Given the run of defeats suffered by the Wisconsin Democratic Party since 2010, the mood at Monona Terrace even early on Tuesday night was downright giddy. As Mike Tate, chair of the party, said just about an hour after polls closed at 8 p.m., "It's been a long couple of years here in Wisconsin. But tonight begins our redemption."
And when news broke at 10:15 pm that Barack Obama had clinched a second term as president, the room erupted in cheers and applause. A few moments later the crowd broke out in chants of "Four more years! Four more years!"
Madison Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff was one of the happy faces in the crowd.
"I'm very pleased," she said, noting she is glad that Obama will be able to "continue what he started."
"I'm very excited about immigration reform in the next four years," she added. "I think in the Congress and Senate there's also a lot more hope for getting things done."
Once news of the Obama victory had sunk in, people milled about the Monona Terrace convention room nervously awaiting the results of the U.S. Senate race between U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. When it was announced at 11:15 p.m. that Baldwin was the victor, the room went wild.
"Tonight we won a huge victory for Wisconsin," Baldwin told the adoring crowd.
Baldwin acknowledged that she made history Tuesday night: "I am well aware that I will have the honor to be Wisconsin's first woman senator... and the first openly gay senator. But I didn't run to make history. I ran to make a difference."
Joey Hoey, a longtime aide in the state Assembly, was personally moved by Baldwin's victory, as were many in the crowd.
"When I was a kid, nobody said the word gay," said Hoey, who is 53. "Tonight in Wisconsin we elected an openly gay woman to the U.S. Senate and we re-elected a president who said I should be able to get married. In the course of 30 or 40 years that's incredible change."