Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, one of President Obama’s more ubiquitous surrogates, has been so busy doing Election Day television interviews that he’ll need to find time to weep as the returns come in tonight.
“I haven’t cried yet. I will assure you that at some point in the next 12 to 15 hours, that will happen,” Gibbs told me at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the site, depending on the results, of either the Obama campaign’s victory celebration or pity party. “In 2008 it happened watching him come out and speak to a crowd as the president-elect. And it would be a pretty good time to do it all over again.”
Gibbs, who was among the inner circle on Air Force One during Obama’s Monday barnstorming tour of the battleground states, said the president himself was especially emotional during the last stop in Des Moines, Iowa. Indeed, during his final stump speech of the campaign, Obama's cheeks were streaked with tears.
“It was very nostalgic,” Gibbs said. “We came back to where it started, and I know he was taking it all in and understanding that this was the last time that he was gonna go out and do this for him. He’d been through the photo line [where supporters had their pictures taken with him] and seen some people that he’d met in 2007. I think he was emotional because he got a lift from the people of Iowa very early in 2008 and that catapulted him to where he is now.”
The 41-year-old Gibbs said one of Monday’s highlights was the presence of the Boss. “Sitting in the conference room of Air Force One, hanging out with Bruce Springsteen, is cool. Pete Souza, the White House photographer, is a huge Springsteen fan. After we sat there and had lunch talking to Bruce Springsteen, I said to Pete, ‘We were just in VH1 Behind the Music—and we were the hosts!’”
Like the other Obama surrogates hitting the airwaves today, Gibbs was doing his best to conceal nervousness and exude confidence.
“I feel good,” he said. “I think we’re gonna win this race if we get our voters out…I think we feel good about what we’re seeing so far.” Virginia, considered a must-win state for Mitt Romney, will be a leading indicator, he added. “We’ll look at all nine of these states, but some of these will close early. Virginia closes early. They’ll count their vote quickly in Virginia. I’m not gonna say we’ll know quickly [the result of the election]. We’ll have an indication of where we are in Virginia quickly.”
Obama, meanwhile, was also going door to door—doing a satellite tour of local stations in the tossup states. “I can assure you that the president’s not leaving anything on the field in this one.”
In due course Gibbs made eye contact with his harried handler.
“I gotta get out of here,” he announced.