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Friday, August 05, 2005

OH-2: Election Night in the War Room (Photos/Video)

Posted by Tim Tagaris

(I know people like the behind-the-scenes, so here it is. I have one more piece about the election, and then it's back to our regularly scheduled programming for me -- Tim)

At around 6:30 P.M. Bob Brigham, Matt Debergalis, a blogger who shall remain nameless, and I arrived at Cincinnati's Millenium Hotel and checked into our two rooms. We quickly moved into Bob's room and set up shop. Amazingly, there was no wireless connection in the hotel; only the fact that Matt happened to have an ethernet cable allowed us to create a network from his computer. And so began what ended up being one of the most exciting evenings in my life.

For the days leading up to the election, we set up shop at the Goldminer Tavern down the street from Hackett HQ in what would serve as our makeshift war room--a war room that conveniently served the biggest, tastiest jumbo bacon burger I have ever seen, had a full bar, and allowed me to smoke cigarettes without leaving the office. In between blogging about Paul Hackett, discussing strategy that had nothing to do about with the campaign, and just kicking back and BSing, we decided that we needed a "war room" of our own on election night. We would have two goals in the room: 1.) Give everyone that on-the-ground perspective that was so popular during the campaign. 2.) Prepare for the possibility of an election that went into "extra innings." At that point, who knew we would be so close...

As you all know by now, as the early results poured in, many (including a blogger in the room who shall remain nameless) were skeptical they would hold up throughout the evening. Absentee ballots came in and Jean Schmidt had a lead smaller than expected. We all talked about how that a snapshot of days/weeks ago, and that numbers should have improved on Election Day because of all the positive press Paul Hackett had received and commercials the grassroots allowed him to afford.

At this point, Bob picked up his lap-top and declared he was heading down the victory party. He knew that people wanted on-site reporting and we agreed I would just feed him results for Swing State Project as they came in. That's when the night started getting interesting.

Chris Bowers reported on the first set of results:

56 of 753 precints reporting. Hackett 51-49 Schimdt. Hackett 6562-6276 Schimdt. Here we go rock and roll. Yesss!!!!

Then he gave us the second, third and fourth block of returns:

175 of 753 precints, Hackett 51-49 Schimdt. Hackett 13,513-12,802. Its holding.

195 out of 753 precincts. Hackett 52-48 Schimdt. Hackett 14,600--13,549 Schimdt.

250 of 753. Hackett 51.99-48.01 Schimdt. Hackett 18,476--17,046. The force will be with Hackett, always. It is getting close to total freak-out time.

259 of 753. Hackett increases lead. 52.18--47.81. Hackett 19053--Schimdt 17457. Watch out for the karma police.

This was by far the high point of the evening. At this point, I was calling DavidNYC, Chris Bowers, and anyone who was following this race in the slightest with more excitement than I have ever felt since I started following politics. There's something about the underdog, isn't there?

Then we got the next set that showed Jean Schmidt close that gap with more than half of the precincts reporting. At that point, my phone rang. That's when my personal excitement ratcheted up a notch.

In the Hackett Campaign "War Room," they were well aware we were making plans to control the first few hours of the debate should the race head into overtime. The person on the other end of the phone was Meghan, Paul's Finance Director. While most people there understood there was really something special going on in the blogosphere, as the finance director, she really "got it." Her message was simple, "We need you down here now! I will meet you outside." She told me the location and I packed my gear and sprinted toward the elevator.

I hopped in a cab to take me three blocks down the street. When the driver looked at me quizically, I told him, "every second counts right now." When I arrived, Meghan was waiting outside and gave me the brief run-down of what was going on. We headed up the escalator to the room, and walked in.

I plugged in my lap-top and searched for a wireless signal. Lucky for me, the hotel picked up T-Mobile and I have a wireless account with them. It was at that moment hearts began to break across the country. Jean Schmidt had captured the lead and began to pull away to a four point margin. Sighs filled the room and eyes began to well up in tears. The team had approached the rainbow's edge, but the pot of gold that was once within arms reach seemed a mile away.

The next update we received was the infamous 50% to 50% with 91 precints remaining. It was at that point the evening stood still.

Bob Brigham had arrived in the "war room" about 15 minutes before this and was all fired up and ready to go. I had been talking to Chris Bowers on and off throughout the evening, and Matt DeBergalis had long since been dispatched to Clermont County along with other campaign workers to oversee the vote count.

