[Source: The Economist] — John McCain’s presidential ambitions ended in Phoenix’s swankiest hotel. Next to a ballroom packed with Republican donors and activists, Wright’s restaurant served up lashings of arugula. The hotel’s spa offered caviar facials and champagne pedicures. After weeks of populist talk about Joe the Plumber and hockey moms, the splash of luxury was rather refreshing. The evening began well. An affluent crowd, done up to the nines, waved their pom-poms and cheered every announcement of Republican triumph, no matter how predictable (“Hey! We’ve won Utah!”). They jeered as a rock band sarcastically honoured Barack Obama with songs like “Nowhere Man.” Many knew the election was lost, and reckoned they might as well enjoy the party.
As the scale of the rout became clear, though, the mood turned glum. “Every civilisation comes to an end eventually,” declared one participant. Many had cross words for reporters, who are broadly believed to have given Mr Obama an easy ride. A woman tried (jokingly?) to throttle your correspondent. Shortly after eight o’clock, the crowd was told to go outside to await an announcement from Mr McCain. There they stood, stiletto heels sinking into the lawn, and were treated to an eloquent, gracious speech. The defeated candidate wished Mr Obama well and explained he was proud that America had elected a black man. He even expressed sadness that Mr Obama’s grandmother did not live to see his victory.
The crowd’s response was not nearly so gracious. It loudly booed when Mr McCain mentioned Mr Obama and Joe Biden. When the Arizona senator urged supporters to join him in helping the new president, there were cries of “No!” and “Bush-basher!” Perhaps most worrying, the crowd seemed keener on Sarah Palin than on their own senator. Much earlier than many had expected, people spilled out to retrieve their cars from the valet. Driving away from the Biltmore, the aura of luxury faded quickly. Phoenix has America’s sixth-highest foreclosure rate, and the city’s finances are a mess. A mile from the hotel, streets were filled with abandoned houses and auction notices — signs of the crisis that, more than anything else (and certainly more than the wicked media) doomed Mr McCain to defeat. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]