President Bush pulled within striking distance of a second term early this morning, although Sen. John Kerry’s campaign vowed to stage a come-from-behind victory in the pivotal state of Ohio.
With 94 percent of the precincts reporting in Ohio, the president had 51 percent of the vote, 2,639,180 votes; and Mr. Kerry had 49 percent, 2,532,530 votes.
Mr. Kerry also trailed in the nationwide popular vote by more than 3 million votes. During the 2000 recount wars and since, Democrats often challenged Mr. Bushs legitimacy by pointing out he had lost the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore by more than 500,000 votes.
With 84 percent of precincts reporting nationwide amid estimates of a record 120 million voter turnout, the president had 52 percent of the votes, 51,625,653, and Mr. Kerry had 48 percent, 47,984,043.
But the Kerry campaign signalled that it is going to fight the outcome of this election just as Vice President Al Gore did in 2000.
White House strategist Karl Rove told Mr. Bush at about 10:30 p.m. that he would win Ohio, which all but assured him of a second term.
“He’s very optimistic about things right now we believe we’re going to win Ohio,” a senior Bush aide told The Washington Times. “We’ve won Florida, and it’s five more after that, which I think we will more than get.”
But the Kerry team said they would overcome the 100,000-vote deficit.
“We can wait another night,” said a defiant Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards.
“We will fight for every vote. You deserve no less,” he told a raucous rally at 2:30 a.m. in Boston.
His comments echoed an earlier statement by Kerry campaign manager Mary beth Cahill who said, “The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio.”
If Mr. Bush wins Ohio, he guarantees himself at least a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, pushing the election into the Republican-controlled House. A victory in any state in addition to Ohio would allow him to clinch the presidency. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the White House.
Several other states remained undecided early this morning. Mr. Bush had narrow leads in Iowa and Nevada, and a healthy lead in New Mexico. Mr. Kerry had leads in Wisconsin and Michigan.
Mr. Bush already had won Florida, the site of the bitterly contested post-election recount wars in 2000. He also looked poised to become the first presidential candidate since 1988 to win a majority of the popular vote.