PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- About ten months ago, John McCain's aides were celebrating what they knew would become the first step in their victory over Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire primary, when the results from tiny Dixville Notch, N.H., trickled in a little after midnight.
Tonight, as McCain arrives at a midnight rally on the steps of the Yavapai County courthouse, they'll be commiserating over the first bit of bad news (for their side) of election day. For the first time since 1968, Dixville Notch has voted for a Democrat. Barack Obama won the town by 15-6.
In January, McCain beat Romney 4-2, and Rudy Giuliani won one vote, which means McCain didn't even hold all the town's Republicans -- a bad sign for his hopes of stealing New Hampshire's four electoral votes from Obama.
A huge, raucous crowd has already gathered here in Prescott, and a country band that sounds like it might be more at home in one of the bars ringing the town's main square is ripping through cover tunes. (As for the music, considering Hank Williams Jr. is scheduled to play once McCain arrives, it might be appropriate to quote one of McCain's own favorite lines -- "As Chairman Mao said, it's always darkest before it's totally black." Put me firmly in the camp that likes to pretend the Williams family skipped straight from Hank Sr. to Hank III.)
A few dozen Obama supporters have set themselves up just outside the line to go through Secret Service metal detectors, playing bongos, chanting "Obama" and waving signs that seem designed to taunt McCain die-hards (one reads "We are homosexuals").
UPDATE: The band is now playing "Sweet Home Alabama," singing the chorus as "Sweet Home Arizona." Someone turned the lights off on the gazebo they're playing on, so maybe they're almost done.