The cheers of the College Democrats swelled after CNN called states for Barack Obama in the Marvin Center on Tuesday night, coming to a thundering crescendo when the Illinois senator was declared the next president of the United States. The applause echoed limply in the adjourning ballroom, where the College Republicans watched quietly as the election slipped from Sen. John McCain’s grasp.
About 500 Obama supporters packed the Continental Ballroom to watch television coverage of election night. Their enthusiasm peaked as Obama won the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.
“When we won Ohio, it was a defining moment,” said senior Cory Struble, president of the College Democrats. “Voters in Ohio are indicative of how the country votes, and that gave me confidence.”
“The last state announcement of Virginia projected for Obama was poetic justice and extremely rewarding,” added Paul Marcinkowski, a junior who spent Election Day in Virginia handing out flyers door to door and canvassing at the polls.
The crowd expressed disappointment when states were called for McCain, even states that typically vote Republican. The CDs were uncertain at the beginning of the night, despite Obama’s lead in recent polls.
“I don’t trust polls, and we have to wait it out and see what happens,” Struble said when the first states were announced.
Excited students were already looking ahead to the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 and what an Obama presidency could accomplish.
“Obama’s campaign was not likely to succeed, but it did, and that says a lot about his ability to get things done,” said sophomore Matt Ingoglia, the CDs’ communications director.
Struble said the CDs will celebrate for the next two months until the inauguration and then focus on lobbying congressional leaders on issues that will need bipartisan support.
“Obama says that it is going to take baby steps to get our country back, and I’m excited to see how he’s going to do it,” said senior Amelia West, CD vice president.
The tone of the College Republicans party next door in the Grand Ballroom was decidedly more somber.
The CRs drew a crowd of several dozen students at its peak, but the crowd dwindled to around 25 people for most of the night. The audience consisted mostly of Republicans, though some Democrats stopped by to eat or ride on a mechanical bull in the room.
When roars of applause erupted from the CDs watch party and people ran madly across the hallway yelling, “Barack Obama is president,” officers of the CRs hugged each other with sad, tearful smiles.
Most people filed out of the room, with just a handful of viewers remaining behind to watch the Fox News commentary and coverage of the Obama celebration in Chicago.
CR Chairman Brand Kroeger said his organization will have to reassess its agenda in light of McCain’s loss.
“We will meet every socialist step Obama takes with opposition,” said Kroeger, a senior.
He added that Obama’s victory was “one small step for America and one giant leap for socialism.”
Nathan Grossman contributed to this report.