Outside many D.C.-area polling centers on Tuesday, the scene could have been mistaken for 2008 — long lines of voters shivering in the crisp autumn air, multicolored campaign leaflets fluttering in the breeze — but behind the lawns full of campaign signs and "I Voted" stickers, there was a change in energy that even President Obama's supporters could feel.
Greeting voters as they walked into a polling center in Alexandria, 66-year-old Betty Guttmann said compared to the last election, "people seem less enthusiastic this year."
"Now it's more rechanneled," said Ms. Guttmann, wearing a hat supporting Obama. "It's like we've done it, we did it, what's next?"
Ms. Guttmann said she remembered the thrill of the 2008 election. Even her friends living in Europe felt exhilarated by the news of Mr. Obama's victory, but the last four years have dulled emotions.
"It was an historic election, life-changing," Ms. Guttmann said. "It was the first black president. A re-election is not as historic."
That's not to say Ms. Guttmann, or other Obama supporters, have given up on their candidate. Some noticed a difference in momentum from four years ago.
"Four years ago it was so exciting," said 78-year-old Alexandria resident Kathleen Dullea as she left a polling center. The mood and energy now is "exciting … but it's more determined."
One similarity to four years ago was the spontaneous celebrations that erupted on the streets of the District when television networks called the race for Mr. Obama. Though smaller in scale than those in 2008, crowds of people around the U Street area celebrated and shot fireworks.
Seat Pleasant Councilman Reveral Yeargin was one Obama supporter who felt this year's campaign spurred more interest and energy.
"I think people are most excited now than they were," the 50-year-old said as he handed out fliers at Central High School in Capitol Heights.
Voters heading to the polls drove through a forest of campaign workers who stood along the school's long driveway, handing out brochures and information sheets.
One of the most boisterous and congenial in the line of campaign supporters standing along the road was Mr. Yeargin.
"I think [in 2008] it was more nervous excited because you didn't know whether he was going to win," Mr. Yeargin said. "Now we've had four years and you say, 'OK, if we can get back in …' there's still work to do."
Germantown resident Shan Yang said she voted for Mr. Obama, but only because "Romney's worse."
"Obama, I wouldn't say I'm completely for him," the 50-year-old said. "I don't trust Romney."
Rhonda Small, 42, of Northwest, said she felt the presidential race was highly important. Mr. Obama is steadily leading an economic recovery, she said, and can continue to do so during a second term.
"People want to give Obama a hard time over not being able to produce within the first four years, but I think he definitely deserves another term," she said. "But I think we will see even more improvements than we have over the first four years."
George and Marjorie Hobart spent Tuesday handing out Democrat sample ballots near Lyon Park in Arlington, their stickers and pins supporting Mr. Obama worn proudly on their coats.
Mr. Hobart, 77, said during the last election, "there was just a wealth of enthusiasm for Obama and what he was bringing. It's a little disheartening he hasn't been able to do all he wanted to do."
The Arlington man said he decided to do a two-hour shift handing out leaflets.
"I personally don't have as much enthusiasm as 2008," he said, "but I've noticed a lot of other people do have as much if not more."
Mrs. Hobart said she made a few calls on behalf of the president because "it's even more important to re-elect Obama."
She said even though her yard boasts three pro-Obama signs, a woman campaigning for the president "still came up to the front door to make sure to talk to us."
Sporting a gray "Obama" knit hat to keep away the cold, New York City resident Sam Rosen said he came down to Virginia to help out his daughter, who was working at one of the Alexandria polling centers in the Temple Beth El Synagogue.
"From New York, they've still got enthusiasm there," the 68-year-old said. "It's a lot more anti-Republican feeling. A lot of disappointment with Congress."
Shuffling his hands and feet as a cold gust of wind blew through the temple parking lot, Mr. Rosen said Democrats' mood this election was more like 2004 than 2008.
"Everyone was enthusiastic to get rid of Bush," he said with a knowing smile. "That didn't quite work out."
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