It was an oddly anticlimactic homecoming.
After an endless day of crisscrossing the Rust Belt—President Obama’s last day ever of campaigning for himself—his landing in Chicago was notable for its ordinariness. There were no cheering crowds, not even a rope line. It was past everyone’s bedtime, anyhow.
Shortly after midnight Tuesday, the sky above O’Hare International was cleared of all traffic and Air Force One—one of the things he’s “entitled to as president,” along with “your own house,” as Mitt Romney snarkily pointed out in their first debate—glided onto the runway and taxied to a halt about 100 feet in front of a welcoming party of still photographers and television-camera folk mounted on a riser.
It was very cold—and very dark. Other than a contingent of police and Secret Service agents, only the media were on hand to greet the first couple. The 747’s mammoth engines were powered down. The stairway was moved into place at the opened front door. White House staffers and the traveling press pool were disgorged from the rear. The welcoming party aimed their lenses.
The lighting was terrible, several photographers complained. Two shadowy figures—the president and the first lady—made their way briskly down to the tarmac, and whatever they might have been saying to each other was drowned out by the revving engines of Marine One.
The Obamas looked subdued, and understandably tired, as they walked toward their helicopter, one of two parked side by side. The president dutifully returned a wave from the press riser and boarded his ride, which in short order taxied to the takeoff zone and took flight, followed by the other chopper and three other, larger escort helicopters.
That was it—hardly a rousing overture to the second most important day of Barack Obama’s career, when he will, at long last, learn if he gets to keep his airplane and his house.