I put out the call to Chris and other bloggers to start looking into Clermont County. There were delays that no one had an explanation for at that point. To be sure, things were not looking good, but it was so close that we really wanted all of our bases covered. We found out the type of vote counting machines used in Clermont, and Bowers commented on MyDD that we needed all the information we could get about the county. It turned out that in the primary a number of votes were "found" for Jean Schmidt in Clermont, which happens to be her home town.

The mood began to sour in the room, and there were tears. The county had already gone for Schmidt she would probably end up distancing herself even further by the time the last 91 precincts came in. People started calculating how many votes were probably left based on voting patterns and what we would need to win or get within the 1/2 of 1% margin to trigger the automatic recount.

At the same time, bloggers were flooding my inbox with information on Clermont County. Atrios called and asked what was going on--he was very realistic, but pleased at what we had accomplished. I still held out hope.

We started talking about the amount of money needed for a recount and compared it to what the campaign had left over in the bank. I don't know why it took anyone longer than 30 seconds to figure it out, but by the end of the discussion, they knew the blogosphere would be there for the campaign.

As the research came in, people started bandying about the "f" word on the blogs--the stage was being set for something entirely too close to call. In a land far far away, another blogger was preparing a one page report based on the DNC's study of voting irregularities in Ohio's 2004 election--specifically in Clermont County. The stage was being set for us to own the first few hours.

The discussion among others in the room at the time centered around what the number was that we should demand a recount and if the candidate should make a statement; he was getting phone calls from the press at the time.

It was from the television news we found out the problem. Ballots had "stuck together" because of the humidity, and the machines were having a hard time reading them. No one knew how much longer this would take.

A reporter from "The Hill" had apparently called Paul and said they had results showing him losing 53-47 with all the precincts in. We searched online for anything that would illustrated where they got that information from, but there was nothing.

Then it all came crashing down...

One of the staffers in the room picked up his cell phone and got the final results from Clermont. It was over, Jean Schmidt had won by some 3000 votes. The phone call to Paul was made, who was waiting at home, informing him of the results--the candidate said he was making his way down to the celebration to concede.

The war room cleared out pretty quickly, the only people left behind was Bob, the nameless blogger, and myself. We talked about everything the grassroots had accomplished in this race and began to pack up our things. At that time, Jean Schmidt appeared on television to accept victory, before she even received the call from Paul. We thought it fitting that we were the last three left in the war room, considering it was the grassroots that was the first to really step up and make this race everything it turned out to be. So we posed infront of the television screen with Schmidt on in the background--you know, one of those photos where the person in the front gets their arms out far ahead and takes the photo themself.

We left the room and started the long walk over to the celebration with a number of the staff members that occupied the "war room the entire evening." The mood inside was jubilant. The most tense moment of the evening came when someone approached the representative of WLW 700 AM and told him "F*CK YOU FOR CALLING PAUL HACKETT A BABY KILLER!" He repeated it several times, calling out the radio station that served as a communications wing of the Schmidt campaign in the days leading up the election. THe guy was right. The representative looked scared sh!tless--he was undoubtedly in enemy territory.

The rest is history. Paul Hackett took the stage and the place went crazy. I'll close with some video clips from the event.

Video - Paul Hackett Takes The Stage
Video - Paul Hackett Shares a Story About Chicken(hawks)
Video - Paul Hackett Thanks His Supporters: "Rock On!"

I hope you all enjoyed the ride as much as I did, but I get the feeling that is pretty obvious.

Thanks for reading,




1.) Goldminders in Batavia Ohio - Tim (ttagaris) in hat, Bob Brigham on right, Matt DeBergelis get photographed by a reporter from Mother Jones on Election day Empty computer is the blogger who shall remain nameless.

2.) A tense war room as everyone waits for last 91 precints to arrive.

3.) The tote board in the war room that outlines county by county totals.

4.) Sadness envelopes the room as we find out it's over.

5.) Bob Brigham and Tim Tagaris (hat) with Paul Hackett at election night celebration

Posted at 02:08 AM in Ohio | Technorati



I'd just like to say that your coverage of this race has inspired me to start up my own blog, and start working on coverage of the PA-8th CD, which has a candidate quite like Paul running. Thanks for the great write-ups, and the inspiration.

Posted by: Tfolsom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 06:23 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Tfolsom, give us the link!

