O'Bama at O'Gara's
We're coming to you live from the Obama party at O'Gara's, where they only let us in because they thought it was spelled “O'Bama” and that he comes from County Cork.
Despite their best efforts to dismantle my good journalistic times – an earlier phone call to inquire about wireless Internet failed to mention that their wireless had been down for a week – I remain stout and resolute.
Early predictions for an Obama landslide aren't bearing out with a weighty 9 percent of the ballots counted. It's a squeaker at this point, but the Obama crowd don't appear concerned.
I love the talking heads' tendency to take small sample sizes and react dramatically to them. Joe Scarborough is already taking the less-than-on-tenth of the ballots and seeking to draw conclusions about What This Means For Hillary. Keith Olbermann is decidedly more circumspect, noting that a similar amount of votes on the Republican side – even though it shows a healthy lead for John McCain – does not merit calling the race for the Arizona senator.
What can I say? We're in a reactive business, and sometimes that's over-reactive.
Myself, I've reacted by ordering a shot and a beer, and firing up a Word document to keep track of what's happening. More dispatches (and maybe photos) as wireless allows.
UPDATE, 7:12 p.m.: Five minutes after I mention them not calling the race for McCain, they do so, based on exit poll data.
UPDATE, 7:20 p.m.: City Council member Melvin Carter just spoke, to rousing applause from the crowd, firing up local party activists. It's packed in here, and you can barely move, even if you aren't carrying drinks.
Few are in the corner watching TV, which is where I've set up to better catch coverage -- but two people have already tried to surf the Web on my machine while I'm up taking pictures. It's fine with me as long as they're surfing Elephants in the Room.
The media's about, too, with at least one TV station and what seems to be MPR. The mood's shifted and more people are paying attention to the TV as it turns out to be closer than many anticipated. You can tell people are ready to explode if the good news starts rolling in for their candidate, though. When the latest numbers came up, the room was pregnant with anticipation, and the silence afterward was broken by one voice's robust "Too close to call!"
UPDATE, 7:40 p.m.: “I don't like this,” remarked one observer, shaking her head. The sentiment's echoed throughout the room, and is telling. Where a week ago many might have been happy with a neck-and-neck race, rising expectations have created an environment where the people want (figurative) blood.
20 percent of the vote is in, showing Clinton with a slight edge.
Mitt Romney comes on the television to concede. I try to start a round of booing. It doesn't take. I try to connect my camera and spill my drink. The Internet isn't working. Obama's number drop to a 40-34 deficit with the latest numbers, based on 24 percent of the vote. Among those that notice this – a small fraction – there's a bit of shock. Mitt Romney says “This is the greatest nation ...” etc. I need a cocktail waitress and haven't seen one all night. One concerned volunteer keeps coming by to see if wireless Internet has popped up, hungry for some outside information that might be more favorable to the cause.
The Obama numbers are sub-optimal for the crowd; the absence of adult beverages is sub-optimal for me.
UPDATE: 8:01 p.m.: More local politicos have turned out, including Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who finished right before a band began to play in the bar area, drowning out any possibility of ensuing speakers. The anticipated landslide hasn't come, and now almost nothing else is audible. But with 32 percent of the vote popping up, Obama pulls closer, and the crowd -- long hoping for a reason to cheer-- does. You can hear them easily over the band.
UPDATE: 8:12 p.m.: As John McCain takes the podium, I find myself in the position of volume controller – I'm cramped into a corner over here, much as I wanted to say “Nobody puts Jeffy in a corner.” The assembled throng wants to hear what McCain has to say, though I've already been in one friendly discussion about who is less trustworthy, he or Romney (I said Romney).
This “Mac is Back” chant that the McCain supporters keep chanting is one of the most obviously manufactured “spontaneous” slogans ever. And I like how McCain takes a shot at the media, saying that New Hampshire voters wouldn't let the papers tell them who to vote for – as if the media doesn't drool all over Mr. Straight Talk.
Obama inches slightly closer, and the crowd shouts down McCain, no mean feat considering that the TV's on max volume. If he pulls ahead even a little, I'm not gonna hear for three days.
McCain's victory speech (“I'd like to congratulate all the candidates”) is like listening to a well-meaning lecture from your grandfather, who doesn't realize how patronizing he sounds. He also had to read the speech, which Scarborough gave him grief over.
A funny moment occurred when positive Obama news came on the screen right as McCain hit an applause line, so it sounded like the crowd was rooting Big Mac on to Michigan. Jarring, that. This is closely followed by the first chant of O-Ba-Ma!, which from a purely aesthetic perspective is the most euphonious of all candidate chants.
UPDATE, 8:37 p.m.: Every time Obama inches closer – last time he got within a 2,000 vote margin – the crowd has swelled with pride. But now the lead is 4,336, and it's like you deflated everyone's balloon.
UPDATE, 9:02 p.m.: Am journalism robot. Have had one bowl of cereal and one apple all day. Cocktail waitress nowhere in sight. Only weak point is hungry and sleepy.
UPDATE, 9:12 p.m.:I run into Sean from MNPublius.com. We agree that 1. I am "that guy"; 2. that we might not see a result for more than an hour; and 3. I might not see a cocktail waitress or a wireless Internet signal for longer. I retire to the homestead to sear some dinner and upload photos.