As third-year Northeastern student Alyssa Nagpal watched coverage of the election on Tuesday night, she was overcome with both excitement and anxiety—so much so that her body was shaking.
“I’ve got my heart and soul in this election,” said Nagpal, who volunteered for the President Barack Obama and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren campaigns in Massachusetts.
Nagpal joined more than 150 people—some decked out in American flag t-shirts, political campaign buttons and even one red and blue bow tie—who crowded into the afterHOURS lounge in the Curry Student Center for an Election 2012 watch party. Nine TV screens displayed election coverage all night as Philip D’Agati, assistant academic specialist in the Department of Political Science, called out election numbers and projections over a microphone. D’Agati is the faculty advisor for the International Relations Council, the student organization that hosted the event.
At approximately 11:15 p.m., when newscasters began projecting that President Obama had been re-elected, the largely Democratic-leaning crowd roared with excitement.
Reached by phone late last night, Robert Gilbert, the Edward W. Burke Professor in the Department of Political Science, said, “It was a good day for Democrats. Not only did they keep the presidency, but they also kept the Senate. I really think the Republicans thought they’d win, and I thought Mitt Romney was telling the truth when he said earlier he hadn’t prepared a concession speech.”
But Gilbert also struck a note of caution, making the point that it won’t be easy for President Obama to govern the country for the next four years given the bitter feelings between the two parties. He added that winning the popular vote in addition to the Electoral College would aid President Obama in accomplishing items on his political agenda.
At the campus Election party, Casey Liston and Marissa Korn, freshmen from the critical swing state of Florida, watched with anxiety as the results from their home state rolled in.
“We kept watching the Florida results go back and forth,” Korn said. “Someone would be leading, and then it would be tied again. It was exhausting.”
Liston, Korn and fellow freshman Xander Miller arrived at 6:30 p.m., and the uncertainty of the presidential election’s outcome compelled them to stay until a winner had been named. “We kept saying we’d leave after the next round of results, and soon enough it became all night,” Liston said.
Throughout the evening, students—surrounded by red, white and blue balloons—remained glued to their smartphones, huddled around laptops and engaged in political discussion and debate as results trickled in. Some projects led to shrieks, while others garnered applause. Nonetheless, many said they showed up to share the election night experience with their fellow Huskies.
“I came here for the communal experience,” said Mike Rosenthal, a freshman finance major. “This is the future of the country, after all.”
Johanna Frederick, a freshman political science major, recalled watching the 2008 elections with her family in New York, noting that CNN showed scenes from other countries where citizens were watching U.S. election coverage. This year, she said, would be no different.
“What happens in this election goes beyond our country,” she said. “The world is watching.”
Alan Schroeder, professor of journalism and an expert in presidential debates and elections, said Barack Obama’s re-election victory represents “a triumph of data over instincts.”
“The Obama team ran a numbers-driven campaign, effectively targeting the voters they needed and ensuring that those voters got to the polls,” Schroeder explained. “Republicans have never understood Obama’s appeal to the American public; this led the Romney forces to underestimate what they would need to do in order to unseat him.”
Also in Obama’s favor, Schroeder noted, was the president’s role in post-Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, which gave him a last-minute opportunity to remind his supporters what they liked about him.