The speed and scale of the victory crashed over US President Barack Obama’s die-hard supporters like a shockwave, unleashing joy and relief after what had been a tense and often ill-tempered campaign.
In a ballroom in Chicago, outside the White House, in the storm-washed streets of New York and in front of televisions across the nation, Obama’s partisans cheered, danced and sang as they awaited their hero.
“I feel like I’ve changed the world! I did something with my life and it changed the world,” declared Jane Schumann, 23, who worked in the campaign’s digital division at a convention center in Chicago.
“I’m so proud of my president, words cannot express it. America believes in him,” she gushed, as US flags waved by supporters created a sea of red, white and blue, and the intense emotions caused at least two supporters to collapse.
Polls before the election had suggested a tight race and many had expected a long wait for clear results but, as the map of swing states fell to a blue tide of Obama wins, parties erupted in the Democratic half of the US.
In Washington, crowds converged on the White House, dancing jigs on their cars and chanting “four more years.” Crowds poured into New York’s iconic Times Square, happy once more after last week’s devastating storm swamped the city.
“Oh my God, oh my God. I am so excited. With Romney I was so scared he would cut all the funding for the arts. And we love arts,” declared breathless Broadway actress Jill Zaggo, braving freezing temperatures to join the fun.
The brief but respectful concession speech by Obama’s defeated Republican rival Mitt Romney was greeted with dismissive waves by the crowd at the Chicago victory party, but the mood was more celebratory than condemnatory.
Paul Eberly, 52, and his daughter Sydney, 14, rushed into McCormick Place to take their spot in the VIP section in front of Obama’s stage after the results were announced.
“This is a historic election,” Eberly declared, beaming with joy.
“It feels amazing to be around all these people fighting for one cause,” Sydney added as she held her father’s hand.
Sheryl Siegel-Ross said that, even though she’s not very political, she couldn’t contain her excitement to be in the crowd awaiting Obama’s second victory address: “I’m just happy the world is going in the right direction.”
Bill Millet, 54, also had trouble expressing himself,
“I’m so full of joy, I can’t describe it,” said the computer engineer, who volunteered more than 400 hours of his time for the campaign. “We were expecting it to take a really long time, that’s why we’re late.”
Michelle Marshall, 30, said she’s proud of her country for making the right decision to move forward, not back — a main theme of Obama’s campaign.
She was with a massive crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2008 when Obama was elected the nation’s first black president. While this night is not quite as historic, she thinks it will have just as much of an impact.
“I feel like four years ago it was a kind of elation and excitement. Tonight it’s a sigh of relief because we’re really moving in the right direction together,” said Marshall, who works for an anti-hunger organization.
However, not everyone was happy. As might be expected, Romney’s conservative and Republican supporters were crushed by the size of the Electoral College victory, but some on the left were also underwhelmed.
On the edge of the cheery crowd in New York, a small group of activists from the anti-capitalist movement Occupy Wall Street chanted: “We want real change.”
“Obama is the lesser of two evils, but it won’t make much difference, when you have a political system dominated by money,” said student activist Jesse Marcus, after a campaign season that cost US$6 billion.