The McCain campaign never quite congealed. In that respect, it was not much different from Bob Dole's unsuccessful run in 1996. In an election toxic to Republicans, the Arizona senator ran a perplexing, largely impotent, scattershot race which resembled nothing less than a game of drunken darts. Conspiracy theorists are already proclaiming that McCain ran a bad race on purpose. While I normally don't give far-out perspectives like this the time of day, this line of logic does almost sound plausible. It's almost inconceivable that any candidate could run such an awful campaign, though he is not alone in that regard.
The strongest candidate in a weak slate of GOP contenders, McCain was one of the few Republicans seeking the office that passed the sniff test. Guiliani never appeared enough of an authentic conservative to suit the brand. The same was true for Romney. Fred Thompson ran a lackluster campaign and quickly faded. Huckabee's charisma and religious right platform ran well with the conservative base, but he was too far to the right to be much of a serious threat. Yet, what is perhaps the deepest enigma is in observing how the perception of a moderate, even borderline liberal John McCain of 2000 was superseded entirely by that of a McCain/Bush hybrid---a charge that McCain quixotically didn't refute until the very end.
As for me, I was out until a reasonably late hour, late enough to see Ohio and Pennsylvania called for Obama. Washingtonians temporarily broke their unwritten rule and spoke excitedly to one another while in the metro station. According to established protocol, almost anyone who speaks to you on the subway car is either a panhandler or a stalker. In that respect, the attitude is no different than any other city--social paranoia reigns supreme. Still, at least for a night the residents of the capital city shelved their worries for a night. DC is an overwhelmingly Democratic area and I must say it is nice to be part of the majority instead of the frustrated loyal opposition. It was a great night to be a Democrat and it's certainly been a long time coming.
Back home, McCain won handily as expected, but what was encouraging came in observing the counties of the state which went blue. In 2004, only five Alabama counties went blue. Now, in 2008, thirteen counties went blue. Whether that indicates some larger trend or merely a testament to Obama's popularity and charisma, I know not. Most were in areas with sizable African-American populations, but even so, it's a net pickup. But at any rate, people will be speculating and postulating about this election cycle for a long time to come.