In Chicago and Boston, where thousands of invited supporters for President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are respectively tracking election results, the mood is both supportive but definitely on edge.
In Chicago, where about 10,000 supporters are at McCormick Place, the city’s lakeside convention center, “the energy is still the same” as it was in 2008 in Grant Park, site of Mr. Obama’s celebratory first Election Night victory. However, Keevin Woods, a former Illinois deputy director for Obama’s campaign four years ago, says he’s “cautiously optimistic, but I realize it’s going to be a tight race.”
Mr. Woods is representative of many at the Chicago rally, where supporters are hesitant to say their candidate has a lock on the race.
"The reality is we know it’s going to be close. Obviously, the latest polling going in today had the president with a slight advantage and with an advantage in the early voting,” says Obama spokeswoman Rachel Racusen. “That said, how late it’s going to be go, we just aren’t taking anything for granted.”
The Obama supporters consist mainly of volunteers from Illinois who worked in surrounding states to get out of the vote. Many here say they were not as active four years ago as they were this election because the stakes are even higher.
“I couldn’t sit back and expect him to win. It’s a real horse race,” says Charles Sven, a substitute teacher from Antioch, Ill.
To borrow from the Democratic campaign slogan four years ago of "hope and change," Romney campaign supporters in Boston were in a mood that could be summarized as "hope for change" – that is, hoping that voters across America on Tuesday have voted for the kind of change that Mr. Romney has been promising to deliver.
The Republican faithful know that polls showed a slowdown in their candidate's advance as the campaign drew to a close, with Romney tied or lagging slightly behind Obama in key swing states. Their hope, however, is that the shift of momentum toward Romney since early October has been stronger than the opinion surveys suggest.
In short, the Romney-Ryan camp is filled with expectancy as well as apprehension.
It doesn't hurt that, as electoral votes began showing up on TV screens early Tuesday, some vote-rich states in the South quickly appeared "red" for Republicans, as expected.
On a plane ride as he wrapped up campaigning and flew back to Boston, Romney exuded confidence about victory. He told reporters he has written only one speech, keyed to victory.
And he said he was very pleased with the efforts of his campaign.
"We left nothing in the locker room," he said, following swing-state campaigning that he undertook personally on Election Day. "Our team has been very solid.... We've worked well together. We've gotten our message across."
Many fellow Republicans gathering in Boston feel similarly. The campaign had rocky moments, but Romney delivered strong debate performances and drew large crowds as the vote drew to a close. A key question is whether hurricane Sandy swept some of the Republican momentum away as the campaign entered its crucial final week. The storm focused media attention away from Romney's "surge," while putting attention on Obama in a presidential role of disaster relief.
Until the final results are in, the party faithful are hanging on small details that may hint at Tuesday's voting reality.
Conservative political strategist Karl Rove posted a Twitter update about dinner time, quoting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R): "Great numbers in Pasco and Volusia counties in fl for Romney. I predict he wins!"