STATEN ISLAND, New York—It was over before it even started.
As supporters were still funneling into a ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island, the conservative bastion of the deep-blue New York City, Michael Grimm was already in a heap of trouble.
The night only got worse from there for Grimm, as cheese cubes, meat slices and focaccia bread disappeared from a serving table. It began with a DJ blasting “Butterfly” by Crazy Town to a largely empty carpeted room and ended with Grimm conceding the race.
Incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY) won a commanding victory in the Republican primary on Tuesday, earning 64 percent of the vote and in turn assuaging some party officials who viewed Grimm as politically toxic in a general election matchup.
Supporters gathered around reporters with laptops open to ask what the prognosis was minutes before Grimm took the stage and graciously conceded.
The shock of his loss was apparent in the room when Grimm asked his supporters to give a round of applause to Donovan.
“Fuck him,” one person yelled loudly.
Such was the fervent attachment to the fallen candidate from some of his most ardent supporters.
Grimm, who managed to win reelection in 2014 despite facing a 20-count indictment for everything from wire fraud to perjury, proved a tough competitor despite having to resign his seat and face backlash from a viral moment from years past in which he threatened to throw a reporter off a “fucking balcony.”
Fearing the possibility that Grimm could win, seemingly the entire Republican Party apparatus mobilized to assist Donovan. President Trump tweeted on his behalf, warning that a Grimm win could lead to a Democrat taking over the seat in November. His son Donald Trump Jr. recorded a robocall on Donovan’s behalf. And Trump’s lawyer and sometime political adviser Rudy Giuliani campaigned for Donovan.
These collective efforts, plus a boost in spending from the Chamber of Commerce and other outside groups, were enough to pull Donovan over the line.
Throughout the nasty primary, Grimm sought to portray Donovan as insufficiently in line with the president, citing his previous votes on Obamacare repeal, tax reform, and sanctuary cities. Donovan explained his reasoning for each decision—primarily the way in which the bills would negatively affect New York City—and at turns, focused on Grimm’s troubled legaled history.
“Do they want the lawmaker or the lawbreaker?” Donovan recently posed as a question to voters in New York’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn.
While Grimm portrayed his charges as stemming from a political witch hunt, akin to the framing that Trump has taken with his own investigation, there may have been enough inkling of doubt for some voters to shy away from Grimm.
Donovan will now have to face Max Rose, the Democratic nominee and a combat veteran who has at least matched Donovan in fundraising and has more cash on hand, according to recent filings.
And he may have a new ally in the form of the man he defeated.
As the last of the supporters began to exit the ballroom, and the cash bar stopped serving its $10 cocktails, Grimm sporting his token gleaming white grin was still making the rounds with the remaining foot soldiers.
What had been an acrimonious primary relationship turned into a copacetic allyship.
“I’m happy for him,” Grimm, referring to Donovan told The Daily Beast. “As long as he can win in November, I’m going to help him do whatever I can and make sure he wins.”
In hindsight, while he surprised by the overwhelming loss, Grimm suggested that the Trump tweet really may have been powerful after all.
“I guess, the president’s endorsement meant that big of a swing, I guess,” he said. “If that’s the case, I’m happy for our president. I really support him on every level. I want to see him succeed so badly because I want to see our country succeed.”
The President was quick to tweet that Donovan had a “tremendous win” and that he “showed great courage in a tough race.”
Grimm, for the moment, was taking it all in stride.
“We make plans and God laughs at us,” he said. “God has a different plan for me and I’m ok with that, I really am.”
One last supporter came up and shook hands with the man in the emptied ballroom. But by then, the music had stopped.