As soon as the first polls closed at 7 p.m., the light jazz music died down and two large television screens in the Boston Convention Center were tuned to Fox News.
The crowd began to cheer when the network declared Mitt Romney the winner in Kentucky and Indiana – states that were never in doubt. Hoping it would be the start of an evening of many victories, the crowd settled in for a patient waiting game.
Supporters bought bottles of beer for $7, ate beef and turkey sliders, and were offered praline hazelnut chocolates with Romney’s campaign logo on them. Donald Trump was photographed entering the building. Sheldon Adelson reportedly was planning to attend.
Throughout the evening, a parade of supporters – including Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Senator Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire—appeared on the screen to try and encourage the crowd.
“What a night we have here tonight. What an honor to be here,” Romney’s youngest son, Craig, said from the stage. “What an amazing experience this has been.”
Romney himself remained in a hotel room at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, next door to the convention center. Many of his top staffers were at a war room established on the floor of the TD Garden.
The ballroom where Romney would deliver a speech – either a victorious one or one to concede – had a stage filled with 16 American flags. The backdrop included Boston-centric scenes, with the USS Constitution, the Old State House, and the Zakim Bridge.
But the crowd grew nervous as the night wore on, once it became clear that Romney wasn’t quickly putting away states they thought he would such as North Carolina and Virginia.
“It’s closer than I thought it would be,” said a man from Michigan who gave his name as Henry and declined to provide a last name. “I thought Romney would win by a couple of percentage points in Florida and Ohio.”
Just then, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer announced on one of the television screens that Romney had just taken a 1,288-vote lead in Florida.
“Yes! Yes! Keep it going,” said Henry’s wife.