PHOENIX — It was a night for drinking whiskey rather than champagne at the Arizona Biltmore.
As Republican John McCain prepared his concession speech in a private room at the landmark Phoenix hotel, bottles of bubbly were most certainly not being popped in a nearby ballroom where long-faced Republicans were marking time.
The race hadn’t yet been called for Barack Obama, but McCain had already lost Ohio, Pennsylvania and other key battleground states. But the giant TV screens weren’t showing election returns, and many still held out hope.
“Tonight as of right now, it’s still too close to call,” Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl told the crowd. “Win or lose, we’re going to have a tough four years ahead of us. We’re going to have to be a firewall against this radical leftist agenda.”
Software engineer Ken Wharton likewise wasn’t ready to concede defeat.
“I’m going to wait until the end. It’s not over until it’s over,” said Wharton, who said he was worried that Obama would cut the military budget and back reparations for slavery.
Wedding planner Cynthia Ghelf likewise said she wouldn’t assume the worst until the California polls closed in half an hour. But she already had an escape plan: “I feel like we should move to Canada,” she said.
Ghelf’s friend Katie Kiesel, a stay-at-home mom, said she hoped the Republican party would learn to reach out to younger and more moderate voters and cater less to the conservative wing.
Others said the party should steer a course to the right.
“He could have been a little more conservative,” Baptist preacher Jim Selma said of McCain. “His best move was appointing Sarah Palin. I think that energized the base, and when he moved back toward the middle it got boring, I think, for the Republican side.”
By that point, officials were urging the partygoers to clear out of the ballroom and head to the hotel’s lawn. Polls on the West Coast were closing soon, and the results would be known quickly. It was time for McCain to speak.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Scuteri (A McCain supporter looks on at McCain concession speech)