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Notre Dame Area GOP Reacts To McCain Loss, Criticizes Campaign

This story was written by Robert Singer, The Observer

At St. Joseph County's Republican Party Headquarters Tuesday night, the evening hit a high point when West Virginia was called for Sen. John McCain. But that ended up being one of the few moments of celebration for the over 200 people in attendance.

The evening soon turned sour for the Republicans, as soon-to-be president-elect Barack Obama continued to pile up electoral votes and culminated when a cameraman had to encourage those in attendance to appear excited for a live shot.

Early in the night, eating sloppy joe's on tables adorned with red, white and blue tablecloths, attendees, like Notre Dame sophomore Ashley Meklis, found reason for optimism, suggesting that pre-election polls, which mostly favored Obama, used older methods not adapted to newer voting techniques.

"I definitely expect an interesting night," she said. "I'm really hesitant to trust the polls, because of all the people who've turned out."

Taylor Wilson, a first-year law student, had worked as a poll challenger earlier in the day to ensure that voting regulations were followed. Having sensed Obama was gaining widespread support at her precinct, she was not so hopeful.

"People seem hopeful but not overly optimistic, at least from my perspective," she said. "I mean, it's a long shot."

A trash-barrel sized red elephant, which sat on the podium, was soon removed so County Republican Chairman Chris Riley could host the evening.

Despite many local candidates taking the podium to give concession speeches, Riley remained optimistic throughout the evening.

"We all believe the same things, we're all in touch and we're coming back," he said. "Eat, drink and be Republican."

About 10 members of the College Republicans were on hand to lend support to their party.

Treasurer Stephen Bant said that an unusually close presidential race in Indiana did not bode well for local candidates hoping to ride a wave of support for McCain.

"With it being a tight race in Indiana, there isn't going to be a coattail effect," he said.

After Ohio was called for Obama and McCain's chances for the White House kept fading, people began to head home, but the officers of the College Republicans stayed and expressed their frustrations with the campaign and their views on the prospect of an Obama presidency.

Vice President Erica Hatstrom criticized McCain's campaign strategy, arguing that he took "too much of a passive stance" and should have focused more Obama's character and policies.

"I wish he would have pointed out the flaws of Barack Obama," she said.

President Edward Yap said Obama has a brilliant campaign manager who is adapt at giving minority candidates an appealing economic message.

Of McCain, Yap said, "I think he should have had Karl Rove."

The officers also questioned the effectiveness of McCain's message. Compared to Obama, they said that McCain did not convey his ideas well. While Obama's sound bytes of "hope and change" resonated with many Americans, they said that McCain's "country first" slogan never took off.

"There's a level of brain washing that exists in America," said Hatstrom, who argued that many people are unaware of the policies behind Obama's slogans.

Bant was also critical of the McCain campaign's strategy early in the race.

"I don't think the campaign laid the right ground work," he said. "A lot of organization didn't get done because the campaign was so decentralized."

They also expressed their concern about the future of the country.

Saying that there were limits to diploacy, Hatstrom argued that Obama could make major missteps in foreign policy.

"I feel that he's so inexperienced that it's going to be dangerous for our country," she said.

When asked about the future of the Republican Party with the Democrats poised to win both the Presidency and majorities in Congress, Yap, alluding to Newt Gingrich, said that the party "needs to find a new contract with America."

Yap, however, expressed optimism about the future of the GOP.

"I don't think the Republican Party is dead at all," he said. "We're still going to remain pro-life, fiscally responsible, for small government, and pro-second amendment. Those are values that a majority of Americans believe in."

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