- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

BOSTON — When Sen. John Edwards took off from Orlando International Airport in Florida early Tuesday evening for the victory celebration here, the mood on his campaign plane was nothing short of ebullient.

The sheer volume of voters suggested an electorate looking for a change. And early exit polling indicated they had broken convincingly for Mr. Edwards and Sen. John Kerry.

When Mr. Edwards landed in Boston at 9:15 that night, according to several people on the plane, the mood reversed as reporters and staffers turned on their phones and computers and learned the race was not the slam dunk they’d thought it was.

Such was the topsy-turvy night for the Kerry-Edwards campaign until Mr. Kerry finally conceded that he’d lost shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday.

Much of Tuesday, campaign staffers worked to stifle the giddiness they felt. After conducting some 38 Election Day television interviews at a hotel here, Mr. Kerry proceeded in his motorcade shortly before 8 p.m. to his home on Beacon Hill to watch election returns with his family.

His aides were still buoyant, but cautiously so. There was giddiness, but no gloating.

The plan was for a small group of reporters and photographers to join Mr. Kerry for a few minutes. But as the night wore on, the campaign announced that he would not be made available.

Shortly before midnight, after several key battleground states appeared locked up by President Bush, an unsmiling Vanessa Kerry walked up the street past Secret Service agents and into her father’s house.

The news only grew more grim.

But the campaign made it clear that there would be no concession if there were still votes to be counted. At one point, Mr. Kerry was spied by reporters through a third-floor window of his house, walking back and forth and ducking down several times.

Even as the returns suggested a clear win by Mr. Bush in Ohio, campaign staffers said they had no intention of repeating former Vice President Al Gore’s actions four years ago when he conceded early, then withdrew his concession.

At 1:26 a.m., Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill issued 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.”

Just 30 minutes later, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy — Democratic lion and close adviser to Mr. Kerry — arrived at the Kerry home and went inside.

After Ms. Cahill’s statement, the campaign decided to dispatch Mr. Edwards to the “victory celebration” to explain to supporters that until all the votes are counted in Ohio, the campaign would not be conceding anything to Mr. Bush.

In that speech, he said they’d “waited four years for victory” and that one more night would not be too burdensome.

But by yesterday morning, as the campaign’s top strategists and advisers surveyed the outstanding ballots in Ohio, it became increasingly clear to them that the uncounted ballots in Ohio would not take them over the top.

So, shortly before 11 a.m., Mr. Kerry and his campaign decided to call Mr. Bush and concede, but still demand that all the Ohio votes be counted.

And, possibly more important, they decided — with the sizable wins in many key states — to forgo the legal challenges that marked the 2000 election.

“In America, it is vital that every vote count,” Mr. Kerry told supporters. “But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal fight.”

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