Obama gives Downtowners a happy but nervous night

BY ALINE REYNOLDS | An exuberant crowd burst into cheers upon President Obama’s re-election on Tues., Nov. 6 at a Downtown hub where they drank wine and beer and schmoozed for hours until the announcement was made at around 11 p.m. It was a sigh of relief for many who expressed anxiety over the outcome of what was anticipated to be a close race.

Political enthusiasts from all over the city gathered at progressive group Drinking Liberally’s screening of M.S.N.B.C.’s coverage of the presidential election at the Downtown Community Television Center in Chinatown. Some of them had voted for the very first time that morning or afternoon despite hours-long lines at the local polls.

Betsy Colucci, who works in capital markets on Wall Street, schlepped down from Lenox Hill in Upper Manhattan to watch the election coverage Downtown with fellow Democrats. “I didn’t want to be alone tonight…I’ve been told this is a really good group of people, and I wanted to be with kindred spirits,” she said.

“I don’t consider myself incredibly liberal, but I can’t see myself living in a country under Mitt Romney and the Republican party. I’m also really worried about voter suppression and intimidation and fraud in the polls,” she said.

All eyes were glued to the screen as the projections for right- or left-wing states came in and as several swing states (Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina) were designated as too close to call. Then came Obama’s projected win in the battleground state of Pennsylvania at around 9:15 p.m., prompting the first big ovation in the crowd and the chant, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Nervous energy pervaded the viewing room throughout the course of the evening and made those such as 31-year-old Larry Cheng anxious. “I wasn’t nervous,” he commented, “but talking to people, they’re nervous so it kind of transferred onto me.”

Cheng, who chatted with fellow Democrats as he stood watching the show, was most concerned about Florida, the swing state that was the deal breaker in the 2000 battle between George Bush and Al Gore.

“I think it has a pretty strong Republican base,” he said. “For the last election they voted for Obama, but if it swings toward Romney, it could change a lot of things.”

Around midnight, the newscasters projected that Florida was likely going to go to Obama. The rest is history.