"Obama is going to ruin everything America stands for," Rachel Boyd, a 20-year-old student at Meredith College, flatly offers. "This is the end of democracy, here tonight."
Not two minutes before, defeated Republican John McCain told a crowd gathered for his gracious concession speech in Phoenix: "I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here."
Boyd and other McCain supporters attended an election night soiree hosted by the N.C. Republican Party in the ballroom of the North Raleigh Hilton. As the GOP supporters watched the large television tuned to Fox News, most were silent, simply listening. Two sobbed. One man wearing a Barry Goldwater T-shirt chuckled loudly.
The GOP crowd peaked at about 150 people, and discouraging early returns such as Fox proclaiming Democratic challenger Kay Hagan as the U.S. Senate victor at 8:07 p.m. didn't help.
At times, it felt as if there was a reporter and photographer there for every Republican—but the partygoers had plenty to say.
Raleigh resident Molotov Mitchell, a 29-year-old tattooed independent in camouflage pants and a puffy vest, speculated that before being sworn in, Obama may be disqualified because he is not an American citizen (see his YouTube video on the subject at www.youtube.com/user/rosaryfilms). If Obama does take office, he predicted, the U.S. will be attacked during his first six months.
"When the U.S. gets attacked in this international crisis, I want North Carolina to be able to say we didn't have anything to do with it," Mitchell said.
A self-proclaimed "Joe the Plumber" offered this prediction: "[Obama's] going to get an acoustic guitar and play 'Kumbaya' to North Korea and Iran. That's going to be great."
A 61-year-old Zebulon resident attributed the Republican losses to voters swayed by Obama's message of hope.
"They just got caught up in all the enthusiasm... All I said was, 'Educate yourself. Don't listen to the word change. Don't listen to the words it will be a brighter day. Listen to the details.'
"I'm a big flag-waver, and I love this country. I don't have a real sense of patriotism from that young man [Obama]," said the man, who declined to give his name. Addressing a reporter directly, he added: "Who'd you vote for? Look me in the eyes, and I can tell you. ... You're a young person, and that scares me."
At 8:25 p.m., someone turned off the mix of patriotic and party music and didn't bother to turn it back on the rest of the night. Faces grew longer. Invective grew stronger. The crowd grew smaller.
Across the room, the hotel staff—a dozen or so African-American and Latino men and women in their 20s—was gathered. Minutes before, in the service hallway that led to the ballroom, the staff erupted into applause, high-fives and shouts of "Obama won!"
One by one, they emerged, smiling and scribbling the name "Obama" onto the small plastic American flags lining the room's tables. By that point, the party was too thin and grim to mind the workers' political insubordination.
One worker rested her hand on the flat-screen TV, over Obama's face. Another talked of her happiness and future. And Stevie Norman, a husky 22-year-old worker in an unflattering hotel uniform, smiled wide and said, "It's just like a dream come true."