Chicago: The day leading up to Election Night 2012 could not have been any more different than when we were in Chicago in 2008 for President Barack Obama's first historic election. Gone were the blue skies, sunny weather, big crowds, and endless optimism that we witnessed four years ago, replaced by more seasonal weather for November in the Windy City - temperatures just above freezing, grey skies, even cold rain. Then, it seemed even the heavens were smiling on the Senator Obama. Now the dark skies that reflected off Anish Kapoor's sculpture "Cloud Gate" seems perhaps a tad ominous. The polls had predicted a tight race with a slight lead for Obama in the battleground states.
On the way to the Obama campaign's election night event at a 10,000-person-capacity convention center in downtown Chicago, we drove by Grant Park, where in 2008 over 200,000 people swarmed to witness the election of the nation's first black president, and we had to wonder if the campaign was worried that they wouldn't be able to draw a large enough crowd this time around.
Were those enthusiastic young crowds from 2008 disillusioned by four years of difficult partisan politics? Would they show up across the country to vote and put Obama back in office?
This year Obama's campaign chose to keep its festivities indoors, where the crowd was limited to a few thousand die-hard supporters who volunteered to work for the campaign in the final days.
We had seen the no-nonsense steely resolve of Obama's troops on the ground the day before, when we visited a phone bank operation in downtown Chicago, and as we arrived at McCormick Center, we felt the same determined energy.
Kamala Harris, the first woman and Indian American to be Attorney General of California, calmly assured us that Obama would not only win the electoral college, but also the popular vote. As votes began to trickle in, slowly at first, then in greater numbers, one woman told us that she was already sure Obama had won - she was just waiting for the news networks to confirm it.
As the evening began with Romney holding slight leads in both the popular and electoral vote, Obama's supporters waited calmly and patiently, sure their man would make his move.
Sure enough, as the polls closed across the states and results started to come in by the hour, each state won by the Obama camp drew larger roars and cheers from the ever-growing crowd. When the state of California was called, a sea of American flags waved in a blur. Soon after, as the networks announced the President's second term would become a reality, it felt as if the roof was going to lift off the convention hall from all of the cheering.
The crowds danced, some cried and some kissed as they patiently waited for Governor Mitt Romney's concession speech.
The first family was expected soon.
The wait to hear Obama's speech seemed interminable. The DJ tried his best to keep the crowds occupied.
When Obama finally emerged and stepped up to the teleprompter, he did not disappoint.
Over the past few months the press has been criticising him for not being as soaring in his oratory as he was in the 2008 election. Gone was the distracted, monotonous lecturer who underperformed at the first presidential debate. There was no sign of the sarcastic, occasionally churlish campaigner of the last few weeks. This was vintage Obama.
Despite his decisive electoral victory, this was a humbled president who addressed America. The crowds quietened as the president acknowledged that almost half of America voted against him. There were no rosy platitudes; instead Obama spoke of the long journey and necessary compromises ahead. When the confetti ball exploded, showering the room with a red, white and blue hue some in the crowd wiped away tears.
It has been four years. The Obama girls are taller, his hair is greyer, the convention hall was smaller and the historic aspect of his election was less pronounced but the crowd, however, was every bit as enthusiastic as the one that had witnessed history in 2008 in Grant Park.
There will be disillusionment with Obama soon enough, probably as the next jobs report comes out, but last night in the room filled with Obama volunteers who worked themselves to the bone to get him re-elected, a sign from the past filled the room. It was Hope.