Supporters fall silent but the band plays on

Thu, Nov 8, 2012, 00:00

In a near-empty convention centre, a few knots of Republican campaign workers lingered to watch Barack Obama’s victory speech being relayed on a big screen.

The president pledged that the country’s best times were yet to come. Few here were willing to be so optimistic.

“I’m just so disappointed and worried now about the welfare of the country,” said Angela Cain (45), a nurse who had volunteered from Connecticut.

“It’s a lost opportunity,” added Pete Perry (60), a campaign worker from Mississippi. “He makes a good speech, but where are the results? What’s going to change?”

Republicans have now lost the popular presidential vote for the fifth time in six elections. The failure is likely to spur a serious bout of soul-searching for the party.

None of these questions had weighed on the Republican candidate’s mind a few hours earlier. As he headed for Boston after his final campaign stop, Mitt Romney told reporters he was so confident of victory he had only prepared a single, 1,118-word victory speech.

Inside the Boston Exhibition and Convention Centre, well-dressed Romney supporters clinked wine glasses and chatted loudly as a jazz quartet serenaded the party’s election night gathering.

There were cheers early on as Romney chalked up a slew of solidly Republican states, but in the background, the news bulletins were beginning to provide a near constant drip-feed of ominous news.

The mood quietened as exit polls indicated that Obama was chalking up narrow wins in swing states crucial to Romney’s only route to victory.

The Republican juggernaut was sinking. Still the band played on. There were covers of Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Hall and Oates’s You Make My Dreams.

Disco dancing

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

Some were even whispering that they hadn’t actually supported Romney. “I lied,” said Shannon Redmond. “I voted for Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate.”

By the time Ohio was forecast for Obama, there was near silence. Some began to peel away. By the time Romney appeared on stage just after midnight, he did little to conceal his disappointment in a brief and hastily written concession speech.

“I so wish I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader,” he said. His eyes glistened and his voice halted slightly as he thanked his family and the armies of campaign workers for their efforts.

Turning to his wife, Ann, he said: “She would have been a wonderful first lady.”