The tension at the Ardmore Hotel had turned to despondency. Some of the crowd had petered out; the staff, many volunteers and the hard-cores remained. A few wept. Joe Sestak did not.
Having staved off conceding for as long as possible -- his deficit small but decisive -- Sestak emerged with a pasted grin on his face, his wife Susan and daughter Alexandra at his side. He congratulated Republican Sen.-elect Pat Toomey (to groans and protests from some of the crowd) and profusely thanked those who supported him.
"If someone said to me, start it all over again and you knew how the ending was going to be, start that year-and-a-half again, I’d do it even knowing the ending in a heartbeat," Sestak said. "I just can’t even begin to tell you what I learned. Pennsylvanians, they’re something."
The six-minute concession was classic Sestak: sentimental, rambling, seemingly genuine. The one thing he didn't do was tell an overlong anecdote.
As he often does, he brought it back at the end to 9-year-old Alexandra, the girl whose near-death bout with brain cancer helped inspire Sestak's first U.S. House race and whose drawings grace the walls of his Congressional office. She interrupted the speech a couple of times, to laughter from the crowd, reminding her father to thank each of his siblings who helped on the campaign.
Sestak closed by hoisting her up, saying that after more than 18 months of grueling campaigning, "It is now Alex time." He strode out of the room with his girl on his hip, allowing his supporters to continue drowning their sorrows at the cash bar.