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The night the election wasn’t won

On Election Night 2000, I was assistant managing editor/nights and in charge for the most unnerving night in American political history. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore were locked in a too-close-to-call race. When the polls closed in Florida, national media were calling the state, and likely the presidency, for Gore.

Not so fast.

By 10 p.m. the TV networks were taking down their projections. As Florida’s votes trickled in, Bush went ahead. Shortly after 2 a.m. new projections called Bush the victor.

In the Herald newsroom it was late, very late, but the stories and pages were finished, the headline proclaimed, “BUSH WINS IT,” and the press run started.

Not so fast — again.

The margin between Bush and Gore kept narrowing. Within an hour Florida’s results were being questioned again and soon deemed too close to call.

Then I made a phone call that usually only happens in the movies. “We have to stop,” I told the pressroom supervisor, sparing him from the more scripted version of the line.

Well into the wee hours of the morning, we finished another front page with a headline I wrote: “NOT OVER YET.” And that headline remained true for an epic 37 days until the Supreme Court ruled, the recount was stopped and Bush did, indeed, win it.