9:17 a.m. — I’ve got some leftover sauce reheating in the microwave. I’ll mix it with the egg noodles boiling on the stove and call it breakfast. MSNBC is on my TV, and I can see my local polling place from my living room window. It’s 61 sunny and clear degrees outside, and a lot of people are walking to and from voting. Dan Rather says Virginia will be a big early indicator. Man, this is an exciting day for news/politics geeks like me — and also for the rest of the world, apparently.

9:37 a.m. — MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski has just awkwardly caught Dan Rather “trying to think.” She has an interesting edge, and seems to be at least a little skeptical about Obama. Most people credit Ronald Reagan with ending the Cold War, but I think Mika’s dad played a big role.

9:53 a.m. — Ralph Henkes was my middle school gym coach. Today, he was also one of Racine’s first voters.

10:00 a.m. — Fox News has a split screen of John McCain about to vote in Arizona, and Sarah Palin about to vote in Wasilla, Alaska. This morning at 7:38, Barack and Michelle Obama cast their ballots at at Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School. While they were seen voting on live TV, I got an email from Michelle telling me the address of my own polling place. She must have had a BlackBerry or an iPhone in there or something.

10:17 a.m. — On Fox News, the Palins have finished voting in cold, dark Wasilla. It’s 17 degrees there now. Sarah Palin says she’ll “forever be Sarah from Alaska.” She is exercising her right to privacy in not telling anyone who she voted for, and she emphasizes the crisp cleanliness of her state.

Interestingly, while Sarah Palin takes more spontaneous questions from reporters than she seemed to during the entire campaign, John McCain slips into and out of his polling place without any clear camera time, obscured by a mob of reporters.

10:34 a.m. — About two minutes after a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) phone call from the Obama campaign, two attractive and friendly Obama women knock on my door to ask whether I have voted, and to hang a door sign with an “I voted” sticker on it. I love a good ground game.

10:52 a.m. — CNN’s Tony Harris is interviewing an “iReporter” in Pennsylvania who has just voted for the first time. Harris is shouting (as usual) at him to “share” his “emotions.” Must … change … channel.

11:07 a.m. — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White tells CBS 2 Chicago that anyone who doesn’t come down to the Obama rally in Grant Park and merely watches it on TV will be missing out on history. I disagree. I love history, and I can enjoy it just fine on TV. I do have a sister who is staying at the Allerton Hotel tonight, just to be nearby even though she did not get tickets.

11:37 a.m. — Some kind of fire siren keeps sounding while MSNBC is checking in with Roger Simon at Politico, giving things a kind of telethon or home shopping vibe. Which reminds me: Rick Sanchez should be entertaining today on CNN at 2:00 Central. Whoa! According to his Twitter page, Rick’s got Joe the Plumber joining him today. Nice to see Rick working the Spanish-speaking angle, too. Let’s hope his Twitterboard doesn’t explode today. God, I love watching Rick Sanchez get Tasered.

11:55 a.m. — Even Mr. Food has a special no-recipe, Election Day message on ABC7. Man, that Linda Yu is a good-looking woman. Based on nothing, I have a feeling she votes Republican, but I could easily disregard that.

12:14 p.m. — Over at 538, Nate Silver has a post about why you should ignore exit polls. I’ll try to keep that in mind, because I got illegitimately excited four years ago when some exit poll numbers posted on Daily Kos showed that John Kerry would win Ohio, and therefore the presidency. This time around, even the Daily Kos warns you to ignore the exit polls. I have, however, been watching FiveThirtyEight.com obsessively for months, and I have never seen McCain’s win percentage as low as today’s 1.1. That graphic almost demands the Pac-Man death sound.

12:27 — MSNBC just showed Barack Obama declaring his candidacy 21 months ago in Springfield, Illinois. I was watching then, and I remember how cold it was. I also remember the last time I live-blogged anything, which was the Super Bowl eleven days prior. That day started off looking like it was going to be one big celebration too.

12:52 — Rick Leventhal of Fox News has breaking news of a scuffle (now revised to “verbal scuffle”) at a Philadelphia polling place involving two members of “the New Black Panther Party” and a nightstick. I’m starting to panic and my heart is pounding in pure Fox terror, but then the video clip they show looks more like verbal thumb-wrestling between Leventhal and an oddball or two. You can relax, America — for now.

1:19 p.m. — We’re back to 69 degrees here, but we did hit 70 briefly. It’s not very many first Tuesdays in November that I have had the windows open all day like this, I almost want to barbecue now, but so far the plan is for Amy to pick up Chinese on the way home from Day 2 of her new job in southern Milwaukeeland.

1:29 p.m. — Heh: Vikki just Twittered that it took her three minutes to vote, and she even posted a TwitPic of herself with her sticker. She’s a strong Dahl/Kilman supporter, but who isn’t? Meanwhile, Steve Dahl reports that it was probably the billion Cook County judges on that ballot that caused Barack Obama to spend so much time in his voting booth.

