesday night at McCormick Place loved seeing him. Shortly after midnight, the president took the stage and addressed the divisions displayed so prominently in the campaign.
“We are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. ... We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America,” he said to thunderous applause.
Four Years Ago
Back in 2008 in suburban Cook County, the president took 698,158 votes — the most ever recorded by a presidential candidate, eclipsing Ronald Reagan's 1984 total of 646,444. Three townships tilted for the GOP candidate in 2008 — Orland, Lemont and Barrington — but McCain could only muster 338,481 votes in the Cook County suburbs.
Interestingly, Romney fell 4,000 votes shy of McCain's Cook County tally.
Reagan still holds the record of winning 28 suburban Cook County townships in 1984.
Four years ago, Illinoisans cast 3,319,237 votes for Obama to 1,981,158 for McCain, with 30,000 ballots going to Ralph Nader. This year, 2,912,872 people in the Land of Lincoln voted for Obama and 2,087,366 backed Romney and Paul Ryan.
Historically, Illinois backed Republican candidates — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush — from 1972 through the 1988 election. Starting with Bill Clinton, Illinois' support has gone to the Democratic candidate for president.
In his Chicago victory speech in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the president seemed to acknowledge in his talk of what divides the country that many voters who once backed him have fallen away. The nation's popular vote hovered at 50-50 overnight. Obama pledged, as he did four years ago, to work with Republicans and promised that "the best is yet to come."
"By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin."