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The agony of the wait for election results

November 06, 2012|By Carla Hall
  • The safety sign at this polling place in Long Beach on election day offers some advice as well for voters and candidates stressing over election returns.
The safety sign at this polling place in Long Beach on election day offers… (David McNew / Getty Images )

And now we find ourselves in the torturous postelection, pre-result period: We wait. Not in vain like those guys in “Waiting for Godot.” Definitive answers will eventually visit us all, whether we’re waiting to hear about the president of United States or the results on Proposition 285 (yes, I made it up, you didn’t miss it on the ballot).

With near-Shakespearean fatalism, President Obama seemed to acknowledge that even in the final hours of the campaign, there was little to be done accept wait for the campaign ground workers and actual voters to have at it on election day. Obama told a crowd at a rally in Concord, N.H., on Sunday that and he and his advisor, David Plouffe, had said to each other, “We’re no longer relevant now. We’re props.  Because what’s happened is now the campaign falls on these 25-year-old kids who are out there knocking on doors and making phone calls.”

But in fact neither he nor his rival, Mitt Romney, maintained that Zen state of acceptance during the early hours of election day. Obama, in Chicago, went to a campaign field office and made phone calls, himself, to stunned voters who probably thought they were being terrorized by pranksters. Romney, meanwhile, voted in Massachusetts, then flew to Ohio to find yet one more voter in the swing state to appeal to. (His running mate, Paul Ryan, and Vice President Joe Biden also hit Ohio one last time.)

INTERACTIVE: U.S. election results

It’s understandable that candidates for office can’t really relax no matter how many games of basketball they play -- as Obama also did Tuesday.  One Los Angeles political hand said candidates he’s watched on election eves voraciously study vote tallies coming in and ask their advisors to interpret trends.

Local Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn also could only stay busy this election day, making calls from her campaign office and going door to door with her grandchildren in tow as dusk set in, urging voters to get out to the polls if they hadn’t already. There’s no avoiding the intensity of the day, said Dave Jacobson, a spokesperson for Hahn. “I don’t think there’s any way you can get your mind off it.  You can only be the candidate who gets out there.”

For voters too the wait for results can be nerve-wracking. Even merchants seem to realize that the American people find themselves on edge and at loose ends. “You voted. Now what? It's time to shop,” reads the blast email I got late Monday afternoon from Ruelala.com, the shopping website. 

INTERACTIVE: California election results

I asked some folks (not journalists) who follow politics closely how they cope with the waiting for results.  “I eat ice cream and online shop -- in that order,” said one former Capitol Hill staffer. (I’ll forward that website email to her.)

A former Clinton campaign speechwriter -- and Obama supporter -- tortures himself on election day and evening. “I wait like I watch tough games of my favorite sports teams -- alone,  intense, always a little embarrassed by how worried and pessimistic I am,” he told me. “And always reading, in spite of myself, the best puff pieces about the person I want to lose -- like Peggy Noonan's piece today on why Romney is going to win.”

It’s a good guess that this is one thing Democrats, Republicans and independents share: They all find the wait for election results excruciating.

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