Josh Rubin (CNN)
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN)– Because there have been so many unpredictable things during this presidential election year, the feeling in the Chicago air tonight is just one more surprise.
Not the feeling of anticipation among the Barack Obama supporters who have gathered in Grant Park– they are excited and encouraged, but the official declaration of a winning candidate is still some time away.
The air itself, though– the November 4 nighttime air in the city– is unlike most November nights that Chicagoans, over the generations, have come to expect.
It feels like a September football Friday night in small-town America– a little cool, but far from cold; crisp; overcoats optional. It was shirtsleeve weather here during the day, but right now, in Grant Park, you half-expect to see the parents of members of the school marching band carrying cardboard containers bearing hot chocolate and caramel apples up into the stands.
But then you look over the heads of the people gathered on the grass, and you see the Sears Tower in one direction, the Prudential Building, the brawny towers that provide a steel-and-glass barrier wall to the west of Lake Michigan.
The lawn of Grant Park is illuminated by highest-intensity-white portable lights, making it considerably brighter than the sidewalks of most Chicago neighborhoods; the night air is pitch-black but crystal-clear, giving the illusion that you can see to infinity. There is no candidate here yet– just television screens informing the people in the park of the projected results state-by-state.
The cheers begin on the floor of the park and the echoes roll toward the streets of the city, as if signifying yearned-for touchdowns.