GW students burst into tears, jumped in excitement, sank solemnly into leather couches and shouted preliminary results into their cell phones early Wednesday morning in the Hippodrome, as an emotional night of poll-watching drew to an end and Gov. George W. Bush was declared the next President of the United States.
We’ve got a Republican president! We’ve got a Republican House! College Republican Chairman Bill Eldridge yelled into his cell phone at about 2:20 a.m., after big-screen televisions in the Hippodrome flashed Bush’s face with the presidential seal. Everyone’s calling it, every station!
Campaign signs, American flags plastered on Hippodrome walls and balloons dancing along the ceiling set the scene for an intense election night, as members of GW College Republicans and GW College Democrats sat side-by-side to watch live coverage until networks prematurely declared a winner.
Both Republicans and Democrats were confident their candidates would win as they watched the results on four main screens broadcasting CNN, MSNBC, ABC and Fox News.
Political banter flared among supporters of both candidates throughout the night, as the crowd, which organizers estimated at 400 students, erupted in cheers as networks revealed the results from each state. CD President Anjan Choudhury and Eldridge emceed the event with jokes and good-natured jabs at the other’s party.
I couldn’t be happier with the turnout, said PB Political Affairs Committee Chair Bryan Gless, who organized the event. The fact that everyone has stayed so long is great feedback. The place is packed.
It exceeded everyone’s expectations, he said. Weinert said the event was packed because the Program Board got the word out by using its listserv and Web site more that it has before.
Helen Thomas, former dean of the White House press corps, spoke to students at the event about the significance of the presidential election.
I only hope (the next president) can speak the English language, Thomas said. The buck stops here. . A president can’t rely on his advisers.
Thomas discussed the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, another historical cliffhanger. She said this year’s election lacks inspiring words and memorable moments.
The internet has informed more people about the elections, Thomas said. Candidate appearances on television are funny but pitiful, and have tarnished the elections, she said.
Thomas also said she expects a female presidential candidate within the next 25 years.
If she shoots for the stars, she can make the presidency, she said.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg made a brief appearance later in the evening, and told students, This is what democracy is all about.
I’m told that young people don’t care about civic issues, Trachtenberg said. This event is a testimonial that it’s not true. It tells us that the country is in good hands.
He said he left after seeing students were more interested in following poll results than listening to him.
While Democrats had a stronger presence than Republicans, students said they all had a good time taunting and cheering.
I think it’s really cool that students are coming together to celebrate, sophomore Alonso Vargas said. The fact that we vote and show active participation is great.
Some students took advantage of free games and bowling, but most kept their eyes fixed on the television screens. Prizes were raffled off, including CD and GW paraphernalia and tickets to GW’s inaugural ball Jan. 20. Students wore plastic hats and campaign shirts and waved American flags.
It’s better than I ever imagined, Choudhury said. The crowd is excited and enthusiastic. PB did an amazing job.
Eldridge said it was great to see so many people in attendance.
Some students said they felt the event catered too much to left-leaning students.
I think the party was politically biased, freshman Luke Olsen said. Helen Thomas was obviously liberal. Why wasn’t there a Republican speaker?
Olson said he felt Choudhury dominated the microphone most of the night, as Eldridge left the party for a few hours.
The improv comedy group Recess also performed at about 10 p.m., acting out political parodies such as Al and Tipper Gore’s controversial kiss and Ralph Nader’s support for marijuana legalization.
The emotionally drained crowd left the building hours before the decision was rescinded as networks re-labeled Florida too close to call.-Becky Guyon and Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.