The mood here at the Buckhead Grand Hyatt may have started off cautiously optimistic on Tuesday evening, but enthusiasm grew to a deafening roar as the clock approached midnight and Donald Trump continued to tick off electoral victories, including in Georgia.
This gathering of several hundred Republican partygoers became nothing short of electric after the Republican nominee picked up Florida earlier in the evening. It turned to shock and very quickly elation as he picked up battlegrounds such as North Carolina, Iowa and, closer to midnight, Georgia.
When Fox News, which was being blasted from twin screens flanking the stage here, projected that the Peach State would be sending its 16 electoral college votes to Trump, the crowd began screaming, dancing and chanting “U-S-A.” A “Georgia is Trump country” sign was quickly hoisted as a group of partygoers rushed to the stage.
“I’m thrilled,” said Conrad Quagliaroli, the chairman of the Cherokee County Tea Party, who was wearing a Hillary Clinton “lock her up and throw away the key” sign around his neck. “There is a God.”
“This is the end of the cesspool that is Washington, D.C,” he added.
Matthew Kukurba, a hairstylist from Dunwoody, was the first to shout to the crowd that Georgia had been called for Trump after he read the news on his phone.
A gay registered Democrat who once backed Bernie Sanders but felt betrayed after he backed Clinton, Kukurba said he was elated by Tuesday’s results.
“I had to choose between hate and freedom on the Republican side and fake love and government control on the Democratic side, so I had to choose freedom,” Kukurba said.
The party officially ended at midnight, but hundreds stayed in order to catch the final election results.
Meanwhile, our colleague Craig Schneider sent the following dispatch from downtown Atlanta at the Democrats’ watch party:
There is a growing anxiety in the room here.
People have set up row after row in front of the big TV screens, and many are watching with anxious looks on their faces.
“Tense but hopeful,” said Kimberly Larkin, 28, of Atlanta. “I’m learning more about the electoral college than I ever have before.”
Daniel Crow, 28, said he began the day “reasonably confident” that Clinton would win.
“But things are not looking like I expected,” he said.
He described his mood as “controlled panic.”
As the night wore on, the crowd trickled down to a few dozen people. Most sat in stunned silence, watching the giant TV screens. This is the disappointment of the diehard Clinton fans, the people who stayed here to the bitter end.
By the door to the room, a young man started yelling about the outcome. Then he punched the wall. And then he punched it again.
“This is just undermining my faith in humanity. I fear for my grandchildren,” said 73-year-old Linda Foley of Roswell. “What kind of future can they look forward to? I fear that people will lose rights. There will be no respect for people who are not the perfect Donald Trump image: gays, lesbians, women, immigrants.”