Obama stays with traditonal game of Election-Day basketball

CHICAGO — Saying he was sticking with a tried-and-true Election Day routine, President Obama played a game of basketball Tuesday with a small cadre of friends and confidants before awaiting election results in his hometown here.

Leaving nothing to chance, Mr. Obama did a round of interviews with battleground-state press and deployed Vice President Joseph R. Biden to Ohio to counter Mitt Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, who made a final pitch for votes in that crucial state.

But the Obama team insisted the president’s decision to stay close to home and sit out the last day of campaigning was a sign of strength, even as some Democratic political experts said they’d rather see their candidate out talking to voters on the final day.

The president has played basketball before every major election he’s won, and he’s grown a little superstitious about the ritual. Mr. Obama skipped the pre-election game of hoops before just one race, the 2008 New Hampshire primary, which he lost to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We made the mistake of not playing once,” said Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary. “We won’t make that mistake again.”

Around 1 p.m., Mr. Obama’s motorcade arrived at the Hope Athletic Center on the West Side where the president played basketball with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, longtime friends Marty Nesbitt and Mike Ramos, and Reggie Love, his former assistant who had played basketball for Duke University.

Alexi Giannoulias, a former Illinois state treasurer who lost his 2010 Senate race against Republican Mark Kirk, tweeted that he was also on the court with the president, along with former Chicago Bulls players Scottie Pippen and Randy Brown. Mr. Obama’s team reportedly won by a wide margin with a score of “like 102, 105, 108 or so to 80-something,” said Mr. Giannoulias.

“It was a lot of fun,” Mr. Giannoulias said. “We won. I scored more points than Scottie Pippen, which was [a] dream come true.”

Mr. Obama “played well,” he added, but he didn’t say how many points the president scored.

Mr. Obama had already cast his ballot in Chicago during early voting, so before the game he had time to visit campaign workers in Chicago to thank them for their work and make calls to a handful of Wisconsin voters.

With swing states either giving the president an advantage of less than their error margins or a dead heat, Mr. Obama acknowledged the outcome would come down to each campaign’s turnout operation.

“We feel confident we’ve got the votes to win, but it’s going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out,” he said Tuesday. “And so I would encourage everybody on all sides just to make sure that you exercise this precious right that we have that people fought so hard for us to have.”

He also seemed to soften his political rhetoric.

“Congratulations to Gov. Romney on a spirited campaign. … I know his supporters are just as engaged,” he said.

Mr. Obama sat for 10 Election Day TV interviews with local swing-state stations via satellite television from the Fairmont hotel in downtown Chicago.

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