A roaring cheer, emanating from the Diag, echoed throughout Central Campus Tuesday night as students gathered to celebrate the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Four years into a battered presidency, the thunderous outcry was a sigh of relief for many Obama supporters whose hopes for the future were pinned to the president’s precariously narrow electoral success.
Across campus and partisan divides, students gathered in groups large and small to watch the returns from Tuesday’s election. As the night progressed, and Obama’s re-election became more assured, impromptu celebrations and fits of dejection became more common as liberals rejoiced and conservatives faced the imminent reality of another four years of the Democratic president.
Excitement reached a fever pitch after 11 p.m., after most major television networks called the election in favor of Obama. Spontaneously, hundreds of students began to gather on the Diag to celebrate the election, reminiscent of a similar outpouring after the 2008 election.
LSA freshman Sam Whaley, an Obama supporter, said he quickly made his way to the Diag after hearing reports on CNN that Obama would be re-elected. He used the words "happy" and "relieved" to describe the atmosphere in the Diag, where the crowd was rapidly growing.
“Everybody just wanted to be together and be excited," Whaley said. "So we all rushed to the Diag because it's like the heart of Central Campus. It has been a lot of cheering and excitement and some fight songs — 'Hail to the Victors,' patriotic songs, a little bit of everything. Just a lot of happiness.”
Another reveler, LSA freshman Conner Wood, rushed to the Diag to join his peers in what he called a "magnificent victory.”
"It's very community," Wood said. "People are very excited about it, to the point where they're doing handstands and dancing. I've hugged many strangers. It's just been a great, great euphoric moment. I mean, we came so close to disaster."
Regan Moro, a freshman in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, said she was elated by the election results, noting she is a supporter of Obama's policies on social issues and came to the Diag to celebrate with other students who share similar views.
"I didn't think that Romney would win, but I was a little bit nervous about it because I know the last four years haven't been the easiest," Moro said. "I think we're all brought to the Diag for a sense of community. I really feel a part of the University of Michigan community."
At a small gathering of about a dozen members of the University’s chapter of College Democrats early in the evening, LSA senior Lauren Coffman, the communications director of the group, said she believes Obama resonates for many young people around the nation.
“I think that (Obama) really embodies the American dream,” LSA junior Lauren Coffman, communications director for the College Democrats, said. “I mean, he came from a single parent household, from a family that didn't necessarily have a lot of money, and he has inspired the country through his speeches and through his story.”
Speaking at the Michigan Democratic Party’s election center in Detroit, LSA junior Alexandra Brill, chair of the University’s College Democrats, said she was proud of the work that the group had done leading up to Election Day.
“We worked really hard both with the top of the ticket and with local candidates that were victorious,” Brill said in an interview.
At a muted affair early in the evening, about 30 members of the University’s College Republicans gathered at the Michigan Union to watch election analysis and early returns from the first-reporting states. Though many members remained optimistic for a Mitt Romney victory, some quietly conceding the race was a long shot for the former Massachusetts governor.
Speaking only when the first returns began coming in, LSA junior Kaitlin Mikatarian, the secretary of College Republicans, said though she wasn’t optimistic about Romney’s chances, she hadn’t given up hope.
By 8 p.m., the group had disbanded and members had gone to watch the election results individually or in smaller groups.
After networks called the election for Obama, LSA junior Jared Boot, the chair of the University’s Students for Romney, said though his party lost the presidency, they were consoled by electoral success in the state Supreme Court races and the ballot proposals.
All six ballot proposals — including Proposals 2 through 6, which were opposed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and most other prominent Republicans — were defeated Tuesday.
“We put up a good fight,” Boot said. “We’ve made a presence on campus, people know we exist, and hopefully people respect our positions better.”
Boot added that the unclear outcome of the popular vote — which shows Obama leading by about 2.7 million votes as of 9:40 a.m. according to the Associated Press — is a mandate for the president to work more collaboratively with Republicans in Congress.
“We’re looking for the bright spots,” Boot said. “The governor was very proud of that — he’s worked tirelessly on those six proposals and he’s very pleased with the results that are coming in. He’ll keep moving Michigan’s economy forward, thanks to people realizing that special interests can’t have a hold on our constitution.”
