Photos: Mitt Romney loss prompts anger, heartbreak at Colorado Republican watch party

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Sell the house. Lay off employees. Shut down the business. Prepare for the children to move back home.

These are some of the stories of gloom, doom and dread that Mitt Romney supporters at Denver's official GOP watch party shared as news broke -- rather suddenly, and before they even knew Colorado would be going blue -- that the country is getting four more years of Barack Obama.

"Welcome to hell!" one Romney supporter shouted just after Fox News broadcast that Obama had won Ohio, giving him enough electoral votes to win the race. The polls in Colorado had only closed around two hours earlier, and the results in a state that many thought could be critical in the final outcome were still trickling in.

Scenes of Obama campaign's celebration in Ohio started appearing on the screens at the party's setting -- a lounge of the Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High. Some cried. Others were silent. Some began walking out of the room even before any details had emerged about Colorado's results.

"They called it so soon," said Ken Cutshaw, 59, as he watched broadcasts declaring an Obama victory. "I was born a Republican -- it is just so disappointing to see this."

Cutshaw, the president of a restaurant chain, says Obama's reelection would hurt his employees and his industry.

"The hiring process will be geared to part-time workers instead of full-time workers because of health-care costs," he said. "And that's not good for the general public."

He added, "I just thought [Romney] had a better economic plan for the country.... I don't know if the campaign really matched Obama's ground game. A huge amount of [Romney's] campaign was about the media, the stream of advertising. It may have come down to get-out-the-vote efforts. Maybe the president did a better job."

As some supporters did frantic searches on their iPads and iPhones to confirm that the results were true, Representative Cory Gardner took the stage and delivered a short speech confirming what was pretty tough to deny at that point: Romney had lost, even if Colorado hadn't even been declared yet.

"Tonight, we share in victory. We share in races that we wish would've gone the other way. But this Republican Party will remain a strong party, and we will remain a strong Republican state for the reasons that we hold dear, the values that make us strong -- belief in the individual, belief in individual responsibility and the knowledge that when we get government out of the way and let America work, we will move this country forward," said Gardner, who was reelected last night. "So tonight, our work is just beginning."

Promoting the same message that made its way into the final Colorado rallies of both Romney and Obama, Gardner said it is time for bipartisan collaboration.

"We will come together not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans to address these great challenges -- to make sure that going forward, our children and our grandchildren know that their brighter days are ahead of them," he said, before quickly transitioning back to a GOP talking point. "And that we will never yield the ground that we have fought so hard to achieve and that is that we always know what's best for our lives, our families, our businesses, far better than any government ever could."

After some applause, he added, "And so tonight, we celebrate. We look back on ways that we can always fight for the next race. And we will not give in."

Continue for more comments from the GOP watch party. After Gardner's short speech, more supporters started filing out while others lingered -- slumped in chairs watching the continued broadcasts or venting to reporters working the crowd.

"This was a hard fought battle and it's not over yet," said Kathleen Eccleston, a small business owner who lives in Denver; she wore a bright red "Women for Mitt" T-shirt. "We will continue to work across the aisle with the same respect and integrity that we always have."

After so many months, Eccleston said she was particularly upset about how the so-called "women's vote" ended up playing a role in this race.

"The quote-unquote 'women's vote' was abused and manipulated, and I am sad to see women fall for that," she said. "I think it's very easy to get caught up in the media hype and the campaign hype."

Eccleston praised all the work of Colorado volunteers for Romney, but said that in some ways, it felt like they just couldn't match up to the intense ground game of the Obama campaign.

"I don't think Obama realized it was this close. I think he thought he had it more in the bag," chimed in her friend, Tammy Schmidt. "I'm just so glad it's over."

Before the results trickled in last night, supporters in attendance said argued an Obama victory would mean devastation.

Noelle Tarabulski, 52, said she would have to make some changes in her life.

"It means I'm not hiring people. I'll probably sell my house. I will live a much smaller life," she said. "I'm not gonna take risks. My whole view of life would change. I'm very, very scared."

Tarabulski, who lives in Lakewood and has a management consulting business, said that, at the end of the day, it seems many Americans just don't know enough about economics -- including the president.

"My business clients are scared to death. They are...scared to death," she said. "Obama so, so doesn't understand economics and he won't listen to people who do."

Bruce Swartwood, 63, who lives in Morrison, got nostalgic when contemplating four more years under the current president.

"Hopefully, my kids get to see some part of the United States that I grew up in. The '50s, the '60s, the '70s.... Everyone says it's lost but I don't know. I don't know if we'll ever get back to that."

Continue for more photos.

More from our Politics archive: "Mike Coffman's victory and the power of the incumbency"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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