Counting votes but not chickens in Tennessee

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The Independent US

For so long it had seemed impossible. But last night at Al Gore's campaign headquarters, and among an ever growing throng on the streets ofNashville, the conviction was growing: the Vice-President and Tennessee's own son was going to become the 43rd President of the United States.

For so long it had seemed impossible. But last night at Al Gore's campaign headquarters, and among an ever growing throng on the streets ofNashville, the conviction was growing: the Vice-President and Tennessee's own son was going to become the 43rd President of the United States.

No one was counting their chickens. And Doug Hattaway, the Gore campaign spokesman, insisted the election was still undecided. "This is the first election in 30 years which will be decided on the West Coast. We're urging voters to get out and support us."

The Vice-President, after an interlude to cheer the possibly decisive Gore victory in Florida, went back to working the phones in states such as Arizona, New Mexico, and California, where the polls were still open. But the quiet confidence of Mr Hattaway's face left no doubt of his belief the game was almost won.

At the campaign headquarters hotel, wild bouts of cheering broke out as one important battleground state after another was called by the TV channels for Mr Gore - first Florida, then Michigan, then Pennsylvania, where the Gore campaign sent the civil rights leader Jessie Jackson on a special election-day mission to get out the black vote. The move appeared to have paid off.

Outside the headquarters, crowds were beginning to gather in Veteran's Plaza, it's backdrop the Tennessee State Capitol, where the mood was growing more upbeat by the minute. Gospel and Country and Western Music was on the programme to be followed - if all went well - by an appearance from Mr Gore himself and his running mate Joe Lieberman.

But all the while the Gore team was working to get Democrat voters out. "This race is still a toss-up in many of the mountain and western states," Mr Hattaway said.

Meanwhile, souvenir sellers were girding up for a night's business in campaign paraphernalia including badges mocking Governor Bush - "read my lips, no more Texans" - a reference to the ill-judged pledge not to raise taxes given by his father and which is reckoned to have cost him the election against Bill Clinton in 1992.

It was clear here that if MrGore wins, he will owe a huge debt to the unions and their leader John Sweeney, whose get-out the vote drive among members and retired members, by phone-bank and e-mail may have tipped the balance in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.

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