CHICAGO (AP) — Expressing confidence but leaving nothing to chance, including having a concession speech ready, President Barack Obama indulged his superstitions by engaging in a traditional Election Day basketball game with friends as the race that will determine his political future was finally in the hands of voters.
Obama played on the hard court — and won — after he gave a final exhortation to his volunteers to get out the vote, voiced optimism about his chances and congratulated rival Mitt Romney on a “spirited campaign.”
“I expect that we’ll have a good night,” he said.
Obama gave the campaign one last push Tuesday morning by visiting a campaign office near his South Side Chicago home.
Thunderous applause from about two dozen volunteers, many with tears streaming down their faces, greeted Obama. Removing his suit coat, he sat down to make some calls to volunteers in neighboring Wisconsin. “Let’s get busy,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good day,” he said on one call. “Keep working hard all the way through.”
Speaking to reporters afterward, Obama said: “We feel confident we’ve got the votes to win but it’s going to depend ultimately on whether these votes turn out.”
He said he knows Romney’s supporters are “just as engaged, just as enthusiastic” as his own and congratulated the former Massachusetts governor “for a hard-fought race.”
Obama said late Tuesday in an interview with Denver television station KDVR that he had prepared both a victory speech and a concession speech for election night.
“You always have two speeches prepared because you can’t take anything for granted,” Obama said. Romney on Tuesday told reporters he has only prepared a victory speech.
Obama spent the day in his hometown, making his last appeals to voters during a round of satellite interviews with TV stations in swing states rather than a final flurry of campaign rallies.
The president headed into Election Day locked in a close race with Romney, according to national polls. But he appeared to have a slight edge in some key battlegrounds that will decide the contest, including Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin.
There was no traditional Election Day photo of Obama voting Tuesday because he did so in Chicago last week, part of his campaign’s effort to promote early voting. First lady Michelle Obama voted by absentee ballot.
One tradition Obama kept, however, was his Election Day basketball game.
A savvy basketball fan, Obama was joined by former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen, childhood friends Mike Ramos and Marty Nesbitt, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former captain of Harvard’s basketball team.
Others who played included Obama’s chef Sam Kass, first lady Michelle Obama’s brother Craig Robinson, former Bulls player Jeff Sanders, and Alexi Giannoulias, the former Illinois state treasurer and 2010 Democratic U.S. Senate nominee.
Giannoulias said Obama was player-coach of his team, which included Giannoulias and Pippen. The game had referees and the teams played 12-minute quarters. Duncan and Nesbitt played on the other team.
In 2008, Obama played basketball with aides before winning the kickoff Iowa caucuses. They decided to make the games an Election Day tradition after he lost the next contest, the New Hampshire primary, on a day when they didn’t hit the court.
“We made the mistake of not playing basketball once. I can assure you we will not repeat that,” said Robert Gibbs, a longtime Obama aide who accompanied the president in the campaign’s waning days.
The president’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, arrived in Chicago after school Tuesday with their grandmother. The president’s sister and her family were also joining the Obamas in Chicago. The first family planned to eat dinner together at their Chicago home.
He was expected to speak at his campaign’s election night party at McCormick Place convention center.
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