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 12:53 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Swing State Project Crew,

Like Tfolsom, I wanted to thank you all so much for your coverage of the race. Even my brick-and-mortar friends got really excited by your coverage. Also, like Tfolsom, you've inspired me to start up a blog on the Missouri races that are winnable but haven't been won thatnks to the DCCC's enthusiastic involvement in those non-competitive races. Best of luck to you all (I'll stop by when the site is up to share the link).

Posted by: CoreyOwens [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 01:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Like you guys, I've got a guy running in the CO-5. Like the Ohio 2nd, it's a district that's redder than red (matter of fact, it's James Dobson's home district). And like you guys, I'll be covering it from now until Election Day '06.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 01:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The Smoke Eater

A tap on the shoulder
By: An American

Have Mercy on us all...

My lieutenant played taps on my shoulder,

"Half Staff." He said, "Five more have fallen."

"May I do the honors?" I asked,

"You may." he answered.

I pulled the rope of Ol'Glory,

my officer's voice ordered halt,

half staff on the firehouse pole,

and above the flowered island,

a prayer should have been said,

but for some reason was forgotten,

and my officer walked away,

back to his position of comfort and command,

looking at the stars and strips above me,

a salute for all who serve for our freedom,

for the freedom of all human beings,

our freedom would be a terrible thing to waste,

as we seem to live in a world groaning,

and we are groaning with it,

it is bigger than Jean Schmidt,

and tougher then Paul Hackett,

richer then the President,

and holier than Xavier,

Our free will... to love or hate,

for peace or war,

for creating or killing,

for principle or fame,

for God or for money,

Our free will...

shaking the hand of John Glenn,

and from the Commander and Chief an order,

one greeting no greater than the other,

planks pulled from my own eyes.

crying tears of truthful free will,

be not afraid!

Fathers love your Sons,

Mothers love your Daughters,

truly there are is greater calling,

life is a gift,

and we are a gift to each other,

and in the gift of freedom I give you,

a poem honoring the innocent...

Lord, have mercy.

Today, I'm free,

the inner struggle is vanquished,

peace has gracefully found my home,

a peace that I could not find on the streets,

a peace I could not find in the halls,

a peace I could not find in the courts,

a peace I could not find in the fields,

my dreaming heart dreaming all good now,

thanking God for what he has done,

placing my soul at ease,

how I longed for this feeling,

free will to love all equally,

my eternal wonder,

my eternal hope,

my eternal love,

my eternal joy,

my true eternal teacher,

my true eternal brother,

my true eternal king,

living inside me,

healing that stinging wound,

that vice that causes misery eternal,

turning us away from the ones we know,

love withheld from a lost or abandoned child,

a never forgotten son or daughter,

when you have one lost... you wither in doubt,

in what life is and who you are,

don't give the sky the finger,

that's the acceptance of hate,

it wants to feel constant,

our hearts have locked-up love,

in this issues of faith are never resolved,

beasts beat doves with broken wings,

they will tease them and mock them,

they will spit upon what they eat,

kicking them from door to door,

honors for the peaceful are always reserved,

and to think...

one day the meek inherit the earth,

love is to be constantly released,

how would you like to be frozen forever,

everything seems hard to forgive...

we must move onward together...

a world united... a people that are free.

Forgive us, Most Beautiful Holy Ghost!

Hope that our loved ones shall do the same.

Forgiveness will mend the broken wing.

To me... God is always Love,

above every order and all,

inside to out,

don't keep it in... forgive.

Be truly free...

don't drown in doubt,

yesterday is forever gone,

missed above the yellow daffodils,

waves goodbye in summer's warm wind.

Lord, have mercy on us all,

two seem the same --

corruption & death are cultered today.

Father, free us from them,

Mother, save us,

Sister... hope for us,

Brother, pray for us!

May God's Grace guide us,

beyond the heavens known,

there is no universe neither,

and Your love for us is always endless...

Forever and Amen

Posted by: The Smoke eter [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 03:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

My blog: www.fofa.org/paprogressive - just started last night, still working on it.

The candidate like Paul: Patrick Murphy, website is www.murphy06.com.

Posted by: Tfolsom [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 03:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Did you guys have observers at the polling locations when the votes were counted? Clermont's delay just sounds odd. How confident are you guys that nothing untoward happened?

Posted by: shinypenny [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 5, 2005 05:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

For the moment flikr is tellingg me the images are unavailable.

Thanks again for all the hard work. I watched the videos at growohio and seeing those as well as the SSP reports made the loss less bitter.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Bill Section 147 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 6, 2005 03:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment