Senator John McCain marked the end of his quest for the White House beneath the stars in his beloved Arizona. VOA's Paula Wolfson was at McCain headquarters in Phoenix for the final day of the McCain campaign.
In Phoenix, voters lined up before dawn - forming queues that sometimes extended for blocks along city streets.
Some voted for John McCain, and some for Barack Obama. All felt that this was no ordinary election. It was history.
At a polling place in a simple white church, in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, election official Michael Calderon watched over the crowd.
"Everybody has a strong opinion that has come in so far. Everybody is just eager to vote and they all are really concerned about making sure that their vote counts," he said. "They all really want to participate in this election in particular. Everybody knows this is going to be a really big election and they really want to get their say in."
John McCain voted in this precinct, bringing along a crowd of reporters and onlookers. But most of the voters went about their business quietly, walking away with little buttons or stickers indicating they had cast a ballot. For Lynn Beyer, it was a badge of honor.
"I don't think we should take for granted the freedom to be able to vote, to listen to all sides of the story, to make our own educated decisions. I think that is really a rare thing and doesn't happen everywhere in the world," said Beyer. "So for me it feels great."
When the polls closed, Arizona Republicans gathered at a local resort to watch the returns come in. It was a rather subdued affair, with party leaders trying to rally the crowd, reminding them of every major upset in the history of American politics.
But the miracle never came. It was mid-evening when Senator McCain walked onto the lawn of the Biltmore Hotel, and conceded the election.
"We have come to the end of a long journey," said McCain. "The American people have spoken and they spoke clearly."
Some of his long-time supporters had tears in their eyes. Others chanted old campaign slogans - as if they were at one last McCain rally.
But once he left the stage, the crowd quickly dispersed and headed for home. The banners were put away. The band packed up their instruments. The music ended.
Tyler Mott sat on the edge of the empty stage and pondered the future.
"We will do everything possible to support the new president-elect when he is right," he said. "And we will be the loyal opposition on everything when he is wrong."
Mott said Republicans have a lot of regrouping to do. And he vowed they will not merely sit back and mourn their election loss.
"One of the differences between Republicans and Democrats is after they lost in 2002 and 2004 they were extremely disheartened, they were depressed and angry. We don't get that way," he said. "Republicans, we just look at what we have in front of us, we think nothing is insurmountable and we will do what we can to make America better."
There was a mix of emotions in the room as the Republican election night gathering came to an end. Some were sad, some defiant. But they all made a vow: watch out in 2012….the Republicans will be back.