Celebrating Obama’s Win: Election night parties marked by victory — or defeat

__Flat Hat Insight Editor Maggie Reeb co-authored this report.__

“I’m just so happy,” Cristina Miranda ’12 says, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I can’t even express it.”

She pauses to wipe her eyes, and a grin spreads across her face. CNN commentators start to analyze new President-elect Barack Obama’s acceptance speech and she begins to laugh as tears of joy pool in her eyes.
Born to Peruvian immigrants just a few months too late to vote in this election, Miranda knew she wanted Obama to be her president the first time she saw him.

“I didn’t see the 2004 speech that everyone loves to talk about,” she said. “I was too young to care about politics. But I just happened to turn on the TV the day he announced his candidacy… Obviously his speaking skills were immediately captivating. I actually sat and watched the whole speech without knowing who he was.”

Growing up in the liberal suburbs of Washington, which has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since receiving voting rights in 1964, Cristina never felt much drive to get involved politically. Things changed when she left for college.

“Since I was in Virginia, and I really couldn’t vote, and there was a chance that this state could go blue, it was an opportunity that I did not want to miss. I remember the first Students for Barack Obama meeting [when chapter coordinator Jared Calfee] said, ‘Let’s all work together, and help turn Virginia blue.’ And I thought, ‘Yes! That’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to turn Virginia blue.’”

Over the next few months she did just that. Volunteering with Students for Barack Obama, Young Democrats and even the local Obama office, Cristina spent her weeks getting out the vote on campus and her weekends canvassing as far away as Virginia Beach.

Tuesday night she went to see the result of her weeks of service at the Young Democrat’s Election Returns party, held in Lodge 16.

**Even before 8 p.m., the watch party’s** official start time, the small living room of Lodge 16 is teeming with activity. Accompanied by the light rumblings of CNN political commentators, Young Democrats and others tinker on their computers, perusing electoral prediction websites, political blogs and government election pages.

Many politicians had already written this election off as an Obama victory weeks ago. One senior resident of the lodge enters and heads straight to the refrigerator, brandishing his personal bottle of champagne in preparation for what he assumes will be a quick victory.

Still, the vast majority of attendees are more cautious. Later in the night, polls say McCain is suddenly ahead in Virginia, having overtaken a hefty deficit. On more than one occasion, a quick jab at the Republican ticket results in an angry chorus of watchers reproving the speaker for “jinxing it.”

A hush overtakes the room. The Young Democrats are silently waiting, pensive and hopeful.

**Across campus, the College Republicans** begin to gather in the only functioning room in Rogers Hall. The crowd of nearly 30 sits eating pizza on plates decorated with elephants, nervously chatting about the election between bites. A giant projector screen has been pulled down in the front of a black board that still bears the remnants of the day’s lecture. Obama is ahead in electoral votes, but the College Republicans are still hopeful.

**Back in the lodge, the room** erupts. Onlookers are screaming, cheering, clapping. All eyes that were focused elsewhere suddenly turn to the small television set in the middle of the room. Pennsylvania has gone to Obama. A critical swing state in the election, this development sends a surge of energy through the quickly growing crowd.

“I need your sheets!” a voice bellows. “Last chance to turn them in.”

Students take a quick final look at their individual maps of the United States. Some pull out red and blue colored pencils to make last minute adjustments in their electoral predictions before reluctantly handing them over. Everyone is vying for the chance at free Wawa money, and the three most accurate at the end of the night will be rewarded for their political knowledge with a total of $40 worth of late-night junk food.

**The lecture hall in Rogers** is silent.

“Pennsylvania has gone to Obama,” says the FOX News correspondent.

Boos and curses fill the lecture hall, and everyone agrees that in order for McCain to win, he has to take Ohio.

**A quick succession of good** news arrives for the still growing number of Democrats in the lodge.
Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina is bumped out of office by Democrat Kay Hagan. Several previously red states start to turn blue. The news that Ohio has gone blue reverberates through the party. Knowing that a successful election will be difficult for McCain from this point on, the Democrats begin to relax and watch the returns with a more confident air. However, Virginia and Florida, two keys to this election, are still yet to be tallied. The night is far from over.

