CHICAGO (Reuters) - Can you really be a regular guy and lead a normal, low-key life when you’re going to be the next president of the United States?
Barack Obama hopes so, and he is doing his best to prove it — at least in the first week since winning a decisive victory against John McCain in Tuesday’s presidential election.
Obama and his family know their lives will change drastically when they move into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in January, so they are enjoying the last few months of “normalcy” before entering the fishbowl of the White House.
He seemed slightly taken aback on Friday when he walked into his first news conference as president-elect and a room full of reporters stood as he entered. Accustomed to reporters balancing computers on their laps as they asked questions on the campaign trail, Obama just said “Wow” then began speaking.
Though security has been beefed up since Obama became president-elect, with a few more streets blocked off around his Chicago house and more police officers in his motorcade, the 47-year-old is trying to go about his regular business.
In the past few days he has gone out to a downtown restaurant for a three-hour dinner with his wife Michelle, enjoyed an unprecedented number of nights in a row at home in his own bed and followed a daily workout regime.
For his Saturday night dinner date with his wife, Obama’s motorcade was as unobtrusive as a dozen cars snaking their way through downtown could be. Police rang their sirens only a few times and for most of the ride they did not use their flashing lights — presumably in an effort to minimize attention.
The Obamas even went to their daughters’ school this week for a parent-teacher conference, which had to be postponed because of the grueling presidential campaign which kept Obama away from home most of the time.
They looked like other parents, conferring as they exited the school. Except that Michelle Obama was carrying flowers that had apparently been given to her inside the school and the two got into separate motorcades after saying goodbye.
One constant that Obama has required is regular exercise. Even after staying up until nearly 2 a.m. on election night, he went to the gym early on Wednesday before a day of meetings.
On Sunday morning — a day he says he likes to start by making breakfast together with Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha — Obama got up early and headed to the gym, located in a nearby apartment complex owned by a good friend.
Residents in the complex have grown used to seeing the president-elect work out beside them. One man standing in line at a local cafe said he has been on the stair-climbing machine near Obama as he worked out.
He said security inside the gym has been beefed up a bit lately and now Secret Service agents are asking gym-goers not to take photos. But other than that, Obama who enters wearing a baseball cap and track suit fits in as he exercise.
The rest of Sunday was to be a day like that of many Americans with plans to watch football with friends and family.
Except Obama might also be called on to talk about world matters, get intelligence briefings or make progress on deciding who to place in his Cabinet.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman