Rep. Robert Dold's supporters felt pretty good about their candidate's chances at about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night.
About 300 of Lake County's 309 precincts had reported as well as just over half of Cook County's 110, and the 10th District Republican Congressman lead by about 6,000 votes.
"I'm feeling very positive," Libertyville resident John De Reu said about Dold's reelection chances then. "I wish I were as positive about Mitt Romney."
Less than an hour later, with all of Lake County's precincts reporting and about 90 of Cook's 110, Dold still enjoyed a cushy 6,000 vote lead.
"I'm feeling very good," said Winnetka Village Board President Jessica Tucker.
Then Lake County's 40,000 early votes came in.
Liz Vanlieshout paced around Viper Alley, taking laps from the stage decked out in Dold signs to the collapsable table filled with journalists.
The Vernon Hills mother has a daughter working as a legislative aide for Dold, which brought this local election even closer to home.
"I am absolutely surprised," Vanlieshout said when she heard Dold had lost his cushy lead. "I don't know how this is happening."
Dold fell behind once the early votes came in, putting his opponent Brad Schneider in the lead by about 1,500 votes in Lake County and about 700 in Cook. The lead remained as the rest of Cook County's precincts reported.
Once those early votes got counted for Lake County, the confidence that Dold's supporters had been enjoying all night vanished. In its place: surprised eyes wandering the room, waiting for the concession speech.
In Lake County, the early and absentee votes are the last to get counted, according to Lake County Elections Administrator Cindy Pagano.
"All the precincts come in first, and then we add in all the early voting results and then the vote by mail," Pagano said.
Sometimes, as was the case with the 10th District Congressional race, those early votes can make all the difference.
"It happens," Pagano said matter-of-factly.
'Say it ain't so!'
At about 11 p.m., Dold walked on stage and thanked his staff, supporters and family. He encouraged attendees to remain engaged in politics even after he hands his position off to his opponent.
"There's too much at stake to grow disheartened," Dold told the crowd. "I hope you all continue to stay in touch, stay engaged."
When Dold announced that he had called Schneider to concede the race, a supporter yelled out, "Say it ain't so!"
One supporter had tears welling in his eyes and falling past his glasses. The mood was quiet and somber, a jarring change from the hour earlier when Dold had been leading by more than 6,000 votes.
"It's about the next generation," Dold said as he closed out his remarks. He then used an oft-repeated line from his campaign. "I'm confident America's best days are in front of us."