At McCain camp, the maverick concedes

PHOENIX — One woman stood out at a rally for supporters of Sen. John McCain here last night.

She wore a dress made of plastic McCain yard signs, kept together with duct tape — and nothing else. The woman said she was from Arizona, adding, as she entered the party, that it was the “same state as our next president.”

Much to the dismay of his supporters, the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, conceded the election late Tuesday to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Paul Needham
Much to the dismay of his supporters, the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, conceded the election late Tuesday to his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

The woman’s name was Linda Miracle, and while her dress won her countless admirers at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, there was no miracle for McCain yesterday.

Instead, McCain lost by a significant margin to Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois. He conceded the presidential race here in Phoenix, congratulating Obama and thanking his supporters.

“Senator Obama and I have had and argued on differences, and he has prevailed,” McCain said. “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but also in offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.”

McCain’s supporters were devastated as vote tallies came in from swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. Michael Rothkowski, who is originally from Long Island but now calls himself an Arizonan, said — without cracking a smile — that he would move to Mexico because of Obama’s victory. He even named a town.

In remarks to supporters from a vast lawn at the posh Arizona resort, McCain himself sounded a more optimistic note.

“Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans,” McCain said. “And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.”

But for the more fervent supporters, who looked on as state after state was called for Obama, McCain’s words did not ease all the pain of a hard-fought loss.

The crowd at the Biltmore stayed with its candidate until the very end; even as McCain’s impending loss became definitive, there were deafening cheers every time a state’s electoral votes were awarded to Arizona’s senior senator.

When the end finally came, when McCain took the stage, many in the crowd looked on in disbelief. To McCain’s chagrin, some supporters booed when Obama’s name was mentioned.

“I’m at an age now where I don’t even care that much,” said one man as he took a sip of white wine earlier in the night. “If people are so ignorant that they want Obama as president, well, that’s just their problem.”

Other McCain voters were less nonchalant. There were murmurs about challenging the results from Ohio; other supporters could be seen in tears as Fox News finally called the election for Obama. At that point, they joked, there was surely no hope left.

The crowd streamed out onto the lawn where McCain was set to speak. While the speech was ostensibly limited to reporters and invited guests, the campaign eased those restrictions as McCain’s address neared.

The area had been swept by the Secret Service all day, and as the crowd finally filled in, McCain’s visual message remained strong to the end. He spoke in front of an oversized American flag, with only a military star emblazoned on his podium and his slogan, “Country First,” written on banners all around the lawn.

That slogan was partially the creation of Steve Schmidt, the senior McCain advisor who transformed the campaign into an aggressive political operation. Schmidt could be seen walking around the Biltmore late Tuesday, speaking to no one and looking angrily at television sets.

But there was at least one McCain supporter who stood firmly behind Schmidt’s message even after the country had voted against it. As the crowd filed out after McCain’s address, Ralph Falton, a dapper man in his 50s, was visibly upset by the election’s results. Falton found himself speaking to a group of Japanese photographers as he headed back to his car.

“You know, Obama’s gonna raise your taxes,” he said pointedly. As the photographers laughed, he added, “I guess we’ll just have to be back in a few years.”

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