On a night that seemed ominous for conservatives across the country, the tone of the Republican election party in Richmond was focused on the few bright victories in the state and looked ahead to potential triumphs in the future.
A crowd of about 400 supporters gathered in the ballroom at the Richmond Marriott West in Innsbrook to watch the election results pour in. The cheers and clapping quickly turned to murmurs of discontent as the night went on and Democratic President-elect Barack Obama gained momentum in several battleground states, including Virginia.
The one event that brought enthusiasm to the crowd was the victory speech given by the incumbent representative of the 7th district, Eric Cantor.
Cantor was praised as a shining star by the local party chairman and took the stage to raucous applause from those in attendance. He expressed his apprehension about the uncertain outcome of the presidential race, but promised to keep working for Virginians while in Congress.
"It is unclear what will happen tonight," Cantor said. "But my number one goal when I get back to Washington is to create jobs for the people of Virginia. We need to make sure the federal government starts to work for the people again."
Virginia Russell, a recently retired school teacher and McCain supporter, was nervous about the direction of the country if Obama were to be elected.
"Obama has no experience and nothing to bring to the presidency," Russell said. "If he wins the presidency and the Democrats control Congress, spending is going to go wild."
Russell, who was a volunteer coordinator for George Allen's failed bid for U.S. Senate in 2006, admitted she voted against McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries, but given the country's current condition, wished she had not backed President George W. Bush.
She pointed to Obama's ability to secure the youth vote and deliver inspirational speeches as his keys to victory.
"I think Obama got the young people's vote," Russell said. "And he can give one heck of a speech."
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One race that may encapsulate the tough political climate that Republican candidates faced this year was Jim Gilmore's unsuccessful run for Senate. Some polls showed him down 30 points to Democratic opponent Mark Warner heading into Election Night.
"I have called Gov.Warner and expressed my concession and my congratulations," Gilmore said around 9:15 p.m. "The people of Virginia have spoken, and he will represent them."
Many of his supporters praised him for taking on a battle that a slew of other potential Republican candidates shied away from. Gilmore made a somber speech and thanked those who worked so diligently against mounting odds.
"There is nothing more this party could have done," he said. "They have given their heart and soul to this campaign."
Current Attorney General Bob McDonnell, who has announced that he will run for Governor of Virginia in 2009, echoed Gilmore's sentiments.
"This was a tough year," McDonnell said. "We had virtually everything stacked against us."
He cited the struggling economy, an unpopular war on terrorism and being dramatically outspent by Democrats in the state as reasons for the failed Republican campaigns. McDonnell, who stumped for the Republican presidential ticket across Virginia, called McCain a great American hero. He has been involved with the senator's campaign from the start and wrote an Op-Ed piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch encouraging undecided voters to cast their ballots for McCain.
McDonnell closed his speech by looking ahead and promising many future victories for the Republican Party. Bill Bolling, the current lieutenant governor of Virginia, has announced he will seek reelection and will not challenge McDonnell for governor, making him the presumptive Republican nominee.
Contact reporter Duncan Philips at email@example.com
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