"The great thing about these campaigns is after all the TV ads and all the fundraising and all the debates and all the electioneering. It comes down to this, one day, and these incredible folks who are working so hard," he said.
But for all intents and purposes, Obama remained largely out of sight Tuesday, containing whatever nerves he felt behind closed doors surrounded by friends, family and a circle of advisers who have been with him since the early days of his 2008 presidential race.
A heavy dose of nostalgia and reflection was in the air, given that whatever the result Obama would never run for political office again. Some of the president's senior advisers, including David Axelrod and David Plouffe, were spotted wearing Obama 2008 fleece jackets Monday. Meanwhile, other veterans of the 2008 campaign, such as speechwriters Jon Favreau and Ben Rhodes, were also on hand for the president's final sprint.
"It's like the end of a long-running series, and all the characters are coming back," Axelrod mused.
Perhaps with an eye toward recreating some of 2008's magic, Obama reconvened a game of pickup basketball that he got in the habit of playing every Election Day during that year's drawn out primary process.
Senior campaign aide Robert Gibbs said instructions were sent several days ago to Reggie Love, the president's former body man and frequent basketball companion, to organize an Election Day game.
The game kicked off shortly after 2 p.m. at the Attack Athletics facility in downtown Chicago. A White House aide said that in addition to Love, "friends and staff" were participating in the game, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Obama friend Mike Ramos.
"I think it's safe all rituals will be observed," said Gibbs, who also noted that the one time the president didn't play basketball on an Election Day was when he had a surprise loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 New Hampshire primary.
"We won't make that mistake again," he joked.
One thing the president did not do Tuesday was visit any additional battleground states, the campaign's traveling press secretary Jen Psaki said, even as Romney went out to meet and greet voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania until polls closed.
That was a calculated decision not to get in the way of the campaign's get-out-the-vote efforts in the battleground states, said Stephan Cutter, a senior adviser to the campaign.
"On Election Day, the last thing you want to do is take your GOTV staff off from getting people out to the polls," she told CNN.
Instead, the president was aware his fate was largely out of his hands and instead in those of the thousands of grassroots operatives and volunteers who are charged with getting voters to the polls across the country.
Speaking to a Virginia crowd Saturday night, Obama mused that he now felt like a "prop" because there was little left he could do with so few hours remaining until voters issued their final judgment.
"It's up to the volunteers," he told the Virginia crowd. "It's up to somebody knocking on a door. It's up to somebody making a phone call."
Ultimately, the president spent the majority of his time Tuesday simply trying to stay at ease with a close circle that includes the first lady and old friends such as Martin Nesbitt and Marvin Nicholson.
He also put the finishing touches on two speeches -- one for a victory, and the other for the eventuality that he lost.
And just as the first wave of results flowed in, the president sat down to dinner with the first lady, his two daughters and mother-in-law -- all of whom flew in from Washington earlier in the evening.
At that final rally in Iowa on Monday night, Bruce Springsteen ended his 30-minute concert with his classic, "In the Land of Hopes and Dreams," crooning, "Well, you don't know where you're goin' now, but you know you won't be back."
It was a fitting end for a president who didn't yet know if he'd hold on to White House but could be certain his days as a candidate were forever over.