Conservative Election Party Not So Fun

Over cocktails and shrimp appetizers, conservative elites get philosophical about politics as Romney prospects dim. Eli Lake reports.

Inside the suburban Virginia home of prominent conservatives Danielle Pletka and Stephen Rademaker, men in sports jackets and women in cocktail dresses sip wine and snack on shrimp cocktail. Muted televisions tuned to Fox News broadcast the latest exit polls in the background. In the foreground, policy wonks discuss President Obama’s response to Benghazi, Iran’s nuclear program, and the value of strategic deterrence. Co-host Pletka is a top executive at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, and her husband, Rademaker, was an official in the George W. Bush administration and a Romney adviser.

If Mitt Romney wins tonight, many of the people at this election-night party could have jobs in the next government. As it turns out, though, most are not holding their breath. “I haven’t given up hope,” said Fred Fleitz, a former top CIA officer and Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. “I am very concerned if Obama gets reelected his foreign policy will hurt our national security even more. I think it gets much worse when he doesn’t have to run for reelection.”

Henry Sokolski, a nonproliferation expert who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration and for Dan Quayle when he was a senator, put it this way: “I have become increasingly philosophical. There are more important things than politics.”

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of center-right think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said, “My assumption is Obama will be reelected.” He then laid out a scenario whereby because of this election, Iran will become a “nuclear threshold power” by the summer of 2013.

It’s possible election night could turn around for the Republicans. But the realization that there will be four more years of Obama is starting to sink in. Diane Zeleny, a policy consultant and former foreign service officer, noted those assembled were the “shadow cabinet.” She later said, “Bring on the wine.”