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Webb Slingers

Partying with the Democrats in Virginia.

11:50 PM, Nov 7, 2006 • By WHITNEY BLAKE
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Tysons Corner, Virginia

7:54 p.m.--Jim Webb's supporters are gathered at the Sheraton at Tysons Corner on a rainy evening in northern Virginia. It's a large crowd. Upon entering, visitors are greeted with huge pictures of Webb and bundles of red, white, and blue balloons. One placard just outside the main hall, proudly displays pictures of several of Webb's books, including a large image of Born Fighting, which Andrew Ferguson quoted from extensively recently. I doubt many here are familiar with it.

The general mood is a mixture of anxiousness and excitement, but the group isn't terribly raucous. In the main hall, CNN is being broadcast on two huge screens on either side of the podium. Most of Webb's fans are in the lobby helping themselves to a spread of cheese and crackers, fruit, mini egg rolls, and quiches--and a cash bar. The group is a combination of twentysomethings, mostly dressed casually having just come from last minute phone banking and GOTV efforts, including a few who have accessorized with nose rings, and an older, more refined, demographic, as well as a sparse handful of families with young kids.

8:45 p.m.--While eating a sandwich at the bar, a political science professor from George Mason strikes up a conversation with me about the race. He's been invited tonight by some of his students who are Webb volunteers. He hasn't read any of Webb's novels, though he characterizes them as good fiction. He also doesn't think too highly of Webb's politicking skills, saying that he's not terribly "polished." When pressed on Webb's actual positions, which are antithetical to many Democrats, he tells me that it's "the lesser of two evils: Macaca on the one hand, Webb on the other."

10:04 p.m.--The main hall is packed now, and people have pulled up chairs around each of the two screens. At 10:01 CNN announced Santorum's loss and the crowd went wild.

10:15 p.m.--In the main hall, four guys wearing shirts with the words "Yalla Vote" on them (which is Arabic for, roughly "C'mon and vote") told me they were from the Arab American Institute and that they volunteered for Webb. One of them, who described himself as an activist, said that he would never support a Republican and that the Democrats are more friendly towards Arabs because they oppose the Patriot Act and wiretapping.

10:28 p.m.--Jim Moran takes the stage and gives a garden-variety populist speech. The Democrats will be the party whose "own personal comfort and wealth is secondary to the greater public need" and who will "put America back on track," steering it away from those evil Republicans and their corporations. Moran's brother, involved in state politics, took the stage next and he rallied the audience, quipping that they rejected two Georges and elected two Jims. Then, tying in the American Revolution, he stated that the nation is now watching Virginia lead the way just as they had in 1776.

It's going to be a long night.

10:45 p.m.--People start to leave as it becomes more obvious that the race won't be decided tonight. Still, a decent crowd decides to stay for the long haul. Two older gentlemen share with me their insights on the elections: They believe that the Webb race solidifies the preeminence of northern Virginia and shows that Democrats have a "big tent" now.

11:10 p.m.--Webb takes center stage and declares that it "looks good for our side." "At some point, very soon, we will be on top," he says. Chants of "We Want Webb" thunder through the hall.

11:25 p.m.--Suddenly the song "Killing me Softly" is piped into the background and the video screens cut to a slide show of pictures from the campaign, including a Humvee decked out with Webb paraphernalia. After a few minutes, the screen returns to CNN. A few minutes later, Webb's brother breaks out the bagpipes in the back of the hall; he's decked out in a kilt, stockings, boots, and jacket.

12:37 a.m.--Allen's speech from his party in Richmond is broadcast. There's a concerted effort to shush the crowd, which is mostly successful. When Allen thanks God at the beginning of his speech, there is booing and laughter. When he thanks his wife, there's a mixture of boos and awws.

1:03 a.m.--Webb appears, with bagpipes playing as he walks on stage. Webb says he will "respect the process" of counting the votes, but then claims victory: "The votes are in and we won." He boasts that the margin of victory will be greater when the absentee ballots are all counted. An "inclusive society" and "economic fairness" can now be realized he says, and he "looks forward to representing you." With this, everyone applauds and then files outside to battle the pouring rain and finally get some sleep.

Whitney Blake is an editorial assistant at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.