At 9:21 p.m. on Tuesday night, freshman Adam Pienciak spots two students wearing Kerry-Edwards T-shirts on H Street as he heads to his room in the Hall on Virginia Avenue.
“Great job, guys,” he says to the Democrats, as networks begin to call states for both President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry.
Pienciak had never met the students, but his camaraderie was typical of many partisan students on election night. As large parties form in the Marvin Center, Pienciak is surrounded in his own electoral world, drifting around campus in hopes that he would wake up to a Kerry White House.
Pienciak goes to the Marvin Center to meet a number of his Democratic friends. After the posse assembles, they decide to enter the Republican-themed room and take food into the Democrat room on the third floor.
“Hey, they can pay for it,” he says.
Pienciak and his friends survey the Republican room.
“Live band is a nice touch,” Pienciak says, looking at a country band.
The friends are disappointed to see a dwindling food supply in both the Republican and Democratic rooms.
“I was hoping for something, but they’re all out of wings,” Pienciak says.
The quest for food heads to a more reliable source, as Pienciak goes to Wendy’s on the Marvin Center’s first floor.
“Nice, burnt fries,” he says. “You’ve got to love that.”
The group returns to the Democratic bash to find a group of girls singing an unintelligible song. One of Pienciak’s friends says he is disappointed with the celebration as he snacks on cotton candy.
“I was expecting food, not fluffed sugar,” the friend says.
Pienciak and his friends move to a “neutral” room in the Hippodrome. They settle in to watch four televisions showing three different stations.
The Democrat says he plans to be up late.
“As long as it takes,” he says. “Until the final results are in, or until they tell us it’s not going to happen tonight.”
Pienciak decides to check out booths set up by GW student organizations on the Marvin Center’s fifth floor. After getting a pro-Israel sticker, he heads to the table with information on AIDS.
“I feel like I’m detached from the election right now,” Pienciak says. “The volume’s not loud enough; the TV’s too small.”
The decision is made to return to HOVA and watch from a friend’s room.
The group arrives at HOVA. Pienciak heads to freshman Jeremy Kasle’s room on the seventh floor. As a Kerry supporter, he says he didn’t have a good feeling about the election.
“Bush (is going to win),” he says. “Florida is going to be so close.”
Pienciak says he feels slightly more optimistic. After situating himself in a massage chair to watch the latest results from CNN, he says Kerry could pull it off.
“Yeah, (he’s a political junkie),” says Kasle of his friend. “He’s definitely been talking about it for a couple of weeks.”
Another friend brings in popcorn. Pienciak watches the results while munching. Several minutes later, CNN projects that the Missouri electoral votes will go to Bush.
“That’s big,” Pienciak says, disappointed with the result. “Right there.”
After the Missouri letdown, the room gets a boost from recently elected Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama’s speech. After listening to Obama, Pienciak sarcastically remarks, “He’s fired up.”
CNN calls Pennsylvania for Kerry. The tension in the room seems to break momentarily, as high fives and smiles are shared all around. There is no yelling or cheering, just subdued jubilation.
Pienciak switches to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. After having some laughs from the show, everyone seems to feel better.
Pienciak finally says he is confident that his man could take the White House.
“Kerry, he’s going to lose Florida, but win (the election).”
People begin to leave the room, heading off to sleep off the nervous night.
CNN cuts to Bush headquarters, where Karen Hughes, the president’s advisor, spoke.
“Karen Hughes. What a (expletive) whore,” says an increasingly tired Pienciak.
After midnight, the room’s mood remains at a subdued level. Pienciak heads to bed after it becomes apparent that Bush is holding an edge in the key battleground state of Ohio and will likely win the election.
“I fell asleep in a state of misery and disappointment in the American people,” he said the following day.