Nothing frustrated Democratic loyalists more in 2000 than the sense that their presidential nominee, former Vice President Al Gore, failed to aggressively, and effectively, challenge Republican moves to steal that year’s election–and the presidency–in the disputed state of Florida.
This year, Democrats again find themselves stuck in a close election where the final results of one state’s voting could decide the presidency for or against their candidate.
The difference is that, this time, the disputed state is Ohio, where Republican George W. Bush, the man who elbowed Gore aside in 2000, was maintaining a roughly 120,000 vote lead in the Buckeye state over Democrat John Kerry, out of more than 2.6 million votes cast. Some television networks declared Bush the winner of Ohio last night, others did not.
That left the fight for the presidency unsettled. And Kerry aides argued early Wednesday morning that Bush’s Ohio margin could yet be reversed when there is a tallying of an estimated 250,000 provisional ballots–which were cast by citizens of that state who were denied the right to vote because their names did not appear on registration rolls.
With the Electoral College closely divided, a reversal in Ohio could provide Kerry with enough electoral votes to pass the 270 mark required for him to defeat Bush.
With the presidency again hanging in the balance in a battleground state–however tenuously–the Kerry team did not want to be seen as having displayed a willingness to surrender prematurely.
So at 2:30 this morning, Kerry’s running mate, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, appeared in Boston’s Copley Square to inform thousands of Kerry backers that, this time, the Democratic ticket would concede nothing.
“It’s been a long time–but we’ve waited four years for this victory,” Edwards explained to the crowd. “We can wait one more night.”
Then, referencing the concerns of Democrats who thought Gore backed out too soon in 2000, Edwards said: “John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people that in this election, every vote would count and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word.”
When all is said and done, it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to reverse Bush’s lead in Ohio and nationally. The president’s election night position is significantly stronger than in 2000, as he has secured the popular-vote win he lacked that year.
But Kerry took as his campaign’s theme song Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender.” Democrats with bitter memories of the Florida debacle embraced that theme. It was part of what made them warm this year to Kerry, who often delivered “count-every-vote” comments at his rallies.
Now, at the close of a very long campaign, with the pressure on for Kerry to fold his candidacy and let Bush claim a second term, that is the message his supporters want to hear from Kerry’s campaign. And, so far at least, he is giving it to them.