Students watched as the counts mounted onscreen at the UIC student center, periodically falling silent when a total was announced.
"Come on, Ohio," breathed Monique Bolden, 18; of the West Side. "Come on, president."
The table of students, who live in dorm rooms upstairs, wrote their predictions of state tallies on slips of paper distributed by event organizers for a raffle for prizes like Obama and Romney bobbleheads.
Ariel Jordan, 19, of Bolingbrook, leaned back and against Jayme Robinson and held out her cell phone, snapping a picture.
"This is our day," she said.
"How do you know?" Lakeisha Hogan asked.
Jordan held firm. "This is our day. We're being silly, but we're celebrating that we voted."
This was their first election, and they had voted with a sense of gravity.
"I felt so proud when I put my ballot in the machine," Robinson said.
"I almost cried," Jordan said.
Now they were waiting. They had no plans to leave. "I'll be up till 2 in the morning,” Bolden said.
At another table, Asad Movahedan kept watch, too. A post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Illinois Department of Ophthalmology, Mohavedan, 31, is Iranian and not eligible to vote. But he did some campaign work for Obama, and this night, he wanted to watch the returns in a crowd.
He had watched the election night celebration in Grant Park in 2008 on TV.
He was so moved by the sense of change in the world and by the sight of Rev. Jessse Jackson weeping that he was determined to spend election night in Chicago at a communal event.
"This is important," said Movahedan, who came here three years ago with his wife, a graduate student in physics at Northwestern University.
"I believe leaders make change."
While those inside McCormick Center cheered on Obama in a warm and dry convention hall, a small crowd of immigrants and activist rallied outside, holding lit votive candles that flickered in a steady, cold rain.
U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, joined them at 9 p.m.
During the re-election campaign, Obama's supporters in the immigration reform movement have worked to get him re-elected, Gutierrez said, “so he could keep his promise to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.”
“And I know it won't come about unless we are here insisting on the streets of Chicago and Boston and the streets of Miami and LA and on every corner where there is somebody being separated from their wife, where there is someone being separated from their children, where there is fear,” he said. ”We will be there on every corner demanding that Barack Obama, that Democrats and Republicans keep their promises this time.”