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My son Keaton makes a friend at the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

OKLAHOMA CITY — He grabbed me before I had a chance to escape.

The Barack Obama supporter — a hunk of a man with a giant grin and a stench of too much celebratory liquid — wrapped his arms around me and squeezed. Hard.

“This is too real, man!” the euphoric stranger told me.

“This is too real!” he repeated, his voice full of excitement as he gave me the world’s longest, most unsolicited bear hug. “We’re going to get the country back together!”

Several hundred Oklahoma Democrats — many of them African-Americans wearing T-shirts with Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. side by side — had just watched the president-elect’s “Change Has Come To America” speech on three big screens at the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.

Yellow legal pad in hand, I had come to the Democratic watch party to gather a few quotes and bits of color for The Associated Press state bureau in Oklahoma City.

Little did I know that this freelance assignment would require me to call in my dispatches from the men’s room. But outside the restroom was ear-piercing pandemonium — and this in a reddest-of-red state where John McCain outpolled Obama by a 2-to-1 margin.The emotional scene that I witnessed — the tears, the hugs, the heartfelt chants of “Yes We Can” — surprised me.

Until walking into that ballroom, I did not fully comprehend the level of passion by those who supported Obama’s candidacy. Nor did I truly understand the historical significance attached to his election.

“This is the most electrifying moment in Oklahoma and U.S. history,” one African-American woman told me as she celebrated Obama’s victory and danced jubilantly to the soulful hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”

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Keaton, 11, at the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City.
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I have a sneaking suspicion that my 11-year-old son, Keaton, might end becoming a reporter someday himself, if he doesn’t take Gary England’s place as Oklahoma’s premier weatherman.

Keaton enjoys following the news and watched the 2008 presidential campaign with interest. When I got home from work tonight, he told me: “Dad, the media’s going even more crazy over Obama than they were before the election.” I had to laugh.

My first stop last night was the Oklahoma Republican watch party at the Marriott in northwest Oklahoma City. Keaton asked to go and so I took him with me. He liked seeing all the local TV satellite trucks and posed for a picture with an Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin cutout.

The Republican event was much more subdued than the Democratic one.

I almost felt like I was back in elementary school when re-elected Sen. Jim Inhofe took the stage and basically had to beg the audience to stop talking long enough for him to speak.

Keaton claims he saw a news report where my baldhead snuck into the camera shot during Inhofe’s remarks. I sure hope not.

Keaton watched me interview U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who won re-election in the district where we live, and said I did an OK job. I got fairly standard quotes about her “great victory,” the tough year for Republicans and how she’s going to go back to Washington and fight for lower taxes and less dependence on foreign energy. But it gave Keaton a story to tell at school today.

By the time the AP folks told me to head over to the Democratic event, it was getting late.

So I drove Keaton home before going downtown and witnessing a bit of history.

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