CHICAGO – While the hundreds of thousands of Obama supporters gathered in Grant Park Tuesday night, the 500 Republicans waiting across the street for poll results were just trying to stay hopeful.
The city’s GOP watched the results come in at an Election Night party hosted by the Chicago Young Republicans and Tony Peraica’s campaign for state’s attorney held at the Chicago Hilton. Come 10 p.m., the mood in the room had deflated as both Peraica and John McCain conceded their respective races.
“I thought McCain could pull through even though he was behind in the polls, but to see it happen is very disappointing,” said Angel Garcia, chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Cook County.
David Valkema, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay Republican coalition, said he does not believe in Obama’s promises.
“McCain was all over gay issues, but obviously the gay community drank the Kool-Aid and believed in Obama’s talk of change,” Valkema said. “I just hope he does everything he says he’ll do and does not fall in the category of other Democrats who did not.”
“The Republican Party needs to go back to its roots as the party of Lincoln instead of embracing wedge issues,” Valkema added.
Prior to the results, McCain was not expected to win the race. Many attendees said he was hurt by the widespread criticism of the current administration. By the end of the night, it was clear Obama would garner well over 300 electoral votes even with several states yet to report. Two hundred and seventy are needed to win the presidency.
“It is what it is, the people who voted for Obama will get what they deserve,” said Jake Peterson, a 23-year-old student at Loyola.
Many of the city’s Republicans are worried about Obama’s lack of experience and his economic policies, a major issue in the race.
“On the bright side, if we have four years of misleadership like we did with Jimmy Carter, in 2012 we’ll have a candidate like Ronald Reagan who will lead the country back in the right direction and away from socialism,” said Scott Schaffer, a student at Columbia College.
As a small-business owner, Ginger Peak does not think she will be able to afford to pay for health care for her 20 employees under Obama’s policies.
“The redistribution of wealth is more serious than people realize,” she said.
In some ways for the Chicago Republicans, a small but proud bunch, the evening was more about showing support for a party that, despite its location in a traditionally Democratic area, continues to grow.
“Yes, there are Republicans in Chicago. We’re here and we’re proud to be here,” said Keely Drukala president of the Chicago Young Republicans.
Obama’s campaign theme of change especially motivated young, first-time voters in this year’s election and also indicated a need for reform within the GOP, said John Paul Springer, a 25-year-old clerk from Chicago.
“The Republican party needs to rebuild itself from a grassroots level,” said Frank Rowder, a political columnist. “They will come back, but it’s going to take 10 to 12 years to do it.”
Many young Republicans said the GOP needs to do a better job at engaging the youth.
“Obama did a really good job of targeting the youth vote, so of course they’re going to vote for him,” Springer said. “Young voters are going to have more responsibility in presidential and local elections from now on, especially after today.”