Band plays on as Romney ship sinks

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

And the band played on. Well-dressed Romney supporters clinked wine glasses and chatted loudly as a jazz quartet serenaded the Republican Party’s election night gathering in Boston.

But in the background, the news bulletins projected on giant television screens provided a near-constant drip-feed of ominous news.

The crucial battleground states that Romney needed to win were either too close to call by the pundits, or were rapidly slipping away.

Even the giant TV screens relaying Fox News - usually the purveyor of a reassuringly conservative worldview - had little cheerful to report .

By the time it forecast that Ohio - the battleground of battleground states’ - had slipped out of Romney’s grasp, there was near-silence among the 5,000-strong audience at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The contrast with the heady optimism of a few hours earlier was striking.

Mitt Romney had told reporters on his plane en route to Boston that he was so confident of victory that he’d only prepared a single, 1,118-word victory speech.

He spoke of feeling an emotional connection with supporters earlier and a growing sense that victory was his.

"I not only think we're going to win intellectually, but I feel it as well," he said. “"I am very pleased. I feel we have put it all on the field. We left nothing in the locker room.”

Inside the convention centre in Boston, the crowd was similarly upbeat early on.

A slew of predictable states were called for Romney. There were loud cheers, but this was a crowd of gnarled political-watchers. They were waiting for news from the first key bellwether state: Virginia.

So, when the TV networks’ exit polls projected that it was too close to call, there was near silence.

Florida, also, was too close to call. And there were grim early projections from Ohio, where Obama was projected to be a few percentage points ahead.

The mood was changing fast, but no one had told the band on stage. It was too busy playing Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed and Delivered.

As Romney's hopes of winning new battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan faded, much of the crowd was too busy drinking and chatting to notice.

On the floor of the ballroom, a determined few women tried to cheer up proceedings by disco dancing. Their enthusiasm didn’t spread far.

“I’m feeling anxious. There is a path to victory for Romney, but it is pretty narrow and it looks like it’s getting narrower,” said Liz Gibbons from Missouri, who described herself as a die-hard Republican.

As the night wore on, Andrew Nimmo, a small business owner from New Hampshire, conceded that a Romney victory was looking less and less likely.

“It’s going to be hard work. It looks like Romney has a hard battle on his hands. A victory is not impossible, but he would have to win Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio and I’m not sure that’s going to happen.”

Tim Demarkes, from Boston who works in sales, admitted that it was all beginning to slip away.

"Like several others, he didn’t show much enthusiasm for Romney.

Would be disappointed to see him quit politics should he lose?

“I don’t know,” Mr Demarkes said. “My main concern is that I don’t want another four years of Obama,” he said.

Worst of all, some were beginning to admit they hadn't supported him.

“I lied," said Shannon Redmond. "I voted for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate."

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