Republicans, Democrats and everyone in between celebrate (or bemoan) the 2012 Presidential Election.
By Sarah Valerio
with additional reporting by Anne Kim-Dannibale
Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, election night 2012 and its various watch parties felt like different worlds.
The atmosphere went from tense to downright downtrodden fairly quickly at the Republican National Committee’s invite-only election night party held at — where else — the Reagan Building. Guests watched the returns come in on Fox News on a large projection screen behind the stage where bands were playing, as well as on TVs set up around the room. National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions introduced Speaker John Boehner who garnered cheers early in the evening when he announced that the GOP would retain the House; an expected outcome.
For Republicans, that announcement was the highlight of the evening, which grew more dismal as the night went on and as results streamed in. Swing state after swing state was called for President Barack Obama and it appeared more and more impossible for Governor Mitt Romney to get the necessary 270 electoral votes. In the end, Obama swept every single swing state up for grabs with the exception of North Carolina — which was widely anticipated to go red — and Florida, which as of press time, Obama led, though it has not yet been officially called.
The story was similar in senate races virtually across the board as Democrats won seats in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Virginia, to name a few, earning Democrats more seats than previously predicted. By Wednesday afternoon, even the GOP-leaning North Dakota Senate race was called for Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, bringing the Democrats up by two as of press time.
“The GOP cannot continue to be the party of old, white men and hope to succeed on the electoral map,” said Republican strategist and former presidential campaign adviser Ford O’Connell. “Expanding the party’s base must be a top priority moving forward.”
He added that not only must Republicans make inroads with groups like Latinos and women to expand the base, but they must also work to improve the party brand. “The takeaway of 2012 is that rhetoric matters. The Republican party must figure out how to better message and package its policies and positions,” said O’Connell.
Romney also could not escape voter assumptions that he would reinstate the economic policies of former President George W. Bush, whom many still blame more than Obama for the nation’s economic woes, according to some exit polls.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus spoke later in the night before a thinner crowd that began to trickle out as bellwether state Ohio was called for Obama.
“It’s about as much fun as you can have at a funeral,” said one Republican lobbyist who asked to remain anonymous.
The atmosphere was much more celebratory at the Liaison Hotel where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee set up their official invite-only election watch party. There was a marked buzz in the air as Democrats filed in to watch MSNBC and CNN coverage on three screens and a stereo system played classics like Elton John and Outfield.
Party leaders Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel opened the evening with a few words to get the crowd going, which almost wasn’t necessary. The excitement in the room only grew as the evening progressed and more and more crucial swing states were called for Obama, with the crowd ultimately exploding into loud cheers and whoops when President Barack Obama was declared the winner by 11:12 p.m. Sens. Harry Reid and Patty Murray took the stage shortly after. “We’ve delivered a great caucus to you,” said an exuberant Murray in reference to the number of Democrats who had won Senate seats.
A few blocks away at the Newseum, Republicans and Democrats mingled at Politico’s exclusive, invite-only election night party, cosponsored by Microsoft Bing.
Guests were treated to an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and large projection screens, as well as coverage streamed live directly from the news desk and anchored by Politico’s Mike Allen, John Harris and Jim VandeHei with guests Priorities USA’s Bill Burton, Republican analyst Ron Bonjean and Democratic strategist Karen Finney. Interactive touch-screen stations that allowed guests to view county-by-county vote breakdowns as returns came in rounded out the evening.
“It’s exciting to be part of the atmospherics” of election night in America, said Irish Amb. Michael Collins, noting that his countrymen back home would vote 80/20 for Obama and were following the election with great interest. Tareq Salahi was also spotted in the crowd, which routinely erupted loudly in applause and cheers as decisive battleground victories were announced for Obama.