Republicans have little to cheer about in Ohio

Jackie Valley

VIEW a photo gallery of reactions to Obama’s win in Columbus.

As Ohio polls closed at 7:30 p.m. yesterday, the Republicans’ Election Night Party in Columbus appeared like much of the rest of the state’s capital: quiet and tame.

But as the results started trickling into national media, so did the about 400 Ohio Republicans who attended the election party at the Hyatt’s Regency Ballroom in downtown Columbus.

And many of them said they became nervous. Or anxious. Or cautiously optimistic. They feared a blue victory in the swing state that has consistently decided the outcome of presidential elections.

For Ohio State student Carla Brammell, a senior political science and strategic communications major, last night meant the climax of months worth of time helping to propel the Republicans to, she hoped, a victory.

“I’m glad that it’s finally here,” she said. “It’s been a lot of anticipation.”

Brammell said she logged between 20 and 30 hours each week during the summer as an intern for the Ohio Republican Party – and close to 20 hours a day working at the Republican National Convention in September.

Last night, she volunteered at the Republicans’ party while watching the results hit the two screens projecting FOX News and CNN reports in the ballroom.

“I’m nervous,” she said. “I really want McCain to win. I think he’s the best person for the job. But I fear with the economy – people aren’t going to want another Republican in office.”

By 8:30 p.m., McCain-Palin supporters, young and old, filled the ballroom, along with state Republican candidates Mike Crites for attorney general and Evelyn Stratton and Maureen O’Connor for the Ohio Supreme Court.

A young girl bobbed a star-spangled balloon. A group donned in American flag-emblazoned jackets sat at a table, captivated by the television screens. And a crowd gathered around a flat-screen television to watch the local Franklin County election results.

After a weekend of door-to-door canvassing for McCain, Columbus resident Steve Brubaker came to the party with his wife to watch the results in the company of his friends.

“It’s a very historic election,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it – a potentially first black American president and first woman vice president.”

As a lifelong Republican, Brubaker said he supports McCain largely for his stances on abortion and the Middle East, in addition to his service in the Vietnam War. Although Brubaker did not have to serve in the Vietnam War, he said he’s read 30-some books about what he called a “defining international event” in his lifetime.

“I owe John McCain,” he said. “I’ve never had a chance to vote for a war hero.”

The crowd began to slowly disperse after the television networks began predicting an Ohio victory for Obama and Ohio announced the defeat of Crites to Democratic opponent Richard Cordray for attorney general.

“We may have lost the battle, but we have not lost the war,” Crites told the audience after thanking Ohioans for a strong campaign.

Despite the losses, the Republicans did have reason to celebrate at the party: The re-election of Justices Maureen O’Connor and Evelyn Stratton to the Ohio Supreme Court, along with Republican candidate wins in Franklin County.

By 11 p.m., only a hundred or so people remained at the Republicans’ party to witness the networks declare Sen. Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

With an Obama victory, Brammell said she worries about the future of the country – and finding a job post-graduation. She wants to work for the Republican Party.

“I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll do what’s best for the country,” she said, “but I have a hard time believing it.”

Contact public affairs reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].