Brandishing signs that declared "We Gave Them a Thumpin'" and "Real Virginians for Jim Webb," more than a thousand jubilant supporters encircled U.S. Senator-elect Jim Webb (D) in Arlington as he declared victory Thursday in the nation's closest fought Senate race.
"I'm walking into the Senate to give a voice to the people who don't have a voice in the corridors of power," said Webb, 60, a best-selling novelist and decorated Vietnam War veteran. "And I intend to do that."
Webb held aloft his U.S. Marine son Jimmy's old combat boots, which he wore on the campaign trail while his son is serving in Ramadi, Iraq. Webb's fellow veterans in the crowd yelled "Oorah," the classic Marine affirmative response.
"We have a much stronger Democratic Party because of this campaign," said Webb, a former Republican whose candidacy was backed by both liberals and conservatives.
Webb's narrow victory over U.S. Sen. George Allen (R) gave the Democrats their sixth pick-up in the U.S. Senate, tipping the balance of power to the Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, asked the crowd in Arlington: "What color is my tie?"
"Blue!" they yelled.
"What color is this suit?" he asked again.
"And what color is the Senate?"
"That's right," Schumer said. "And that's because of Jim Webb. We couldn't have taken the Senate without him. For the Senate and for America, the best is yet to come."
AN HOUR AND A HALF prior to Webb's victory rally at Courthouse Plaza in Arlington, Allen, with his wife, Susan, beside him, conceded defeat in Old Town Alexandria.
"The people of Virginia, who I always call the owners of the government, they have spoken," said Allen, 54. "And I respect that."
Though Allen had the right to seek a state-financed recount, he told his supporters that he did not believe it would change the election's outcome.
"I do not wish to cause more rancor by protracted litigation that would not, in my opinion, alter the results," Allen said. "I see no good reason being served by continuously and needlessly expending money and causing any more personal animosity."
Holding his trademark football, Allen hinted that his political career might not be finished. "Sometimes winds Ñ political or otherwise Ñ will blow the leaves off branches or even break limbs," he said. "But a deep rooted tree will stand and the leaves will regrow next season."
Allen attributed his loss to the Democratic tide that swept the Democrats into control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.
"They had the prevailing winds," Allen said. "I wish Jim Webb well in the Senate."
Allen spiraled the football out into the crowd of reporters and dejected supporters. A man in a suit tossed it back to Allen.
"See ya'll," said Allen, as he turned and exited Virginia politics, at least for now.
Six months ago, Allen was expected to coast to re-election and was a likely front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. However, a long list of gaffes on the campaign trail Ñ most notably the "macaca" incident Ñ eroded a 16-point lead in the polls and ultimately caused his downfall on election day.
Webb's long-shot bid defeated Allen with a margin of 9,162 out of nearly 2.8 million votes cast, a difference of roughly one-third of 1 percent.
Glenda Gail Parker, an Independent Green Party candidate, garnered 26,102 votes Ñ nearly three times the margin between Allen and Webb, but just about 1 percent.