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Arizona Sen. comes up short on biggest stage

PHOENIX — Though many of Sen. John McCain's supporters expressed disappointment as they watched his concession speech last night, the crowd in the Arizona Biltmore ballroom cheered their candidate on as he delivered his concession speech and congratulated Sen. Barack Obama.

"I'm not sure if disappointed is the right word," said Phoenix resident Ryan Jenkins, "Sadness maybe."

McCain began his speech by congratulating Obama and expressing his sorrow that Chicago president elect had lost his grandmother days before the election, before asking the country to unite.

"I urge all Americans who supported me, to join me in not just congratulating Sen. Obama but also in offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences, to help restore our prosperity," McCain said as the crowd at the McCain election night watch party at the Biltmore cheered.

Jenkins said he felt McCain's speech had accomplished what it needed to, though he said the content was somewhat expected.

"I think it was what it had to be but I think he brought the whole party together," Jenkins said. "It was very good; it was very emotional."

But despite McCain's call for unity, many at the party expressed their concerns about what an Obama presidency would mean, particularly for their small businesses.

Business owner and Arizona resident Tony Smith said an Obama presidency would change the way small business was done in America. Smith owns a construction company and fears Obama will increase taxes on his company, forcing him to cut corners and lay off workers.

"Let me tell you, God help the small businesses," Smith said. "I am truly afraid of what he is going to do."

Republicans believe in growing the economy from helping small businesses hire people, said Barry Greenberg of Scottsdale, Ariz. But after the stock market tanked, Greenberg said people began to blame the Republicans.

But Greenberg said he thinks Obama's plans to spread the wealth by increasing taxes will hurt the American economy.

"When the economy is down you don't kick it in the teeth," he said.

Bridget McDermott of Flagstaff, Ariz., who attends Northern Arizona University, said she supported McCain for his support of small businesses; something she said she feels is vital to keeping the American dream alive.

"Our country is known for being the land of opportunity," she said.

McDermott said she fears Obama will raise taxes on small business, and force them to provide costly health care plans to employees, forcing them to raise commodity prices or go out of business.

"And then a lot of people will be out of jobs," McDermott said.

She bucked the trend of first time voters, 72 percent of whom voted for Obama according to CNN exit polls.

Flagstaff tends to be more liberal, McDermott said but she thinks her friends haven't looked as deeply into the issues but are attracted by Obama's youth and hipness.

"I don't feel they are really looking into the topics or looking into the long term consequences," McDermott said. 

McCain admitted during his speech that difference between the candidates had not subsided because of Obama's victory.

"Sen. Obama and I have had and argued our differences and he has prevailed. No doubt that many of these differences remain. These are difficult times for our country," McCain said.

But his supporters also had lingering concerns about Obama as a leader.

"You don't know anything about him. He hasn't stood for anything. He's come out of nowhere," said Phoenix resident and business owner Terry Reiber.

Samuel McLean of Phoenix said he is concerned about an Obama presidency.

"He talks so much about judgment that in the event of an actual crisis, such as a national security issue, he wont know what to do," McLean said.

Greenberg said he was concerned there would be no checks and balances with a democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic president.

When the government officials were divided between the parties, he said, they were able to play off of each other, but in a government controlled by Democrats, legislation, he said, would be pushed through without any input from the public. 

"I am not going to be thrilled about it but you got to hope and pray this guy knows what he's doing," Greenberg said.

Supporters held out hope until the end, even as closing polls put Obama in the lead.  Arizona resident Dennis King didn't even know he would be attending the Republican election night party until the night before the election. The McCain supporter won his tickets to the party on Monday, from a local conservative radio station.

King said he supported McCain because of his pro-life stance, as well as his views on the economy and energy.

He remained optimistic about the Arizona senator's change, just before the polls began closing, despite ballots placing Obama squarely in the lead.

"It was the same situation with [Al] Gore and [John] Kerry," he said of previous polls, which had predicted a Democratic victory in the last two elections. 

King also believed in vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who he believes would have made a great vice president.

In his concession, McCain thanked Palin, who he called a great campaigner, as well as her family. He also acknowledged his supporters.

"But your support and friendship never wavered," McCain said.

And despite the loss, many supporters said they were proud of their candidate and optimistic about the future of the party.

"We're Republicans. We're Americans and in four years we'll try again," Jenkins said. "I just think as a country we need to come together, Republicans and Democrats."

But he said the party needs to return to its conservative values and work the keep the country from going done a path too far to the left.

But regardless of the loss, Jenkins said he was still honored McCain was the senator of his state.

"He has been my senator for a very long time and I am very proud of him," Jenkins said. "He ran a good campaign."

McLean said he is proud to support a war hero, despite McCain's loss, though McLean said he felt the loss was expected.

"I think that [the Republicans] just need to work on regaining the trust of the American people," McLean said.

McLean thinks McCain's vision of changing the tone of politics in Washington can still become a reality with or without becoming president.

And despite his loss, McCain said no association meant more to him than his association as an American.

"Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship for this is the greatest nation on earth," McCain said.

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