There's not much joy this evening at the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, site of what's supposed to be the main victory party for John Kerry in all-important Florida. Democrats here are mostly in a state of disbelief right now, unable to reconcile what they've seen on the streets over the past few days -- voters lining up for hours, presumably to cast a ballot for Kerry -- with what they're now seeing on the two large TV screens mounted in the hall.
"This is a surreal result at this point," said Craig McLemore, a local businessman. After seeing the huge turnout around the state today, McLemore expected to be happier at this point in the night; right now, he's ready to begin booking plane tickets for some foreign land. "To me, if Bush is elected that would be a sign of the tipping point in the country," he said. "I mean, I know how fucked up this administration is -- doesn't anybody else?"
Still, like others here, McLemore is not ready to quit hoping just yet. He points out that returns from counties in South Florida aren't in yet, and those counties are expected to add huge margins for Kerry. In Miami, in fact, some voters are still at the polls; it's possible that we won't have the county's votes in for several hours yet, and according to officials here it might be days before the final results come in. So there's still hope.
But it's a fading hope. Walking around the hall, you see two kinds of Democrats here: the ranters and the pouters. The second group is no fun; they stand motionless, expressionless, barely registering the bad news coming from the TV. The ranters, though, will tell you what's gone wrong. Folks here blame the media, corrupt elections officials, hurricanes and their fellow Americans for better-than-expected results for Bush. And many simply don't believe the results. "I'll tell you, I'm suspicious," McLemore said. Did he really think the vote was rigged? McLemore nodded, then took another chug of his Heineken.