1:43 p.m. — I’m watching a slightly hoarse John McCain giving his stump speech once again, this time in Colorado, which is where he just predicted he’ll win the campaign. Personally, I’ll be looking first at Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. McCain still has all of the same rhetorical buckshot he had back at the convention — cutting pork-barrel spending, drill baby drill, the surge in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus, and the big “fight, fight, fight” finish. Oddly, though, the music that blasts over him at the end is Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” which includes the line, “Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.” I guess that’s kinda mavericky. CNN follows McCain with his spokesman Tucker Bounds. As much as I enjoyed Tucker’s interview with Campbell Brown at the convention, he is one talking head I will not miss.

2:12 p.m. — Mary just instant-messaged me. She’s still downtown at the office, right next to Chicago’s Grant Park, where the big Obama rally is setting up for tonight. She says the atmosphere is all sirens and helicopters, and she wonders whether Barack will skydive in like the Flying ELVI or maybe Bill Murray. Meanwhile, Rick Sanchez is on CNN and he’s getting into a heavy discussion on race in politics with a Twitterer named trianglman, but apparently viewers are getting agitated over Joe the Plumber. Sanchez says, “I get it. Calm down. Doesn’t everyone have a right to be heard in this country?” Plumbermania is apparently something of a double-edged — wrench?

2:50 p.m. — Well, CNN’s much-touted Joe the Plumber interview just ended, and it was pretty much a dumb-off. Rick Sanchez was very confrontational about things like Joe’s lack of a plumbing license, and Joe challenged Sanchez to look up “principles” in the dictionary. They did finally reach a bit of common ground, both favoring a flat tax, and Joe referred to his face-to-face conversation with Barack Obama, which really is worth watching:

3:05 p.m. — School’s out here, and the Dow has finished up about 305 points. Meanwhile, CNBC’s Sports Biz guy Darren Rovell is at Ray’s Restaurant & Malt Shop in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, and he zeroes in on the “Redskins Rule,” which holds that the incumbent party loses the White House following a Washington Redskins home loss. Rovell claims that this indicator has proven accurate “17 of 17 times,” which is bad news for John McCain in view of the Redskins’ loss last night to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The bad news for Sports Biz guy Darren Rovell, however, is that the Redskins lost at home in 2004, but George W. Bush was reelected. 16 of 17 is just not the same as 17 of 17.

3:40 p.m. — The Chicago Sun-Times is Twittering updates about the Obama rally. They say that Star Wars music is playing and ticket-holders are being let in.

3:56 p.m. — I’m starving. I just found some Merkts Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread and some Ryvita Sesame Rye Crispbread. Ta-da! CNN is reporting election irregularities in Pennsylvania, which gives John King a chance to show these on his magic, expandable U.S. map. Basically, irregularities are speckled all over the eastern potion of the country much like the autumn leaves scattered all over the western part of my backyard.

4:02 p.m. I’m off to Chicago’s ABC7 to see how the rally is building. Andy Shaw says Barack Obama is playing basketball right now at the East Bank Club with Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. Whatever. I’m pretty sure that if it was Election Day and I was running for president, I would just spend every minute of it throwing up. Different strokes.

4:15 p.m. — Check out the TwitPics from emom of the line to get into Grant Park.

4:36 p.m. — The cable news channels are starting to give little exit poll tidbits. Warning: Ignore! Ignore! Must … not … pay … attention … to 62 percent economy concern. Turn away! Avert!

4:57 p.m. — Three minutes before the very first polls begin closing in the U.S. Meanwhile, here in Racine, Wisconsin, the local paper is reporting that votes are being challenged.

4:59 p.m. — My mom calls to ask what I’m doing. I ask whether she ever reads my blog. She asks when I’m coming to visit. We end up talking about the South Side of Chicago and Steve Allen and Mel Tormé and her Republican friend who vowed to “snuff out” her vote for “that guy,” and my next-door neighbor’s pregnant sister.

5:30 p.m. — Checking on the US Politics Room on FriendFeed, I see that someone is upset about the early election returns as reported by CBS — 60 percent McCain to 38 percent Obama. Since these are the first few thousand votes from Kentucky and Indiana, I don’t think panic is warranted just yet.

5:32 p.m. — My sister Karen phones from downtown Chicago. She and her husband saw Tammy Duckworth on Michigan Avenue. She says the John Hancock Center is lit up in red, white, and blue and there are a lot of smiling Obama supprters everywhere.

5:50 p.m. — Savannah has come over from across the street while her mom votes. She’s seven years old. She says that she hasn’t had dinner yet, and that she likes Chinese food, and maybe she can have dinner with us. She hides to scare Amy as Amy comes home, but it doesn’t work. Savannah’s mom talked with Amy on the way in. Reportedly, the lines at our polling place are very long. No matter — Amy has brought plenty of food home, and Savannah can eat here.

6;01 p.m. — MSNBC calls Kentucky for McCain. Savannah says “No fair!” I try to quickly explain the Electoral College and the difference between red, blue, and toss-up states.

