GOP Election Night Party Muted by Results
The ballroom at the downtown Tampa Hyatt Regency was never full or even crowded throughout the entire evening. Five big-screen TVs and overhead chandeliers illuminated the muted atmosphere.
The Lieutenant Governor, Chief Financial Officer and Florida Attorney General were among the several state Republican office holders expected to attend, according to a party spokesman.
The only one who showed was state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam, a native of Polk County.
"Florida is such a battleground state I don’t think anybody I don’t think any reasonable person expected a blowout," he said. "But you have to give credit to the Democrats ground game - to their ability to turnout voters who don’t typically turn out. They clearly did a good job of that."
Putnam says the results - although not conclusive - show that the Obama campaign’s polling models were more accurate - adding the “take away” message is:
"It still reinforces that Florida is the ultimate swing state. You have a very close presidential race," he said. "You have a not-so-close Senate race, and you have a mixed bag in the U.S. House and the state legislative races."
Some of the losses – even with redistricting - Putnam didn’t expect.
"There have been some surprises some of the local races," he said. "Some of the legislative races across the I-4 corridor that haven’t exactly gone our way were some surprises, particularly the high number of them."
One of the wins for the GOP is the return of Tom Lee to the state Senate, where he once ruled as Senate president.
"For someone who was expecting a pent-up Republican turnout," Lee said, "it’s a pretty tough night to be on the ballot as a Republican in Hillsborough County and Hillsborough is a bellwether at the end of the I-4 corridor."
After losing a race for state CFO in 2006, Lee returned to the private sector until running for his old Senate seat this year. He defeated a Republican challenger in the primary and a Democratic novice candidate in the general election, but the race was a lot closer than he expected.
"But I was concerned very early on when I saw what happened here in Hillsborough County," he said. "Democrats in real terms ran the tables here - they won two Constitutional races by a landslide, they upset a sitting House member it appears, although there will be a recount."
In Hillsborough, Democrats won the Supervisor of Elections and Property Appraiser's races. And President Obama won Hillsborough County by more than six percent.
That may have been why not more than a couple hundred supporters showed up – to munch on pizza, parfaits and fresh fruit. A center stage with a podium stood empty all night until after 11:00, when state GOP chairman Lenny Curry appeared to make a quick announcement.
"We don’t know exactly what the result in Florida is, and I don’t know if we’ll know anytime soon," Curry said. "It's still too close to call and in fact we’re hearing that Ohio is too close to call. So again I would just say this is going to be a late night. Stick around as long as you'd like to, pray and thank you really thank you from the bottom of my heart and we’re still in this thing and we’ll see what Florida does tomorrow morning."
By the time he made the announcement, there only several dozen folks left to applaud.