Subdued air fills GOP watch party

RALEIGH - Despite losses in nearly every major state election and a resounding defeat for nominee Sen. John McCain in the presidential race, Republicans at the N.C. GOP Victory 2008 Election Night Party said they were prepared to keep fighting for the cause.

The event, which was held at the Hilton North Raleigh hotel, had a sparse attendance of approximately 150 people. A subdued crowd mingled over drinks as televisions around the room provided continuous updates on the results. Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, N.C. governor and U.S. House of Representatives were all eventually defeated.

"The tide of electoral votes may ebb and flow, but our ideas are sound and they will endure and there will be another day to fight," said Linda Daves, chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, immediately after announcing that Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was defeated by Democratic Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue in the state's gubernatorial race. "We did nothing wrong when we stood up for the principles that have shaped our party since the days of Abraham Lincoln."

Unofficial results indicated Obama leading McCain by a .27 percent margin in North Carolina, as of a 4 a.m. press deadline. If Obama claims the Tar Heel state's 15 electoral votes, it would mark the first time since 1976 that a Democratic presidential candidate has won the state.

Daves acknowledged the overall disappointment of the night, but she said her experience in politics had taught her that a party's successes and failures are cyclical.

"They will be writing the obituary of the North Carolina Republican party and of the Republican party in general [tomorrow]," she said. "I do not want you to think that your time and your effort has been wasted."

In addition to losses in the gubernatorial and presidential races, incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Woman's College '58, was defeated by Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan. Attendees at the event said they had been hoping for a different outcome, but they were not surprised by the results.

As the fate of North Carolina's electoral votes hung in the balance throughout the evening, Republicans said they hoped the state would stay red, even though they had doubted the Arizona senator could attain 270 electoral votes to secure the White House.

"I'm still hopeful for McCain and I have worked hard for him, but Obama will be my president and I will support him," said McCain supporter Aloma Crenshaw, even before many projections were made by major news networks.

Approximately 15 attendees watched McCain's concession speech on television after most of the crowd had gone home for the night. Disappointment was a common theme cited by the remaining party faithful.

"It's a pretty big letdown," said James Liberty, a high school student from Raleigh, who said he had worked as a volunteer at the GOP office in Raleigh.

McCain's introduction of vice presidential running mate Gov. Sarah Palin produced a rare show of enthusiasm from the small group.

"2012 baby!" said Raleigh resident Amy Arthur at McCain's mention of Palin. She explained that she hopes the Alaska governor would be at the top of the party's ticket in the next election.

But not everyone in the Hilton North Raleigh hotel was so quick to move past the 44th presidency. Staff at the hotel, predominately black, began celebrating Obama's historic victory in the kitchen with shouts of "Go Obama" before gathering in the ballroom to see the results.

"This is a massive blessing. This is history right here," said hotel employee Jason Buckman. "You look at the situation and it is a better chance for every race, whether they are a man or a woman, to be president."

Other hotel employees expressed excitement about being able to tell their children they helped elect the first black president.

For first-time voters supporting McCain, however, the experience was bittersweet.

"It stinks to lose the first time," Liberty said. "The biggest thing is just leaving it up to God. God only puts trials in front of us that we can overcome."

Others said the losses this year would provide motivation for the GOP in the future.

"It's spurring me on to take a stand," said Nick Corbett, a freshman at North Carolina State University, adding that the losses would encourage him to become more active in the party.


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