Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Mephistos, the Willets lounge, was home to a large and enthusiastic crowd Tuesday night as politically minded Swatties crowded around the big screen television to watch the midterm election results come in. Nearly all of the audience were supporting the democratic candidates. The atmosphere among those students was one of cautious optimism about the chances of the success of the Democratic Party. Laptops were out as some checked exit polls on the Internet and a few hardy students attempted to look over the homework they had brought along. The television was tuned to CNN the entire evening, with one panicked moment when the channel was accidentally turned to the Fox News Channel only seconds before News Hour began its filming.
The party started at 5:30 p.m. with pizza, courtesy of the College Democrats. PBS’s The News Hour with Jim Lehrer was present with its senior correspondent, Gwen Ilfill, filming live at around both six and nine o’clock. At these times the crowd was asked to curb its enthusiasm so that Ilfill could hear her cues and give her report with ease. The crowd largely dissipated after Ilfill finished her first report around 6:30, by which time the pizza had been gone for a long time. By nine, though, the crowd had returned in even greater numbers.
Though many in the audience were excited at the presence of a national news program, many also voiced complaints about the inconvenience imposed by its presence. The television’s volume had to be turned down and the audience had to largely remain quiet during filming. This imposition of silence was most annoying at the second taping around nine because by then many interesting and important results were coming in, and the crowd was not allowed to cheer or even pump their arms in celebration because of the taping.
By the time the News Hour had wrapped its coverage for the night, some very positive results for the Democrats had come in. The chance that Democrats would control the House and have a significant presence in the Senate was very good. The Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania did especially well, with Rick Santorum losing to Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr. in the U.S. Senate race. In the contest for the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat Joe Sestak won. Bryan Lentz also won in the Pennsylvania state house election.
Travis Thieman, a freshman who spent Election Day canvassing with the Swarthmore College Democrats, was largely representative of the crowd’s mood. He predicted that Democrats would win the U.S. House and split the Senate. Thieman summed up his interpretation of the returns at 10 o’clock by saying, “Virginia looks bad, Missouri looks promising, and our district is beautiful. Sestak is going to win, which is fantastic, and Lentz won which is good for Swarthmore.” When asked how the sweeping success of Democratic candidates he had campaigned for made him feel, Thieman succinctly and directly replied, “It’s f***ing wonderful.”
Indeed, as Tuesday evening ended and Wednesday began, the democrats in the room had plenty of reasons to be happy with the day’s events.