- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

BOSTON — Sen. John Kerry never stopped arguing for his election yesterday, even after millions of Americans already had returned from the polls, having made their choice.

And as election results rolled in late last night, there was little activity at the Kerry campaign as it awaited results from Ohio, which Mr. Kerry needed to keep alive his chances of winning the White House.

The campaign, however, did release the following statement: “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.”

The Massachusetts senator had planned to grant access to photographers of him watching returns, but a spokesman said such an event would be unlikely.

Mr. Kerry was holed up in a 36th-floor hotel room here and conducted interviews via satellite with dozens of TV stations across the country — mainly in the battleground states where he and President Bush spent the most time campaigning.

Before his marathon session of 38 TV interviews in four hours, Mr. Kerry voted at the State House with his daughters. He returned to his Beacon Hill home where he watched returns with his family and friends.

“Not very tough,” he said with a smile when asked if it was a hard choice that he made in the booth.

After voting, he told reporters he was “confident we made the case for change, the case for trust in new leadership, a new direction, a fresh start.”

“But what’s really important is that both the president and I love this country,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “It’s really important that people go out and vote and express their love for our country, no matter who they vote for.”

Mr. Kerry began his day early in La Crosse, Wis., where he spent the last night on the campaign trail. It was a state he visited two times on Monday, one that he has worked feverishly to keep in the Democratic column after polls showed Mr. Bush making inroads.

He made an early-morning visit to one of his campaign’s canvassing offices in La Crosse, where volunteers were preparing for the busy day ahead.

“I’m counting on you,” he told about 250 supporters gathered there. “Today, we’re linking hearts and hands, and we’re going to take America back to a better place.”

Before boarding his flag-painted campaign plane for one final journey, Mr. Kerry posed for photographs with staffers and reporters who have been a constant part of his life for more than a year now.

Asked how he felt, he replied with an air of resigned confidence: “I feel good. It’s been a long trail, but you always feel good now.”

During the two-hour flight to get here, Mr. Kerry left his private cabin at the front of the plane to chat with reporters. He presented several of them with small gifts, including bright-red fleece zip-ups.

Several of his exhausted aides hugged and wept.

They seemed neither cocky nor subdued — only confident that they’d worked their hearts out and it was now up to voters. A small crowd of well-wishers gathered here to welcome Mr. Kerry home.

His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, stepped onto the stairs with Hawaiian leis looped on her arm — souvenirs from her stepdaughters’ last-minute trip to the Democratic stronghold to shore up support there in the face of polls showing a dead heat.

Mrs. Kerry turned and beckoned her husband, who then emerged wearing his yellow barn coat atop his tailored blue suit. Beaming, he waved and joined his wife to walk down the metal stairs.

Once on the tarmac, Mr. Kerry leaned over and slapped the pavement several times. Then he stood and pumped a fist in the air.

Before the final votes were cast, campaign spokesman Mike McCurry was asked which candidate would give a more statesmanlike concession speech that would best unify the divided country.

“When will Bush do that?” he joked, cupping his hand to his ear as if not hearing the question.

Pressed on the question, Mr. McCurry said: “I personally suspect that both of these candidates have fought hard, and they will both rise to this, whatever the outcome.”

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