BOSTON—Hundreds descended on Copley Square yesterday hoping for a victory speech from John F. Kerry, but the crowd became subdued early this morning as election returns seemed to indicate a victory for President Bush, even though it remained too close for the Kerry camp to concede.
Harvard students were among the supporters at the Kerry rally who waited for hours in cold temperatures and periodic rain, watching large-screen TVs as pundits first declared a Bush victory in the key state of Ohio, then called the race undecided.
While Kerry did not appear at the rally, his running mate John Edwards addressed the crowd at 2:36 a.m., pledging to continue the race until every vote is counted.
Jack B. Morley ’08 said the speech lifted the spirits of the dwindling crowd.
“We are going to stay,” Morley said. “We don’t care about the midterms. We’re staying and waiting.”
Before the disappointing Ohio numbers and tedious hours of waiting soured the crowd, the rally had an exuberant tone. A series of leading Democrats, including Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, promised victory and frequently likened Kerry to Boston’s championship football and baseball teams.
A mass of staffers, locals and fat-cat donors waved their hands in unison to the beat of the Black-Eyed Peas’ song “Where is the Love?” Other performers included Sheryl Crow, James Taylor and Jon Bon Jovi.
In addition to the Harvard students who came for the rally, 10 members of the Harvard College Democrats traveled to Boston earlier in the day to volunteer at parties for Kerry donors and friends.
According to Eric P. Lesser ’07, the students checked tickets and credentials for guests in return for access to the parties. The parties included actors, political big-wigs and Harvard’s own Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz.
Lesser, a Massachusetts resident, remembered working on Kerry’s 1996 U.S. Senate campaign when he was in sixth grade. He said he has been so emotional leading up to the presidential election that he was unable to sleep.
Lesser described the mood early in the evening as “cautious optimism.” “The spirits are upbeat,” he said.
Three freshmen in the College Dems said they were excited to have the opportunity to attend the Kerry event less than two months after their arrival at Harvard.
“It is surreal, overwhelming,” said Carrie E. Andersen ’08. “Who would have thought we’d end up here?”
Outside at the rally, supporters decked in red, white and blue Kerry paraphernalia displayed signs with slogans like “John Kerry: You Are Our Last Hope” and chanted “Let’s Go Kerry.”
Michael A. Codini ’08 came with a group of friends, putting aside academics for the night.
“I have an Ec 10 midterm tomorrow I haven’t studied for one bit, but I consider the election more important,” he said.
While in the clear minority, some Bush boosters came to the rally. South Boston native Donald E. Woznick held a sign reading, “Don’t forget to vote for Bush/Cheney. Kerry who? He doesn’t show support for his own state.” He said he has gotten a good reaction from the Kerry supporters and has shaken hands with several of them.
But even though Bush supporters at the rally were scarce, the crowd could not ignore the tightness of the national race when TV screens announced a Bush victory in Ohio.
“It’s over,” said one Kerry supporter, as many others left.
“It’s disappointing how it reflects on the American people,” said Brockton resident C. Michael Everett as he departed from the rally.
Several Bush supporters, seemingly heartened by the news, ran around the edge of the rally waving signs and yelling, “Four more years!”
But as TV news indicated the election was not over, Harvard students who had come out to show their support for Kerry said they were frustrated by the uncertain result. They pledged not to give up.
“It seems like there’s going to be a recount, so I should probably go to bed, but I’ll have trouble doing that,” said Nicholas F. B. Smyth ’05-’06, who took off the semester to work for the Kerry campaign.
“I will stay as long as I need to,” said Smyth, who is also a Crimson editor.
—Staff writer Jessica R. Rubin-Wills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
—Staff writer Faryl W. Ury can be reached at email@example.com.