For Some, Swearing-In Is Bittersweet, but Not Bitter

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 17, 2009

Even for the best of sports, it's hard to watch the other team's victory lap. Sure, some Republican loyalists will watch Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday: It is a historic event.

"Republicans are Americans first, and we really believe in getting behind our duly elected president for the good of the nation and the good of the world,'' said Stella Green, a GOP activist in Potomac.

But deep down, it still stings.

For Paul Craney, being on the losing side of the presidential contest and knowing 3 million people will swarm his city is enough to drive him far beyond the D.C. limits. The executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee will head to Massachusetts, where he and his wife will spend time with her family.

"I deliberately didn't want to be in D.C. for the inauguration,'' he said. "The president-elect is not the candidate I voted for, but we wish him the best.''

Rather than holing up in her Connecticut Avenue apartment, Christina Culver, an educational consultant and Republican activist, is opting to work out of her firm's New York office, figuring she would be able to spread out and relax on her northbound train while others were crammed on the coaches headed to the District.

Still, she can't resist watching the festivities on television -- the swearing-in of the country's first African American president transcends party, she said.

"I'll probably be with other Republicans, so the mood may be, well, you know,'' she said.

What happened? Was it only four years ago that they were sipping champagne at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel? They can remember Kelsey Grammer sweeping into the District to salute the troops at the MCI Center while across town Hilary Duff and JoJo were electrifying a young audience at the D.C. Armory as part of the official Youth Concert organized with the help of then-first daughter Barbara Bush.

Although the times might be bittersweet, they are not bitter.

"This is a somber period for Republican activists,'' said Jim Shalleck, who was vice chairman of Arizona Sen. John McCain's Maryland campaign. "President Bush is leaving with very low approval ratings, Republicans were wiped out at the polls, and the party is kind of in the wilderness.''

But Shalleck, a lawyer from Montgomery Village, has found an upside in last year's Republican losses.

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