Cover Story

Man of faith, Man of the hour

"Man of faith, Man of the hour" Continued...

Issue: "Bush's moral mandate," Nov. 13, 2004

But despite the few small-state flip-flops, Ohio seemed to be the only state that really mattered throughout the long, excruciating hours of Election Night. By failing to win any of the big Midwest industrial states, Mr. Bush found himself in the same predicament as his challenger: Neither man could capture the White House without Ohio's 20 electoral votes.

For Republicans, the tension was palpable. In addition to the encouragement of Issue 1, Mr. Bush's political team was spreading the word among reporters that according to their models, the president would carry the Buckeye State. Though a few Ohio voters were still standing in line as late as midnight, Fox News and NBC called the state for Mr. Bush just before 1 a.m. Other news outlets refused to follow suit, and the Kerry campaign insisted that left-leaning Cleveland could still provide the votes to overtake the president's 125,000-vote margin.

Still, the early projection put Mr. Bush at 269 electoral votes-and put Republicans around the country in a celebratory mood. At the Marriott Hotel in Albuquerque, N.M., a 10-piece band played in the corner of the ballroom while GOP revelers attempted to dance the Salsa with varying degrees of success. With 269 votes already in the president's column, everyone in the room hoped New Mexico would be the state to put him over the top. Each time New Mexico's vote counts appeared on Fox News, the crowd stopped what they were doing and broke into cheers of "Viva Bush" or "Four more years."

For hours the cycle of dancing and worrying went on. As more and more precincts reported and Mr. Bush maintained his margin of 12,000 or so votes, the cries of "Viva Bush" faded into chants of "Call it! Call it! Call it!" But the call didn't come-and neither did the concession.

Two time zones and 2,000 miles away, John Edwards finally took the platform at Boston's Copley Plaza with a 60-second announcement for the party faithful who gathered as a cold November night became the day after the voting began. Mr. Kerry was still watching Ohio, he said, and the vote count would go on. "It's been a long night, but we've waited four years for this victory. We can wait one more night."

But the night was already half over-and so were the Democrats' dreams. Several hundred thousand provisional ballots could never overcome the president's margin of 135,000 votes. For Democrats, one more night of waiting gave way to four more years of wandering in the political wilderness.

- with reporting by Priya Abraham in Washington, D.C., and John Dawson in New Mexico

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