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His daughters had a wonderful life in Chicago, he added with the caution of a man hedging his bets, "so I'm sure there's a part of them that won't be heartbroken if things don't work out".
But his wife, Michelle, prompted by the early-morning chatter of Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, as they crept into their parents' bed, was being pushed towards a different possibility. After months of gruelling campaigning, things were starting to "work out" in spectacular fashion. "We talk about Daddy being President," she said, "about adolescence, about the questions they have." One of those childish questions, to which neither of the Obamas had a satisfactory answer, was: "What is it like to live in the White House?"
Today, they start to find out. And Michelle Obama's concern is less about the style, protocol and influence she may wield as First Lady, than how she can make the White House as congenial a place for the children as their former home – which they are keeping – in a six-bedroom house on Chicago's South Side.
"The White House will be less stuffy than it has ever been," says a Washington commentator. "There will be more fun, more parties, more children. The high, the mighty and the ordinary people will mingle there – but the challenge for her will be to work out how to protect her daughter's normality and privacy."