The Cricket: Between two hotels, the highs and lows of Utah politics
On Wednesday, at 7:06 a.m., the sun rose.
So that's another thing Karl Rove got wrong.
Rove, the pride of Utah's Olympus High School, had a bad night Tuesday as the election results pointed to Barack Obama's re-election. Rove had a now-infamous meltdown on Fox News, disagreeing with the network's projection that Obama had won Ohio a call that put the president over the top in the Electoral College at 9:13 p.m. Mountain Standard Time and let many people in Utah go to bed early.
No, Rove continued to point to his "data" and his doubts for half an hour, even after anchor Megyn Kelly walked back to a tiny back office to let Fox's number-crunchers defend the confidence of their call. It was as if Rove watched the feed from Chicago of cheering Obama partisans and couldn't understand why the Whos down in Whoville were still singing not after all the superPAC money he had channeled toward stealing the Democrats' Christmas.
Rove's long case of denial punctuated a sense of gloom permeating a Fox News broadcast that comic Patton Oswalt (in one of a series of epic election-night tweets) said was "turning into a David Mamet play right before my eyes."
That feeling of depression was also felt in the ballrooms of Salt Lake City's Hilton hotel, where the Utah Republican Party held its "victory celebration." The reason for the quote marks: There was plenty of victory, but not a lot of celebration.
Of course, Utah Republicans held on to pretty much every bit of power they already controlled: the governor's mansion, the attorney general's office, Orrin Hatch's U.S. Senate seat, three of Utah's four seats in Congress (up from the two-out-of-three they held before redistricting) and their usual strangleholds over both houses of the Legislature.
But there was little joy in the Hilton, because the Republicans' favorite honorary Utahn, Mitt Romney, lost.
You could feel it in the victory speeches, which sounded more like funeral readings. Attorney General-elect John Swallow started with "As disappointed as we all are," while Rep.-elect Chris Stewart spoke to a half-empty ballroom and had to break his speech in two parts so everyone could hear Romney concede in Boston.
Two blocks away at the Sheraton, the Utah Democratic Party was truly partying.
Democrats in Utah, accustomed as they are to getting the short end of the stick, are happy when anything goes their way. On Tuesday night, two high-profile races did. Salt Lake County voters selected Ben McAdams as their new mayor. Then Rep. Jim Matheson eked out a narrow win in the newly created 4th District over Republican fave (and Mitt Romney endorsement receiver) Mia Love.
The Democrats at the Sheraton hung around even after the cash bar had been dismantled. They shouted themselves hoarse, cheering any time the TV (yes, tuned to MSNBC how'd you guess?) announced a Democrat winning a major race. They also cheered several of the ballot initiatives, such as when Maine and Maryland approved gay marriage or Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana. (I could almost hear people booking their next vacations in Seattle or Denver.)
When McAdams took the stage for his victory speech, he faced a situation similar to what Stewart encountered an hour before at the Hilton: getting upstaged by the presidential candidate.
In the middle of McAdams' speech, a chunk of young Democrats abandoned him for the TV by the Fox 13 podium the only TV at the moment playing President Obama's speech until McAdams wised up and temporarily stepped aside to let everyone listen to the president.
Then, around midnight, Obama finished, McAdams resumed his speech and Matheson came up to the stage to declare victory. And then the Democrats, by and large, called it a night.
Of course, the next morning, the real world beckoned somewhere between the Republicans' depressed disappointment at the Hilton and the Democrats' joyous exuberance of the Sheraton.
This country still faces big problems that will be solved only when both sides tackle them together. A first step might be to ignore the doomsayers, the partisan loudmouths whose predictions (like Rove's) have been consistently off the mark, and pay more attention to the wonky people in America's back offices who know what they're talking about.
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him at @moviecricket, or at http://www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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