So because I hate myself, I decided to drop by the Newt Gingrich party. It's a sad affair, thanks in part to the hugeness and the newness of the venue—Veteran's Auditorium—when compared with the lack of attendees. What a vacant, lonely, mottled crowd Gingrich drew, the Republican side of the acrid last days of Hillary Clinton's campaign, back in 2008: A bunch of people who were kind of political hotshots back in the mid-90s, out for one more lunge at glory, along with a fleet of young, too-slick poli-sci majors chasing a faded memory of the age when they first paid attention to politics. This is a room roughly half-filled with people who believed the Contract with America was a high point in American history. One man drunkenly swears "we're going to win Florida" because "nobody comes close to our ground game there." A distraught woman tells her friend that before the negative Super-PAC ads started, she could see herself voting for "Mitt," but "not anymore."
The time comes for Gingrich to make his hey-I-came-in-fourth speech, and a handler pushes me to the front of the crowd as he consolidates the people into something resembling a packed hall for the cameras. "Eye of the Tiger" blares and Gingrich takes the stage. If his speech is not already on YouTube by the time you read this, it will be soon. You can see for yourself how boring it is. He makes continual references to negative ads, in what sounds in person like a petulant whine. He congratulates Rick Santorum, and pointedly doesn't mention Romney. The usual vows and oaths of never surrendering and never forgetting Ronald Reagan roll off his tongue with the casual boredom of a man who doesn't have to think about paragraphs before he says them. None of it means anything, of course; Gingrich has lost the flame he felt for a few weeks there when he was the frontrunner. You can tell that he doesn't feel the excitement anymore. Now that he has to work, he's bored. The audience leaves with slumped shoulders, complaining that the bar is already out of wine.
I speed-walked across town to the Romney party to find that the room was stuffed full. Romney hires professionals; they know exactly how many people their man can draw. Now I am in the overflow room (or, as Matt Ruff suggested on Twitter, the Santorum room) and it is the most depressing thing I've seen in this night of depressing things:
It's in this room that I've watched Perry's weepy all-but-concession speech and Santorum's smug autobiographical moment, in which he cloaked himself as Jesus's best pal. I just watched Romney's leaden speech (a bunch of bromides that sounded flat against Santorum's shameless self-promotion) and it's all very much an anticlimax. I'm heading out into the lobby, where people seem to be getting wildly drunk. It's a swank hotel, and the drunken Romney men have decimated the bathroom in a few short hours. The big events of the day are drawing to a close in Iowa, and now somebody has to clean all this shit up.