COLUMBIA, S.C. — Mitt Romney’s election night rally took on a sedate tone Saturday night, as supporters had to be led in chants by Romney staffers and senior aides stayed out of sight.

Romney lost the South Carolina primary to Newt Gingrich, according to Associated Press and network projects, blowing the double digit lead he had earlier in the week.

At his election-night party, many benches sat empty and supporters were moved in line of the cameras. The room was little more than half full, a stark contrast to Romney’s victory rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire where the main room was filled to capacity.

Romney’s musical selections for the night seemed designed to stress the long campaign rather than the night’s results: “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake,  “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane.

The few aides in the room were wary.

When asked if South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) had hurt the Romney campaign by predicting a win in the Palmetto State, a Romney staffer grinned wryly and said “It’s good to have friends on your side who are optimistic.”