- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas George W. Bush would not call himself "president-elect" yesterday, but predicted the recount in Florida will confirm his victory, as his campaign and supporters tried to make sense of an Election Night destined to become part of Texas and national lore.
Asked by reporters if he feels like the president-elect in this Electoral College limbo, Mr. Bush replied, "We feel very good about what our title's going to be. I feel like a man who worked my heart out. I'm looking forward to a quick resolution of the ballots in the state of Florida."
But after a night in which Mr. Bush had to put away the acceptance speech he was minutes away from delivering, the Texas governor appeared subdued and extremely cautious with his words yesterday.
He said when the recount in Florida is finished today, "I'll be the president-elect, my friend [Richard B. Cheney] will be the vice president-elect and we'll begin the transition."
The Bush campaign later put out a press release urging Vice President Al Gore not to create a constitutional crisis by challenging ballots or the Electoral College.
"The vote count from yesterday's election in Florida shows that [the Bush-Cheney ticket] won the state," the statement from spokeswoman Karen Hughes read. "We expect the automatic recount that is under way in Florida will confirm these results. We also expect that once this recount is complete, the vice president will respect the will of the people of Florida."
Many Texans awoke yesterday after the surreal night not knowing what to think, including Mrs. Hughes.
"It was an amazing night," she said, adding that she watched portions again on television yesterday. "I thought that maybe it had all been a dream, and then I realized I was awake the whole time."
Austin resident Lavern Lehman went to sleep after midnight on election night, not knowing who would be the next president. She awoke yesterday to learn there was still no answer.
"I was almost afraid to turn on the radio," Mrs. Lehman said. "I have never heard about an election like this."
Around the state capital, residents retold the story of witnessing the Fox News Channel broadcast "Bush Wins Presidency" on giant screens at Austin's election-night celebration, only to retract the news less than one hour later.
Even the candidate said election night "was obviously a historic moment."
As he spoke to reporters while lunching with Mr. Cheney and the two men's wives, Mr. Bush's face showed excitement at recalling how he had prepared to give his acceptance speech only to have Mr. Gore stop him cold.
"And here we sit," Mr. Bush said.
Despite the disappointment, many Bush supporters were surprisingly calm about the abrupt reversal and about Mr. Gore backtracking on his concession.
Even people standing in the bone-chilling wind and rain at 4 a.m. yesterday at the state Capitol to celebrate another Bush presidency seemed to accept the news.
"I guess it's close enough that they have the right" to a recount, said Doug Williams of Austin.
"If it was the other way around, what would we do?" asked Galen Shumake of Austin. "Turnabout is fair play."
Mr. Bush slept about 3 and 1/2 hours yesterday and then had coffee with his mother, Barbara, and father, former President George Bush. He spoke of election night as "exciting," but it clearly was a strain for his family, especially brother Jeb, the Florida governor.
The family was dining at a downtown restaurant on election night when they learned that networks had projected Mr. Gore as the winner in Florida. The Bush family left the restaurant without finishing; Mr. Bush returned to the Governor's Mansion with his parents but without his brother.
"It was an interesting night," the Texas governor said. "Needless to say, there was some consternation with Florida's governor during our family dinner when somebody jumped the proverbial gun. He's the person who really went through some interesting emotions."
Mr. Bush said he was confident he will still win Florida "and cooler heads would prevail."
But his brother said he was stunned by the news and left the dinner to call radio stations in West Coast states where residents were still voting, hoping to make up for the supposed loss of Florida.
"It was one of the most intense nights of my life," Jeb Bush said yesterday.
Campaign officials yesterday did their best to convince the public that Mr. Bush will have a mandate if he wins in the Electoral College, but loses the popular vote.
"A victory would be a testimony to the power of Governor Bush's ideas and his agenda," Mrs. Hughes said. "By all rights, he should not be close in this election. I think the fact that it appears that Governor Bush may prevail is a strong testimony to the power of his ideas on Social Security."
A humbled Karl Rove, who Sunday had predicted Mr. Bush would win about 320 electoral votes and would carry the popular vote by a margin of at least 6 percent, credited the Gore campaign.
"My hat's off to [Gore campaign manager] Donna Brazile and her crew," the chief Bush political adviser said. "They did a fantastic job of getting out their vote."

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