They wore buttons and T-shirts proclaiming "Victory 2008." They chanted their guy's name and, like the candidate they gathered to honor, projected optimism and faith. But as Republican John McCain's election night rally wore on, organizers temporarily stopped broadcasting the returns overhead and announced few results, as if not to put a damper on the party. Even after Obama had been declared the winner in Pennsylvania and Ohio, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer walked on stage to tell the crowd about "another state in the McCain category. It's the great state of Louisiana!"
A roar erupted, and Roemer promised: "This election still has some anxious moments to go."
Returns unavailable to them, hundreds of supporters who gathered for the rally instead waved red pom poms and danced to Hank Williams Jr. singing, "Mac is going to survive."
In the back of the crowded ballroom, John and Carla Moore knew very little about how the election was going.
"He's already lost Ohio. They think. Right?" said John, who drove with his wife and three kids from Flagstaff, in northern Arizona, to attend the rally. "I'm wondering why they're not showing us that much. I wish I had a BlackBerry so I could track it myself."
They tried to put a positive spin on the information blackout: "I'm sure it's going to be positive," said John. "Maybe they're building momentum."
His wife then added: "We sure want it to be positive." After last-minute campaigning in Colorado and New Mexico, Arizona's adoptive son returned home Tuesday night to watch election returns. A stage was set under towering palm trees, in the shadow of a mountain named for a fallen Army soldier.
The resort is the same place where, 28 years ago, McCain and his wife, Cindy, celebrated their wedding. And the McCain faithful who gathered in the Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom started the night confident another celebration was in the making.
The night began appropriately enough with Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" booming from the speakers.
"I think the polls and the pundits are going to be very surprised," said Warren Watson, 68, clad in an American flag T-shirt and a Marine veteran baseball cap. His wife wore a pink tee that read, "Palin Power."
Still, said Watson's Sunday school teacher, Don Baker, should his man lose, "The world won't end tomorrow. We're good citizens. We need to support our government no matter who gets in there." Others weren't so sure. Joyce Ready, 73, a retired accountant who was joined at the event by her 11-year-old grandson, used words like "very disappointed" and "afraid" in considering an Obama presidency.
"I'm very afraid that we're going to lose our freedoms, that the country will be controlled by almost a dictator." Whichever way the night goes, she and her grandson, Sam, were thrilled to be a witness to history.
"This is gonna be a lifetime experience," said Sam, whose mom picked him up from school early so they could make the festivities. And he wasn't going home "'til it ends, I hope." At that his grandma chimed in: "`Till the victory speech."