by CHRIS DAVIS
What's failed candidate Nikki Tinker going to do now that she's a two-time congressional-race loser with a national reputation for low-road politics?
"I've just got to put my faith in God," Tinker told the restless gaggle of reporters that crowded around her when she finally arrived late to her own unhappy "victory" party at Ground Zero. She reminded the media that she was only 37 and that, if the Lord saw fit, Tinker time could come again.
"I'm just a child of God," she said, echoing verbatim sentiments from her last, less devastating defeat at the hands of Congressman Steve Cohen in 2006. "You all know how strong my faith is."
But God was nowhere to be found at this party. Even Morgan Freeman, the club's Tinker-supporting superstar owner, who played God in the film Bruce Almighty, was absent, having sustained serious injuries in a recent automobile accident near his home in Clarksdale, MS.
It's tempting do describe the mood at Ground Zero as grim from the git-go. But it wasn't grim. It was much worse than that. The mood was nonexistent. For most of the evening there was no candidate in the house and not very many supporters waiting on her arrival. The blues band on stage played to a largely indifferent mix of confused tourists who'd stopped in for ribs and to sign Freeman's get-well banners and bored reporters with nothing to report.
The club was minimally decorated with a few banks of balloons. A sparsely laid snack table went untouched until 9:40 p.m., when speculators began to wonder if Tinker was going to be a no-show. Because she hadn't merely lost an election, she'd run a campaign based almost solely on race and religion (with surrogates adding homophobia to the list), and she had been definitively crushed by an opponent she'd attempted to bizarrely tar as both a Jewish anti-Christian and KKK-friendly.
Throughout the evening, a small cluster of well-wishers like Judge D'Army Bailey (sipping chocolate martinis and talking about his book deal) and Pinnacle Airlines CEO Phil Trenary (describing himself as a "big Democrat") would cluster around a television on the Club's northeast wall to tut-tut over the returns.
"It's a rout," one man of Armenian descent grumbled into his cell phone. "The race isn't even competitive." He was flanked by two other men of Armenian heritage who had thrown their support behind Tinker because Cohen, who has long criticized America's invasion of Iraq, refused to support a measure asking Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as long as American troops depend on Turkish supply lines. Peter Musurlian, the West Coast filmmaker Cohen physically removed from his home during a Wednesday press conference was among them.
"I filed charges against Cohen today," said Musurlian, who has also been identified as a "Republican operative" by the website MyDD.
"He's not going to like my documentary very much," the filmmaker concluded, scratching his bald head and voicing his astonishment that Tinker could have been beaten so badly.
In 48 hours, Tinker had gone from possible contender to national pariah. She was rebuked by Emily's List, the pro-female PAC that has supported her in both of her primary races, after a pair of race- and religion-baiting TV commercials attracted negative international attention and prompted MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann to name Tinker "The Worst Person in the World." Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama expressed his displeasure Thursday morning and Tinker's friend and one-time employer, former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., followed suit.
It was nearly 10 p.m. when Tinker finally arrived. She made her way around the club, hugging the few necks that made themselves available. She supplied the media with a variety of faith-centric non-answers to questions and claimed no knowledge of Obama's comments on the race.
Tinker's visit to her unhappy victory party was brief and uneventful. She didn't address the crowd and as soon as she walked out the door, an event that had never begun was definitively over.