Political Science Prof. Michael Heaney said that while the election was suspenseful, student participation was somewhat below average. However, he noted it was difficult to overcome the spirit and exhilaration of the 2008 campaign.
“2008 was just an exceptionally exciting election,” Heaney said. “There are two things you’ve got to keep in mind: how dark and terrible the Bush (years) were, and bringing the first African-American president and this younger man who was such a charismatic speaker. 2008 was the most exciting election of my lifetime.”
By 9 p.m., nearly 200 students and alumni filled the Union’s University Club room as results began rolling across television screens. Gathering around crowded tables adorned with colorful balloons, posters and streamers, students nibbled on ice cream bars while keeping their eyes locked on the results.
The event, sponsored by the Center for Campus Involvement, drew students from across the political spectrum. At one table, a group of Obama supporters donned buttons and cheered with each state that turned blue on the electoral map, while others donned Michigan Republican Party T-shirts.
Overall, cheers for Obama victories dominated the night, especially when networks announced an Obama win in Michigan.
“I felt elated when Obama captured the state of Michigan,” Kinesiology senior Miatta McCrummady said. “I voted for him the first time and I voted for him again today.”
McCrummady said she stood with Obama primarily due to his support for women’s rights and the middle class.
Before the election was called later in the evening, Romney supporters remained optimistic and hopeful about the Republican nominee’s victory.
“This is huge, him being re-elected,” LSA sophomore Kiana Alexander said. “As a black person, he represents the dream. America really is the land of opportunity. You really can be anything.”
Further down State Street, North Quad Residence Hall hosted a watch party event of about 30 students, where discussion focused primarily on the foreign policy stances of the two candidates — seemingly fitting for a theme community focused on international studies.
LSA junior Nora Dagher said she talked to many international students who, though ineligible to vote, said they feel impacted by the election.
“The whole world is watching at this point,” Dagher said. “Whoever wins will affect the rest of the world as well.”
LSA junior Nick Hill, who concentrates in Middle Eastern studies and political science, said he has kept a special focus on international affairs while following the election.
“I think the rhetoric that Obama shows is better towards the Middle East,” he said. “They look positively toward Obama and they don’t really like the rhetoric Romney shows.”
“The U.S. is a major player in world politics,” Rackham student Ricky Punzalan said. “I feel like if the wrong person gets the job, it will dictate the future of not only the U.S., but the world stage as well.”
When NBC first announced that Obama won re-election, cheers erupted across the room. Students jumped out of their seats, rushing to embrace their fellow supporters with hugs of relief and excitement, or reaching for their phones to compare reactions with friends and relatives.
Across the street, it was difficult to shuffle through the crowd at the State Street Buffalo Wild Wings, where students in the Ford School of Public Policy gathered together to watch the results amid the aroma of teriyaki chicken wings.
At a table in the back of the restaurant, Public Policy senior Matthew Mejia gathered with fellow policy students to await the results. Waitresses bustled in and out to replace plates of wings between cheers for Obama victories.
For Mejia, the electric atmosphere harkened back to the campus excitement of 2008.
“It’s a really exciting night and it’s a really important night,” Mejia said. “You hear the cheers, you hear the boos. If nothing else, you can tell that people care and I think that I think is a really important thing. That is encouraging.”
Nearby, Public Policy graduate student Matt Papadopoulos sported a Romney/Ryan sticker as he took in the results.
“Today is an expression of American democracy,” Papadopoulos said. “Regardless of what happens, the American people had a chance to voice their opinion and I think that’s an important right that we all have and it’s exciting to be able to use that and be apart of that process.”
Papadopoulos said he is curious to see how the Obama administration tackles national issues over the next few years.
"Washington, D.C. has kind of been at a stalemate for the few years," Papadopoulos said. "Ultimately, we elect our officials regardless of party or where they come from — we elect our officials to do things, not to stop doing things. And really, that's something that I would like to see continue happening, regardless of specifically what ideology that might service to.”
— Daily Staff Reporters Tui Rademaker, Danielle Stoppelmann, Stephanie Dilworth and Carly Fromm contributed reporting.
Correction Appended: A previous version of this article said that Proposal 1 passed. It did not.