WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although several states’ results remained uncertain, supporters at an election rally for President George W. Bush ’68 grew increasingly optimistic this morning as he appeared to close in on the 270 electoral college votes he needed to secure a second term.
As of 3:35 a.m., neither Bush nor Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry ’66 had addressed their supporters or the country about the results of yesterday’s election, but the president was on the brink of clinching a victory.
Ohio’s 20 electoral votes appeared to hold the key to the election, with a Bush victory guaranteeing him at least a tie, an outcome that would send the election into the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. As of early this morning, Bush led in Ohio by approximately 140,000 votes, though some precincts had not yet reported results and the Kerry campaign said over 200,000 provisional ballots remained to be counted.
Some news outlets and the Associated Press had called Ohio in Bush’s favor, but Kerry’s campaign said they believed that when the provisional ballots were counted they could win the state.
Several hours after polls closed, four other states remained too close to call. While Kerry was slightly ahead in Wisconsin, Bush maintained slim leads in Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico. A win in any of these states in addition to Ohio would deliver Bush the presidency. Even without Ohio, Bush could still win if he carries Wisconsin and any two of the other three undeclared states.
Bush had a significant advantage in the popular vote, with a national lead of over 3.5 million votes as of early this morning.
Yale Students for Bush President Robert Chung ’06 said he was encouraged by last night’s results, but he was cautious about declaring Republican victory based on projections.
“These are good indications, but I’ll be waiting for official numbers,” Chung said. “His lead in the popular vote obviously shows his leadership, and the American people did see results in his past three and a half years or so.”
At Bush’s election rally, held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., the crowd cheered after several major news networks declared Bush’s victory in Florida. Bush won the state by more than 350,000 votes.
“A lot of what we thought were going to be tough fights turned out to be clear victories,” White House staffer Nate Kraft said.
Bush’s strong showing topped off a successful Election Day performance for the Republican Party. Republicans gained U.S. Senate seats in Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, while Democrats picked up Senate seats in Colorado and Illinois. In addition, as of early this morning, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle was behind by 8,000 votes in South Dakota.
Republicans also picked up six seats in the House of Representatives — five of them in Texas — and lost only one.
But for the most part, the presidential election did not reflect a major realignment of the nation’s politics. As in 2000, Bush swept the South and much of the Midwest, while Kerry maintained Gore’s strongholds in the Northeast and on the West Coast. Only New Hampshire had changed its vote by early this morning, with Kerry winning its four electoral votes.
Early on in the night, Bush campaign representatives said they were confident of success.
“We hope to have a clear victory,” RNC spokesman Yier Shi said. “We don’t anticipate any challenges.”
At 3 a.m. some Bush supporters expressed a wish for Kerry to concede.
“We’re waiting for Sen. Kerry to realize the handwriting is on the wall and that it is almost mathematically impossible for him to win at this point,” William Christian, an administrator for the University of Texas system, said.
The rally began at 8 p.m., when RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie came out to address the crowd of 4,000 guests and 1,500 members of the press. A minister blessed the campaign, and Gillespie led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
“There’s an unbelievable amount of unity and enthusiasm, not just for the party but for what we can do for the country,” said Trevor Oldham, a finance lawyer from Virginia.
Afterward, a series of musical acts — all country — took the stage, along with a couple of speakers. Country singer Mark Wills was the first to perform, followed by a speech by Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, who voiced his enthusiastic support of the President.
“This is a man you can trust 100 percent of the time,” Evans said.
By 8:30 p.m., the campaign’s large donors were sipping champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres in ballrooms off the main atrium.
As state results were announced, cheers accompanied Bush wins, while Kerry victories were greeted with silence. Especially loud cheers followed the announcement of Republican Senate victories in Kentucky and South Carolina.
Dedicated supporters said from the beginning that they planned to stay as long as it took until the election was conceded.
“I made it this far,” said Kathleen Cox, who worked at Bush’s national headquarters. “I’m not leaving.”
Prior to the election rally yesterday, Bush returned to his home in Crawford, Texas, to cast his vote. He then flew to Columbus, Ohio, for a final rally in the state, which he had visited for seven consecutive campaign days.
— Przymusinski reported from New Haven; Muskus reported from Washington.