It was a somber ending to a spirited evening at the Republican National Committee’s election night event at the Capital Hilton on Tuesday.
Supporters of Sen. John McCain at the RNC fell silent near 11 p.m. as they watched months of hard work disappear when Barack Obama was projected to be the country’s next president. Prior to the announcement, spirits at the RNC event were high, even as results grew more dismal for the GOP.
“Hope springs eternal,” said Jim Martin, the chairman of the 60 Plus Division of the National Defense Council Foundation.
Attendees were optimistic early in the evening, when McCain had a 10-vote electoral lead over Obama. A band, whose members donned American flag ties, played upbeat music and inspired dancing, drinking and general merriment.
Optimism dissipated and drinks flowed faster as the night continued and Obama pulled ahead. Results were broadcast on two large projector screens and 12 televisions to a increasingly disappointed audience.
“I think the atmosphere here is pretty practical and realistic,” said Katy Johnson, a sophomore interning with the RNC. Johnson recognized the resigned feeling of the audience in the hour before the final result was announced.
By the time the clock struck 11 p.m. and the announcement was made, nearly half the crowd at the event had disappeared.
“I’m not upset that we’re losing, because I understand the shift in power,” said Renee Sieli, a senior who interned with the RNC last semester. “It’s about who we’re losing to. The majority of Americans are too ignorant. They believe that the economy is all Bush’s fault even though we have a Democratic Congress.”
RNC employee Mike Siegel echoed Sieli’s sentiments.
“Barack Obama was the worst opponent we could have lost to,” Siegel said. “Even though I don’t agree with their politics, Clinton and Edwards at least are real patriots.”
A quiet audience huddled around televisions as they watched McCain concede. Only mild applause followed his remarks as several viewers brushed away tears and exited the ballroom.
The general consensus throughout the room during and after Obama’s victory was that the troubled economy ultimately led to McCain’s demise.
“I was ready for it, but I’m kind of happy because I think whoever gets elected isn’t getting elected again,” said legislative staffer Peter Wann. “The economy isn’t going to change.”
Student Association President Vishal Aswani, who attended the event, said McCain supporters will need time to adjust to the new administration, but he was confident that they will.
“The only thing Brand Kroeger has to worry about is a pie in the face,” said Aswani, a senior, referring to the chair of the College Republicans. “Tomorrow morning people will be back in class and it will be just like day one again.”
Looking ahead, Aswani said he is not entirely convinced of the strength of an Obama presidency.
“It’s a big question mark,” he said. “The biggest thing to look at his how the first 100 days are going to be. One hundred days can make or break it.”