6:18 p.m. — I just caught the last few seconds of CNN’s Jessica Yellin appearing on the CNN Election Center set in Atlanta while she was in Chicago. How is that possible, you ask? She was a hologram. A freaking, Princess Leia-style hologram. As Wolf Blitzer noted, “It’s pretty amazing technology.” Another word for it is “lame.”

6:33 p.m. — Our neighbor Tanya just returned from voting. She was number 1,318. At 8:00 this morning, her husband was number 159. These are much, much higher than normal. Meanwhile, let me just say that the New York Times President Map is outstanding.

6:46 p.m. — CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux is at Grant Park in Chicago, and the “Obama!” chants are so loud that she cannot be heard, so Wolf Blitzer cuts away from her for the time being. You would think they would have anticipated a crowd and provided her with a suitable microphone — like a headset, perhaps.

6:53 p.m. — MSNBC shows the exterior of Rockefeller Center as they return from commercials, and it’s kind of cool. They have two window washer’s scaffolds climbing up the building, pulling red and blue banners to graph the current electoral vote count. The left side of the building is bathed in blue light, the right in red. Really striking.

7:00 p.m. — MSNBC calls Pennsylvania for Obama. Whew. I was wondering whether McCain knew something no one else did when he spent so much time there. The blue scaffold can climb some more now: Obama 103, McCain 34.

7:31 p.m. — Liddy Dole is out in North Carolina. Not a big surprise, but once fairly mighty, and one of the most desperate ads ever:

8:00 p.m. — So far, no real surprise states. Obama 175, McCain 70. Obama does win the NFC North. I’m already getting pretty tired of all this, especially after watching Tom DeLay whining on MSNBC about the “damage” the Democrats are going to do to the economy. They really should make him watch video of himself.

8:20 p.m. — My sister just called from Chicago again. She and her husband are near Grant Park, trying to get into the overflow area for the people without tickets.

8:22 p.m. — Ohio has gone to Obama. Huge, gigantic news. Hello to my sister there, who I don’t think contributed to this win.

8:25 p.m. — Adam just IM’d me a link to a photo of one of the hottest shirts around in Chicago today. (Nice work, Frijole Joe!) Want one of your own? Shop Dahl.com. Oops — sorry. Adam tells me there are no more shirts left.

8:27 p.m. — My sister Karen has made it into the overflow area at Grant Park. She was a little dismayed by the cursory security check at first, but then remembered that it is, after all, the overflow area. She says there’s a huge screen there, and she can see and hear CNN with perfect clarity.

9:11 p.m. — I was just reminded by the US Politics Room on FriendFeed that Comedy Central has an hour of election coverage on right now, so that has now been added to our TV rotation. Boy, are my eyes tired. I’m gonna take the contacts out and go Clark Rockefeller for the rest of the night.

9:17 p.m. — MSNBC’s Ron Allen reports a rumor that “Oprah is out in the crowd” at Grant Park, which he says is an indication of what’s “gonna happen” there “in a little while.” Soon after, he loses track of his thoughts in the midst of what is becoming “an amazing scene out here.” Keith Olbermann casts doubt upon the notion that Oprah is literally “out in the crowd.” I wonder if she was able to get tickets — or if perhaps she’s in the overflow crowd with my sister and her husband.

9:25 p.m. — Howard Fineman talks on MSNBC about last-ditch, old school robocalls that were going out to Cubans in Florida at the end of the campaign, telling them that Fidel Castro had endorsed Barack Obama. Interesting fact: We did not receive a single robocall at our house this election, despite having been besieged by them in the past.

9:55 p.m. — NBC5’s Carol Marin says she just got off the phone with Hammond, Indiana Mayor Tom McDermott who reports that Lake County is going to give Indiana to Obama.

10:00 p.m. — Obama has won. My sister is on the phone from Grant Park, my wife is in tears. TV shows acres and acres of flags and hugging and kissing and tears. Finally. The whole world just changed.

10:07 p.m. — Wow. Obama wins Virginia too. Keith Olbermann is comparing this to the first moon landing. He says it is “earth-shattering history.” McCain has already called to concede. What an amazing moment on a perfect night in a beautiful city. Now Colorado has gone to Obama. Florida has gone to Obama. I don’t know if this is as huge as V-E Day, but it’s got to be the most significant event I have ever witnessed, and I saw all of the moon landings.

10:27 p.m. — John McCain’s concession speech was highly honorable and gracious. Meanwhile, there is video of huge crowds just outside the White House fence, and David Gregory quotes a respectful statement from President Bush. The peaceful transition is already underway. What a country.

10:52 p.m. — Well, good night. I’m going to try and stay awake for as much of the speech as I can, but I’m punching out as a blogger tonight. 4:15 rolls around fast. As a final note, let me share the email I got a little while ago from President-elect Barack Obama:

Mark —

I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,

Barack

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