If election night is the holiest of holidays in Washington, returns-watching parties are the political believers’ church.
Services start in the early afternoon and run through the night.
No fewer than two dozen election night parties are being held around the city, in locations ranging from hotels to restaurants, bars, think tanks, political organizations and, well, actual places of worship.
And if event organizers are right, election night devotees will be hitting the holy wine pretty hard.
Nearly every permutation of the Obama-tini and McCain mojito has been mixed and tested for liberal or conservative consumption.
While the news networks feed their political souls, vote counters can replenish their bodies with elk sliders; left wings and right wings; salmon mini-burgers; and other appropriately themed party foods.
The most ardent followers will likely end up at one of the Democratic Party’s two big events or the GOP’s public gathering. The Democratic National Committee’s party will take place at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are throwing a joint party at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
The Republican National Committee will watch returns at the Capital Hilton. (The National Republican Senatorial Committee is having an invitation-only party at its headquarters, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is forgoing a party to work “around the clock and [monitor] the election results across the country,” a staffer says.)
For the freer spirits, the election night party cup spilleth over.
ElectionNight.us has ordered cupcakes from Chatman’s D’Vine Bakery and Café to give out during its blowout at Ultra Bar in Chinatown. Here’s an even bigger treat: Antonella Barba, of “American Idol” sixth-season fame, will host the party, which is expected to attract a crowd of 1,000. (Barba says she invited several fellow contestants, including Blake Lewis, Jared Cotter and Paul Kim.)
Election night party organizer Ravi Singh says he first thought of throwing an election party in 2004, when he realized there was no fun place for him to watch the news. So he hosted a party that drew between 1,500 and 2,000 people.
“We noticed that there were a lot of young people who were involved in a lot of campaigns but who were not invited to go celebrate,” Singh says of the 2004 attendees.
He’s hoping to attract the same crowd.
The more cynical viewers should head to the Cato Institute. The libertarian think tank is offering food and drink to local freedom-lovers.
“If you truly love freedom in this country, you are going to need a drink, no matter which way this election breaks,” says Cato spokesman Chris Kennedy, noting that approximately 300 people have already R.S.V.P.’d for the party. “We’re not really surprised that this is going to be a really well-attended event.”
People who want to try their luck should head to the 1331 Lounge at the J.W. Marriott. Attendees can drop their business card into a raffle for a weekend stay at the hotel’s new presidential suite. They can also peruse the “1331 Filibuster Fun Facts” booklets to test each other on presidential trivia. (Sample question: Which president said, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage?” Answer: Herbert Hoover.)
The well-heeled might be seen at public-relations queen Gloria Dittus’s party in her Kalorama home. But it’s closed to the public.
“This year we’re doing a smaller bipartisan event on election night,” Dittus says in an e-mail. “We’re still working on the menu that suits all of our guests, but it’ll likely include champagne and chocolates for some, and a bit of humble pie for others.”
For true soul support, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest will have a minister on hand at its party to talk people through any moments of despair. It will also have music, dancing, fresh iced tea and alcoholic beverages available for purchase.
Party organizer John DiNapoli says the church decided to hold the event partly because “we heard that people were going to be rather emotional” throughout the night.
While not religious, the event at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown will provide a welcoming atmosphere where people can celebrate their civic-mindedness, says organizer Jackie Rosenthal.
“Some people might sneak up to our sanctuary” for spiritual reinforcement, she says. Others can hear experts from Georgetown University and The New Republic magazine analyze incoming results, eat apple pie and take photos with Obama and McCain cardboard cutouts.
If all these parties sound like religious junk food to the most politically pious, they might just as well stay home, drop to their knees and pray.
Don't know where you're going to end up? Check out your party options here .