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Obama plans election-night rally in Chicago convention center

By Eric Johnson

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama plans to usher in what he hopes will be a second four-year term in the White House at an election-night rally at a huge convention center near downtown Chicago, campaign and city officials said on Wednesday.

The event will likely draw thousands of supporters to the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Obama's hometown and the site of his re-election campaign headquarters.

Supporters are expected to watch the voting results come in and then hear a speech by the incumbent Democrat who faces Republican Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive, in the November 6 general election.

Some 240,000 revelers flooded Chicago's 319-acre (129-hectare) Grant Park in the city's central business district on the night Obama beat John McCain in 2008 to become the first black U.S. president.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former White House aide who has helped raise cash for a pro-Obama "super" political action committee, will attend the rally, said spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton.

"We are excited and honored to once again host President Obama on election night," Hamilton said. "Chicago is more than capable of safely hosting this historic event in November."

McCormick Place, which was the principal site of a NATO conference in May, is the largest exhibition and meeting facility in North America, according to its website. It has roughly 2.6 million square feet (240,000 square metres) of exhibit space and assembly seating for 18,000 people.

An Obama campaign official declined to comment on the reason why the smaller-capacity convention center was chosen as the venue for this year's rally over Grant Park.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said plans for the rally were still being worked out and declined to say how many people the campaign expects to attend.

Obama leads Romney by 47 percent to 44 percent among likely voters, according to Wednesday's Reuters/Ipsos daily online tracking poll.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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