McCain concedes defeat with 'no regret'
Issued on: Modified:
Senator John McCain formally ended his bid for the White House and conceded defeat to Barack Obama, saying the Democrat had won a historic victory and inspired millions of Americans.
• Photos: campaign at a glance
• The issues: compare the candidates' platforms
• Swing states map / Democratic Convention / Republican Convention
The pain was acute but the agony was quick. Two hours after polls closed in Arizona, Republican candidate John McCain gathered his supporters on the manicured lawn of the Biltmore Hotel, in Phoenix, to concede defeat.
“We have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly,” McCain said. “Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it.”
Addressing the huge upset his fans were feeling at that moment, the 72-year-old Arizona senator talked about how natural it was to “feel some disappointment.” But, he added, “tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.”
There was no finger-pointing, just graciousness and a taking of responsibility. “The failure is mine, not yours,” he said. "Nooo, it's the media’s fault! Hollywood!”" the crowd hissed and booed back.
“The road was hard from the onset,” McCain confessed. "But I have no regret about what would have been,” he said during a speech kept low-key. Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the self-proclaimed ‘pitbull with lipstick,’ waved and left the stage without addressing the public.
“His speech was statesman-like,” an emotional Susan Marie, wearing Republican Red, said. “Gracious and humble.”
There were many red eyes and sniffing and the growing feeling that this was the end of the world as Republicans knew it. “We don’'t know where Obama really stands,” said Sue Shumway, who had worked on McCain’s first successful bid for a seat in Congress in 1982. “But we knew where McCain stood.”
“That’s it. I’m done,” said Many Chee, holding his head in his hands. Chee owns a specialty weapons business and believes Barack Obama will impose stricter gun control. “That means less weapons in the US and less Chapuis guns imported from France.”
What went wrong
For most Republicans, McCain couldn't compete with Obama's deceptions, campaign money and the media bias.
“I feel heartbroken and I’m very disillusioned right now,” said Karry King, who runs a trucking business. “People didn't understand facts. They wanted change but couldn’t tell you what it meant.”
Ryan McDermott, a computer engineer, who decided against attending McCain’s concession speech because the lines to go through metal detectors were discouragingly long, also blamed the generational divide. “It was fashionable and trendy to like him and the kids latched on to him.”
It’s the economy stupid
But for Tony Malaj, a former local political strategist, part of Obama’s superiority lay in his war-chest. “He raised more money by raising a lot of five and ten dollar bills,” Malaj said. “That’s what gave him his base. Unlike McCain who didn’t build his base quickly enough. And he wasn’t aggressive enough on the economy.”
McDermott, who admitted that he didn’t really expect McCain to win, based on the polls projections, said the economy was the main culprit. “People were scared and Obama told them what they wanted to hear, rather than what needed to be done.”
It wasn’t even five o’clock when campaign volunteers and VIPs started gathering in the Biltmore Hotel’s Frank Lloyd Wright ballroom, nursing drinks and buying stocks of “McCain-Palin Victory” buttons. The Biltmore is where John and Cindy McCain got married in the early 1980s.
Country music singers like Hank Williams Jr. and a live band covering golden oldies shared the stage while results were pouring in. The crowd erupted into loud cheers as a red for Republican Texas map appeared on the screen.
But, at one point, party organizers stopped broadcasting the results. And when former Louisiana governor Charles "Buddy" Roemer took the stage to announce that the state would remain Republican people already knew that Obama had won Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The mood became decisively somber when Arizona senator – and McCain colleague - Jon Kyl, after admitting “it was uphill,” read from the Bible (2 Timothy 4:7) what sounded like a eulogy. “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.”
Ronney Drake, a teacher and the son of a local Arizona politician, admitted it was a setback. But, he added, “with the White House and Congress dominated by the Democrats, in four years we’re back and we’ll look like saviors.”
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe