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Dems Celebrate Decisive Pennsylvania Triumph

November 6, 2008 By:
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Hundreds of volunteers for the victorious Barack Obama packed into a Philadelphia bar on Election Night. The festivities grew more boisterous as results came in. Photo by Joanna Lightner
With news outlets wasting little time in calling Pennsylvania for Barack Obama, the partying got under way early; at times, it felt more like New Year's Eve than Election Day.

Drinks flowed, party horns were sounded and a three-piece, New Orleans-style brass band supplied the tunes at the Obama campaign's Philadelphia celebration, held at Finnegan's Wake, a two-floor Irish pub on the edge of the Northern Liberties section of the city.

The already substantial noise in the room grew exponentially -- sound waves shook the wooden floor planks -- shortly before 11 p.m., when the television monitor's showed CNN declaring the Democrat the national winner.

As of Wednesday morning, Obama garnered 338 electoral votes to 161 for McCain, with Indiana and North Carolina yet to be called.

Temple University students Elan Miller, younger brother Aaron Miller, and Emily Tenenbaum stood directly in front of the television and, as soon as the race was called, began to jump and do fist pumps. When asked if it felt better than the Phillies World Series victory, Elan Miller hedged for a second, before being nudged by Tenenbaum, who described the Illinois Senator's victory as "amazing" and "historic."

Californians Saul Janson, 46, and Dan Rosenberg, 43 -- who met two decades ago while students at the University of Pennsylvania -- each took time off from their jobs to assist in the campaign's effort to take the Keystone State, and spent much of the time trying to mobilize voters in North Philadelphia.

"It's really all about the Electoral College and swing states," said Janson, an attorney. "We always thought that the only reason [Pennsylvania] was a swing state was because John McCain said it was."

McCain Upset Undone

McCain had hoped to become the first Republican in 20 years to carry the state, and he invested an enormous amount of time and resources toward that goal. According to the Associated Press, he visited the state three times more than Obama.

But the strategy did not pay off, and losing the Keystone State decisively dashed hopes of a McCain upset. Statewide, Obama garnered 2,988,522 votes to McCain's 2,345,058, or 54 percent to 43 percent, according to unofficial results released by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

While Obama scored an overwhelming victory in Philadelphia, racking up 82 percent of the vote, he also reached 60 percent in the former Republican strongholds of Bucks and Montgomery counties, and reached the low 50s in both Delaware and Chester counties.

According to the National Exit Poll, 77 percent of Jews supported Obama and 22 percent backed McCain, which, if the latter number holds, would represent a 2 percent decline from George W. Bush's numbers in 2004.

This result came just six weeks after the American Jewish Committee's Survey of American Jewish Opinion showed Obama hitting a ceiling of Jewish support at 57 percent and McCain at 30 percent.

"Jewish voting patterns seem to have followed traditional form, after many people had expected it not to," said Gilbert Kahn, a professor of political science at Kean University in Union, N.J. Kahn said that the full onset of the economic crisis, coupled with McCain's pick of social conservative Sarah Palin as his running mate, hurt Republican's chances.

Dovi Meles, a 21-year-old student at Yeshiva University in New York City, who spent the better part of a month volunteering at McCain's Northeast Philadelphia office, never wavered in his belief that the Republican candidate represented the best choice for the country, even as he began to doubt that the Arizona senator could pull off a win.

"I feel like McCain gave it his all. The American people spoke, and we have to respect that," said Meles.

A Thinner Crowd, Lots Less Noise

The scene at the Plymouth Country Club, site of the Montgomery County Republican Committee's Election Night gathering, could not have been more different. The crowd had thinned out by 10 p.m.; by 11:30, the chairs were stacked and only about 30 stragglers remained.

"We had eight years. It's a democracy. We'll see what happens in four years," said Stuart London of Philadelphia.

Back at Finnegan's Wake, Janson, the Californian, looked excited but weary.

"We had to be at the polls at 6:15 a.m., so we're a little wiped," said Janson, who planned to fly back to Los Angeles on Wednesday. He said it was all well worth the effort. "Obviously, he would have won Pennsylvania without us. But there is the sense that you have to feel part of the collective and, if other people didn't feel that way, then it wouldn't have happened."

Staff writer Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg contributed to this report.

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