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Correspondent’s

This week by Matt Davis, a former Money Marketing reporter who now works for the Portland Mercury in Oregon, USIspent most of last Tuesday night mixing with 300 Republican women in the ballroom of the Hilton hotel in Portland, Oregon, covering the victory party of would-be Republican Governor, Ron Saxton. I’m sorry – Republican failure party. He lost.

Republican women are nipped and tucked, worked out, done up super sassy with great teeth. They were in tiaras, in full-length fox-fur coats, in low-cut tops wearing diamonds and Uncle Sam striped hats, most of them asking me if I was “from the BBC.”

“Of course,” I lied.

Oregon is a left-leaning state but despite Bush’s war in Iraq and two gay sex scandals in the last month involving Republican Congressman Mark Foley, and Bush’s “spiritual adviser” Pastor Ted Haggard, who, it turns out, likes to employ male masseurs—Oregon’s Democratic incumbent has proved so incompetent over the last four years, that on Tuesday the Republicans were actually thinking they could be in with a chance.

Everyone was jubilant and the booze flowed freely until around 9pm, when the results started rolling in.

A reporter from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News spent 15 minutes on the podium rehearsing the following lines over and over: “As early results have shown, Saxton does have some ground to make up…” but when a new set of results came in, he changed his lines to, “Saxton does have a lot of ground to make up.”

It took half an hour for Saxton to emerge, sparkly-teethed, from his bunker and concede defeat. Cigars were extinguished and the room’s mood died with them, so I spent a little time in the gallery next door, known for the evening as the “Protect Teen Girls” room. Seriously.

Saxton’s allies were pushing for a separate ballot measure, requiring teenage girls to be forced to notify their parents before having an abortion, although, bizarrely, all the teenage girls I saw had been out in the ballroom and in here the mood was sombre and middle-aged.

I had met with the measure’s advocates last month, and found them creepier than Beetlejuice, creepier still, the vote turned out only 55 per cent against them this time and they vowed, teary-eyed, to fight another day.

I fled the maniacs (I can write that, since the burden of proof out here is on them to prove they aren’t) and ran to another hotel three blocks away, where the crowd was less well dressed but more up for a party – a Democrat victory party.

The Democrats, who, in my opinion, have always been too plain right to be able to articulate their point of view in terms that anyone might vote gained control of the house and the Senate.

The chances are that the Republicans will be able to use the Dems’ likely failure over the next two years to sort out Iraq against them in the presidential elections in 2008 but for now there is a sense of hope and possibility in America. People who, only last week, seemed hopeless and resigned, are smiling and outgoing. It is that big a deal.

Many Republicans say the new state of political gridlock could be good for the economy, as it is likely to limit spending. They may be right, but it’s not limiting mine, I just spent $80 on victory champagne. If only any Republican ladies were willing to drink some with me…

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: paul.mcmillan@centaur.co.uk or telephone: 020 7970 4776

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