Chicago to re-elect Obama

Updated: 2012-11-06 04:17

By CHEN WEIHUA in Chicago (China Daily)

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Tholazia Handy and some relatives and friends stopped their van on the south side of Chicago's East Hyde Park Boulevard, trying to locate the most famous abode on the street.

Handy tried to cross the street toward a man who clearly belonged to the US Secret Service. The agent, sitting in a black van, quickly gestured for Handy to walk no farther.

Visitors can now see only a small part of Barack and Michelle Obama’s red-brick Georgian revival-style home tucked behind thick, tall trees. The street outside is blocked and guarded around the clock by the Secret Service.

Handy was a bit flustered. She had driven five hours from Michigan, but the Sunday afternoon setback wouldn't keep her from voting to re-elect President Obama on Tuesday, she said.

“I think he did the best he could" over the past four years "and deserves another four years and have another try,” the would-be visitor told China Daily.

As for Obama's rival Mitt Romney, Handy said he favors the rich.

“I don’t think he is for the poor -- black or white,” she said.

The same feeling was expressed by Wayne Davis, who has worked at the Hyde Park Hair Salon for five years.

“He did well in the last four years, but there were things he couldn’t do because Republicans got in the way and wouldn’t let him,” Davis said.

He added that he used to see Obama often before his January 2009 inauguration. As a US senator from Illinois, Obama would come to the salon every two weeks for a $21 haircut, Davis recalled.

The stylist voted for Obama in 2008 and cast an early ballot for his fellow Chicagoan this year.

At the Valois, a cafeteria-style restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood that Obama used to frequent for breakfast, cook Noel Hurtado was busy serving lined-up customers on Sunday.

Chicago to re-elect Obama

Noel Hurtado, a cook at Chicago's Valois restaurant, where Barack Obama was a regular customer before becoming US president, works in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. Hurtado said he would be voting to re-elect Obama. [Chen Weihua / China Daily]

Asked his choice for president in 2012, the 15-year Valois employee gave a thumbs-up sign and said, “Obama wins". In front of Hurtado hung a placard listing “President Obama’s Favorites” -- six dishes including New York Steak and Eggs ($9.95) and the "All Vegi-Egg White Omelette" ($5.75).

Charlie Newton, a cashier at 57th Street Books, which the current president and first lady would visit in their days in Chicago, said he too would be voting for Obama on Tuesday.

“Obama is not perfect, but he is probably better than Romney,” said the young man, who moved to the city from Boston four years ago. He said Romney lacks interpersonal skills.

Larnell Brown, who works at a Starbucks on a corner near the Valois, expressed his support for the Democratic incumbent.

“I don’t like Romney, especially his foreign policy. In the last debate, the whole China thing [the Republican talked about] was crazy,” Brown said.

However, Fred Bell, a 65-year-old who often visits the Valois, said he has never voted and wouldn't be doing so this year.

“I don’t trust any politician," he said. "I don’t recall the situation getting better by putting a different man in office."

Opinions about Obama are more mixed and nuanced compared to the citywide euphoria that embraced the 2008 election of America's first black president. On election night four years ago, nearly a quarter of a million Chicagoans flocked to Grant Park downtown to celebrate their local hero's victory.

This year isn't likely to produce a display of jubilation on such a massive scale.

City officials haven't announced any public event for Obama supporters. The main celebration -- or, if Romney wins, concession event -- that the Obama family will attend on Tuesday night will be at the indoor McCormick Place with only a limited number of invitees. Most of those who attend will be volunteers from the Democrat's campaign -- those who phoned potential voters and knocked on doors in search of support.

For the thousands of people without tickets to election-night parties, watching TV coverage of the quadrennial drama will be the only option.

After nearly four years in the White House, Obama is now regarded more as a guest when he visit Chicago than the year-round resident who worked as a community organizer and a University of Chicago law professor.

Hyde Park has many places connected in some way to the president, but few visitors were in view on this sunny Sunday afternoon.

“We plan to have a celebration party here on Tuesday night. You should come,” said Davis, the hair stylist.

While Obama and Romney remain in a dead head, according to many polls, Davis doesn't doubt that his former customer will emerge the victor.

“He will win,” he said.

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