**A larger-than-life Karl** Rove is analyzing the election on the projector screen in Rogers, explaining that in order for McCain to win he needs to win Ohio and another traditionally Democratic state. A state like California. The Republicans scoff.

The lecture hall grows increasingly panicky. One member of the College Republicans furiously paces on one side of the room, talking passionately to another group of students. Some of the other members decide to relieve some tension by tossing around a red, white and blue beach ball. Three members of the College Republicans, who have been particularly vocal about the election outcomes, argue over whether or not the Republican stronghold of Virginia will go to Obama.

“I have faith it’s going to go red,” one says.

“It’s going to Obama, man. The liberals have done a good job campaigning this year.”

The group members anxiously type on their laptops, trying to determine the combination of states McCain would need to win the election.

Another news correspondent interrupts Karl Rove to tell him that Ohio has gone to Obama. The lecture hall collectively throws up its hands. Legs begin to shake, some pull out their cell phones to call home or other Republican friends. Several students get up and leave, sensing things will only get worse for their candidate.
“I’m ashamed to be Virginian, and you can quote me on that,” John Michael King ’12 says.

**Democrat Chris Cooley’s eyes dart** from his conversation about political blogs to the screen. He has already seen his home state of Georgia go to McCain, as he expected. Despite the Obama shirt he proudly brandishes, the freshman doesn’t want to get too overconfident.

“Things are looking great,” he says. “But, then again, they were in 2004 too.”

Then it happens. Word reaches the party that FOX News has projected that Virginia will go to Obama. The onlookers again erupt but await the pending announcement from CNN. The seconds slowly tick by and turn into minutes. People look around, wondering over the delay. According to various political blogs and projection sites, Virginia’s ballots are 99 percent accounted for, and the state should have been called. But still the Young Democrats wait.

Then, without warning, CNN momentarily flashes that both Florida and Virginia have gone to Obama, and the crowd is already on its feet and screaming before the network can report that the Democratic candidate has officially won the election. The pandemonium can be heard from inside the Sadler Center, causing many more to join the chaotic atmosphere. People are standing on chairs, tables or anything possible, and at the doorway, trying to crowd their way into the lodge, which is so packed with elated Democrats that one can hardly move.

An earsplitting cheer of “Yes we can” rapidly dissolves to “Yes we did,” and Young Democrats President Liz Pedraja ’09 scrambles atop a table in an attempt to toast. It is several minutes before the crowd is quiet enough for her voice to be heard.

In her toast, she praises the crowd’s commitment to the cause, citing voter registration efforts, canvassing and other awareness efforts.

“I’ve spent the last two years of my life on this, and now I feel like we’ve accomplished something here tonight,” she proudly says, tears welling in her eyes. “To change!”

“To change!” the teeming mass replies.

**FOX News has projected that** Virginia will go blue, and Rogers echoes with cries of disbelief. Obama now has 220 electoral votes.

“You can just add California’s 55, and Obama’s got 275,” shouts a College Republican at the FOX correspondent. “It’s over.”

The remaining members watch the screen in disbelief. Outrage etched on their faces. One girl puts her face in her hands, tears in her eyes.

“Everyone, we are going bowling tomorrow at eight,” College Republicans chairman Scott Morris says. “We will need to get off campus tomorrow.”

**As the Democrats shift their** attention to Obama’s acceptance speech, there is hardly a dry eye around the room. People are hugging, laughing, sobbing, immersed in the moment. With every “Yes we can” Obama says throughout his speech, the crowd echoes back, loud and full of passion. Upon closing his speech, a unified voice from the people chants O-bam-a, O-bam-a, O-bam-a, which then becomes U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A.

And Cristina, eyes red from tears of bliss, knows she’s made a difference.

“We’re happy with our own achievements; I know I’m happy with my own achievements,” she says. “And I can finally go to sleep without staring at the polls.”


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