WASHINGTON – If they aren't leaving the capital, they might be going to the movies or spending a quiet afternoon at home. Some even boarded a cruise ship, hoping moonlight and mai tais will take the sting out of President Bush's second inauguration.
These Democrats are in denial, not quite ready to hail the chief they fought so hard to unseat.
"We all know the inauguration is taking place," said Debra DeShong, once a spokeswoman for Bush challenger Sen. John Kerry (search). "But watching it is like adding salt to a wound."
Democrats in Washington have plenty of company, according to a recent AP-Ipsos poll. Three-fourths of party members say they're worried about a second Bush term.
Ignoring the pomp and ceremony surrounding the inauguration is one way to avoid facing the hard truth. Terry McAuliffe (search), the outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee (search), says he will be at home watching the movie "Titanic."
"To get me in the mood for the second Bush administration," McAuliffe says.
Many Democrats in office, including Kerry, attend the inauguration as members of the government first and the loyal opposition second. Not so the rank-and-file faithful.
About two dozen Kerry workers, supporters and friends took off Monday for the Caribbean on a Carnival cruise (search) offering a European spa, casino gambling, art auctions, dance classes and their choice of up to eight meals a day.
"It was basically just a chance to get out of town and be together on a cruise instead of watching this inaugural ceremony," said Greg Hale, Kerry's deputy communications director. Hale himself chose to stay out of town, working at his cattle farm in Arkansas.
Others just didn't want to be here. Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter is headed to Florida for a getaway. Kerry pollster Mark Mellman plans to be at Northwestern University talking to students about why the Democratic campaign came up short.
Those remaining in Washington include Kerry senior strategist Tad Devine, who said he may spend the afternoon at work or at home playing with his children. DeShong plans to take in a movie and put together a package of supplies for a friend going to serve in Iraq.
Veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who fled to Hawaii after managing an unsuccessful campaign for Al Gore in 2000, is staying put this time. She likely will talk to young people in town for the ceremony and then watch science-fiction movies while Republicans celebrate.
"It didn't make sense to run away," Brazile said. "Life goes on, but I'm still in a mild depression over the election."
Some Democrats, however, can't stay away from the politics of the moment. Aides say John Edwards (search), the former North Carolina senator and Kerry's running mate in 2004, will be home in Georgetown with his family but plans to watch the inaugural on television.
Those seeking to lead the party as its new chairman are staying busy. Howard Dean, the former presidential candidate, plans a series of house parties his aides are calling the "Un-nauguration." Activists Simon Rosenberg (search) and former Rep. Martin Frost will be traveling the country campaigning for the post and raising money.
Back home, Democratic Party activist Jim Jordan plans to watch Bush take the oath of office -- on television.
"However you feel about this administration, the inauguration is an important civic ritual every four years," Jordan said. "I won't feel any better by boycotting it."