PHOENIX — Some stood with arms crossed, anger etched on their faces. Others expressed disappointment, even fear. Still others wiped away tears and grumbled when John McCain congratulated his opponent, America's first black president, for making history.
And it was clear on an election night like no other that the hard feelings of a hard-fought campaign would not fade anytime soon.
Jeri Mott, 58, of Tucson, listened to McCain's concession speech with her arms tightly crossed and a look of disgust on her face.
"I'm thinking that I'm real worried about what's going to happen tomorrow, especially about my troops," said Mott, whose son recently enlisted in the Army. As for the historic nature of the night, Mott didn't much care.
"I have no problem with an African-American at the helm. It's his vision of what he wants to do that I have a big problem with."
Donna Petello and Jamie Gibbs, both of Gilbert, lingered at the Arizona Biltmore resort after the speech.
"We're feeling really sad," said Petello, 53, who wore a hot pink button that said "Hot Chicks Vote Republican."
"I wouldn't say we're angry," said Gibbs, 50.
"Just sad," Petello continued. "America made a big mistake and they'll surely see that soon. But we can't do anything about it."
The night began appropriately enough with Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" booming from the speakers at the Arizona resort where, 28 years ago, McCain and his wife, Cindy, celebrated their wedding.
Hundreds of supporters wore buttons and T-shirts proclaiming "Victory 2008," chanted McCain's name and, like the candidate they gathered to honor, projected optimism and faith.
But as the night wore on, organizers temporarily stopped broadcasting the returns and announced few results, as if not to put a damper on the party. Those they did disclose lagged behind national projections showing Obama gaining on McCain.
Even after Obama had been declared the winner in Pennsylvania and Ohio, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer walked on stage to tell the crowd about "another state in the McCain category. It's the great state of Louisiana!"
A roar erupted, and supporters danced to Hank Williams Jr. singing, "Mac is going to survive."
In the back of the crowded ballroom, John and Carla Moore knew very little about how the election was going.
"He's already lost Ohio. They think. Right?" John Moore said. "I'm wondering why they're not showing us that much. I wish I had a BlackBerry so I could track it myself."
He and his wife tried to put a positive spin on the information blackout: "I'm sure it's going to be positive," said John. "Maybe they're building momentum."
But around 8:30 local time, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., took to the stage to deliver what sounded like a eulogy to McCain's quest for the presidency.
"The truth of the matter is it is uphill. This has always been an uphill race. Yet John McCain kept clawing back, he kept clawing back until tonight." He applauded McCain's "fighting spirit," while still telling the crowd the race was too close to call.
One supporter muttered, "I'm feeling like doom is coming."
In closing, Kyl cited a Bible passage that seemed as appropriate an ending to McCain's campaign as any.
2 Timothy 4:7:
"I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith."
Before McCain took the stage, Nathaniel Eyler, 29, of Phoenix, mouthed the words as the song "God Bless the USA" played.
"Scared," he said in response to how he felt about the outcome, calling Obama a "socialist."
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I'm scared. Just the idea of Barack Obama as president of the United States scares me. It does not embody the idealism I grew up with and am passionate about. We're Americans. We're resilient. We'll bounce back. Our government's idiot-proof. There's nothing he can do that we can't fix in the end."
Still, he said, "We're going to be taking steps backward."
Molly Pinckney, 60, of Phoenix stood frowning, the red pom pom she earlier had waved tucked by her side.
"I'm really sad. I'm sad for our country."
What happens next depends on the president-elect, she said. "It really depends on how Obama behaves ... whether he's going to let rabble-rousers tear this country apart."