NORTHERN VIRGINIA — “Not even 8 o’clock!” one young Republican bragged as cheers went up in Bailey’s, a restaurant and bar in Arlington’s Ballston Mall last night.
The election night watching party was sponsored by the Arlington County Republican Committee and things were going rather well. The election had just been called for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, at about 7:45.
The last time McDonnell had run against Creigh Deeds, for attorney general, it was close — within a few hundred votes, in fact. Deeds demanded a recount. With a 20-plus percent gap this time, the only question was how fast Deeds would concede (answer: 8:45).
Attorney general-elect Ken Cuccinelli had been used to winning very close races for the Virginia State Senate in Fairfax’s 37th district. But both he and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Bill Bolling were enjoying McDonnell-sized leads over their opponents.
“I’m really excited,” said the really excited Amy Mandler, a freckly redhead. “It’s my first election in Virginia. Democrats are probably really nervous.” She said that after McDonnell won, fellow young Republicans had rebranded their booze “beers for Bob.”
“We ain’t purple no more,” said Greg Harding, who started that familiar cheer, “nya nya, nya nya nya nya nya, hey hey hey, goodbye.” The crowd chanted that when Deeds came on the television to concede defeat.
Most of the Virginia Republicans thought that this was an election with national implications. This should be a “reality check” for Barack Obama, said Mike Pepe, who worked on the campaign of Aaron Ringel, candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates from North Arlington’s solidly Democrat 48th district.
Candidate Ringel took a bit of work to locate because, he told me, he had “tried to catch my opponent” to concede defeat. He pointed out that he managed to outperform McDonnell in all of his precincts and he said he would “absolutely” be back in a future election. “It’d be a waste of my time if I didn’t,” he explained.
Ringel thought the overall election results were “bullish for the Republican Party” and nearly everybody agreed, including a few stray Democrats in attendance. Arlington resident Ben Hackett told me that he had voted for Obama but the president’s “policies have been too much” and it was time for a correction at the ballot box.
One Adam Kostecki said that the results showed that Americans are “tired of seeing a large growth in government.” Asked why those same Americans were tolerant of rampant government growth under George W. Bush, he invoked Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment and said, “If you’re trying to weasel that one out of me, you’re not going to win.”
It was a geographically and ethnically diverse group of Republicans that came out to watch the returns. Hazem Alghabra enthused, “We are already doing great,” early in the night. Jeff Wernsing said that he was from New Jersey, originally, so there was “a lot on the line for me tonight.” He predicted “Christie’s going to win by two points, Daggett will come in under 10 percent, and there’s going to be a whole lot of voter fraud.”
It’s become popular to accuse any large group of Republicans of prejudice, based on any shred of evidence a journalist can find on the scene. I have to say, this group did a pretty good job of concealing its contempt. But at one point, the mask slipped.
“Get a real name!” one man shouted when Creigh Deeds started to speak, thus revealing a deep seated anti-good ol boy bias. Then he looked at me and barked, “Don’t write that down!”