By Chris Cassidy
BOSTON — It was 9:47 p.m. at Charlie Baker's campaign headquarters when a projector showing NBC's live election coverage flashed a graphic projecting that Gov. Deval Patrick had won re-election.
Within a span of five seconds, the packed crowd at the House of Blues in Boston gasped, fell silent and then started booing.
It was the first credible indication that the former Swampscott selectman's bid for governor — which he'd later call "the craziest job interview I've ever had" — would end in defeat.
About 45 minutes later, Baker conceded the hotly contested race, repeatedly thanking his wife, Lauren, and three children.
"They've been the rocks in all of this," he said.
Baker and his family walked out to one of his favorite songs, "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys, as supporters waved signs and cheered.
"To use a much overused quote during the campaign, 'At the end of the day,' things didn't turn out quite the way we hoped they would," Baker said.
The Baker campaign had projected a tone of confidence and optimism throughout the day. As the polls closed, radio host Greg Hill, comedian Lenny Clarke and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling tried to pump up the crowd on stage.
"It's a great night to be a Republican in Massachusetts, isn't it?" Hill said.
Soon, however, television screens at the headquarters would be switched from local election coverage to the national networks, where the news was much brighter for the GOP.
The prospect of celebrating a Baker win drew John Bakas, a contractor from Peabody who immigrated from Greece 47 years ago, to the Republican's campaign party.
He voted for Patrick four years ago but said he's now fed up with the governor's policies.
"How many more years can you give the guy?" Bakas said, as a band played blues songs on the stage in front of him. "It's already been four years. We need a change. ... I've never seen the state as bad as it is now."
But the change Bakas and the hundreds of others here had hoped for never arrived. As crews broke down the stage after Baker's speech, four nets of red, white and blue balloons remained suspended from the ceiling — a shower that would never come.
Back in Swampscott, Town Administrator Andrew Maylor, a strong Baker supporter who worked with the Republican when he was selectman, said he was disappointed by the outcome.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him personally and professionally," Maylor said. "I believe that Charlie represented our best hope in helping Beacon Hill understand the issues facing the towns of the commonwealth and the residents that live in those towns that have seen their services decline and taxes increase."
Baker conceded to a disappointed but still lively crowd.
"The most important thing I have to say to all of you and to everyone who stood with us and fought with us and supported us over these long months is thank you," Baker said.
Then the crowd reciprocated.
"Thank you, Char-lie!" supporters chanted.
During a campaign season that featured an onslaught of negative ads on all sides, Baker ended his campaign on a positive note.
"This is still and always has been and always will be a great state to grow up in," Baker said, "to raise a family in and to make a life in."
Staff writer Chris Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.