In the Kenwood neighborhood, President Barack Obama's neighbors went about their daily business today -- voting, running errands, and entertaining children who were off from school – as presidential security teams and an international news corps descended on their corner of the city.
And the president went about his usual business on an election day: He played basketball with his buddies.
In 2008, Obama played basketball with aides before winning the kickoff Iowa caucuses. The president and his aides decided to make the games an Election Day tradition after they lost the next contest — the New Hampshire primary — on a day when they didn't hit the court.
Around 1 p.m., Obama's motorcade arrived at the Hope Athletic Center on the West Side where the president played basketball with staff and friends. A White House spokeswoman said he played with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reggie Love, Mike Ramos, Marty Nesbitt, White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass, Obama's brother-in-law Craig Robinson, and others.
After basketball, Obama headed back to his South Side home, where he is expected to eat dinner with family tonight before heading to McCormick Place for a rally.
Malia and Sasha Obama, the president's daughters, were flying to Chicago on Tuesday afternoon after attending classes at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, an aide to first lady Michelle Obama said.
Both Chicago born, Malia, 14, is a 9th grader, Sasha, 11, is a 6th grader at the Quaker school -- an exclusive school with a demanding curriculum.
When the president and first lady arrived in Chicago at 12:17 a.m. Tuesday to spend Election Day here, the couple stepped off Air Force One at O'Hare International Airport sans their girls.
But the first daughters will be on hand with their parents at McCormick Place on Tuesday night, said Semonti Stephens, a Michelle Obama spokeswoman. The girls are traveling with first grandmother Marian Robinson, the first lady's mother.
No word on whether they'll finish their homework before appearing on stage.
The president also spent some time in and near his South Side neighborhood early today, visiting with supporters at a Hyde Park campaign field office.
Outside Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School, a polling place just a few blocks from Obama's home, reporters nearly outnumbered voters at times. A van carrying journalists from six West African countries pulled up around 10 a.m., just as a tour bus packed with European reporters was getting ready to leave.
The tour bus driver, Jeff Hankins, 55, a Wisconsin resident, said he had voted early, expecting a 14-hour day. The next stop on the tour: Obama's house – or as close as he could get the bus.
Streets around the president’s home on Greenwood Avenue between 50th Street and Hyde Park Boulevard were blocked off, with Secret Service agents stationed at cement blockades, checking residents' identification.
Ashley Bumpers, a 25-year-old telemarketer on her way home from casting her vote, approached a blockade at Hyde Park Boulevard and Ellis Avenue, with her driver's license in hand. By now, she said, she is used to the presidential hullaballoo.
Bumpers said she has lived in the Obamas' neighborhood for six years -- including one day when she went down to find her car and discovered that it had been towed to another parking spot to make way for presidential security.
Bumpers said that while she knows others may be less enthusiastic about this presidential race than they were in 2008, she did not consider staying home on election day this year.
"You have to make sure that you vote," she said, "instead of leaving it in somebody else's hands."
Besides, she said, "I don't want Romney."
Inside his Hyde Park campaign office, President Obama, wearing a white shirt and striped blue tie, greeted about 30 volunteers with hugs and smiles. He then began making surprise calls to Wisconsin campaign volunteers, thanking them for their hard work during the election.
Local campaign volunteers joined the President and made calls to battleground state voters, a volunteer said.
"The great thing about these campaigns is after all the TV ads, all the fundraising and all the debates and all the electioneering is it comes down to this," Obama said at the office. "One day. And these incredible folks who are working so hard, making phone calls, making sure the people go out to vote."
The president said Election Day is a "source of great optimism."
"I end up having so much confidence in the decency and goodness and wisdom of ordinary folks who are working so hard to try and move their own small piece of this county forward," he said.
As he exited the campaign office at about 9:20 a.m., the president greeted a small group of supporters who stood outside and cheered. One gave him a small shoe to autograph.
Students outside Kenwood Academy High School shouted and waved enthusiastically from across the street.
"You guys got to go back to class," Obama joked before his motorcade left for the Fairmont Hotel, where the president has scheduled interviews this afternoon.
Inside Shoesmith Elementary school, the polling site near Obama's home, Andrea Dalton, a 69-year-old Hyde Park resident, said she got to her polling place later than she would have liked because she was busy chatting with her neighbors, also Obama supporters.
"He has done a tremendous job in moving the country forward," Dalton said. "He had to dig us out of the hole that Bush left for us and it takes time to dig out of that hole."
Not everything went smoothly at the school, where the list of registered voters was missing, causing problems among voters there.
Election judge Peggy Studiger was frustrated as she handed out dozens of provisional ballots. Her supply was running low and the line went out the door.
"We've had more provisional ballots than ever before,” said Studiger. "We've got people who have been voting here for 20 years and they're mad."
Later, Preckwinkle told the Tribune that she was concerned about the number of provisional ballots required.
"I don't know how the canvassing was done, but there seems to be a problem," she said. "It's something we'll take up with the Board of Elections after the election."
Tribune reporter Katherina Skiba contributed.
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