Nearly 24 hours after the first votes started coming in, my first reaction remains: wow.
The Ron Johnson victory party was amazing. There were hundreds of people there waiting to celebrate a victory in a race that just a few months ago looked completely out of reach. These people were energized and happy. Sure, they may have been initially motivated by anger at the President and the Democrats in Congress, but at some point throughout this process - and I'm certain that it was different for each individual voter - that anger gave way to something far more potent: Optimism.
The mood last night in the EAA museum in Oshkosh was filled with an optimism that we can retake our government and avert the fiscal crisis that looms on the horizon. It is an optimism that we can and will survive the effects of the recession and emerge as a stronger nation in the long run. The anger and frustration that spurred candidates like Ron Johnson to run for office, gave way to a sense that we can change things, too.
Everyone was excited, but most people seemed cautious in their optimism. Sure, there was disappointment that Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer won, but I didn't get the sense that anyone expected a "best case" scenario. Cheers erupted when Marco Rubio was declared the winner in Florida
Each time the results from Wisconsin rolled by during the Fox News coverage, the crowd would cheer and high-five one another as we inched closer to turning Wisconsin red for the first time this century.
When the call was finally made for Walker, and then for Johnson, the reaction rivaled that of a Packers or Badgers game. For me, it seemed as though the disappointment of the last three presidential elections and two gubernatorial elections were finally, and mercifully erased. The sense that I got from other party-goers was that after 10 years of less than stellar election results, conservatives in Wisconsin had begun to believe that they were lost in a blue state. Sure, there are bright spots - like Paul Ryan - but otherwise little to be excited about.
All that changed last night. It would have been easy to get cocky.
But, as I heard over and over again - from voters of all ages, and from die-hard activists and newcomers - this is just the beginning. The people in that room last night will not accept abandonment of our principles or failure to deliver results. We will not tolerate the excesses of past Republican majorities. The Republicans asked for another chance and we gave it to them, but I got the sense that no one in that crowd will accept excuses.
And that's exactly the way it should be. The party is over and the hard work of following through on our promises begins.