'It's crazy. It was a great election. And it still is'

Voters' Stories
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Americans woke up yesterday incredulous to learn that the tightest run presidential race in decades was still all to play for. "Am I dreaming?" said Mary Houle, a supporter of Vice-President Al Gore, as she stopped to buy bagels and coffee on her way to work in Springfield Massachussetts.

Americans woke up yesterday incredulous to learn that the tightest run presidential race in decades was still all to play for. "Am I dreaming?" said Mary Houle, a supporter of Vice-President Al Gore, as she stopped to buy bagels and coffee on her way to work in Springfield Massachussetts.

"I stayed up until 2am. I didn't go to bed until the television networks said Mr Bush won. I was so down I didn't even turn the radio on until I was driving in to work, because I didn't want to hear Mr Bush. And then I find out that's it's not over after all," she said.

In the streets of Washington DC office workers expressed their surprise. But there was also anger at the confusion generated by the TV news networks.

Others railed against the electoral-college voting system, which could mean that despite a convincing majority of popular votes Al Gore will not take the White House.

"Something is fishy. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," said Cara Hunter, a 40-year-old African-American boutique manager.

Ms Hunter called Mr Bush a "puppet who can't deliver." "Bush has no experience in Congress, no experience on a national level or globally, and pretty much no experience at all," she said.

"It's crazy," said Edward Kiley, a 52-year-old lawyer. "I've never seen anything like that."

The thin margin between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Mr Kiley added, would make it difficult to get any legislation passed.

Jonathan Morgan, a 29-year-old marketing coordinator, went to bed at shortly after midnight when the election was still up in the air.

"It was a great election, and it still is," he said, forecasting a Bush victory, thanks to absentee votes from US overseas military personnel, who typically vote Republican.

But he criticised the American media for putting out early results and then retracting them. "News channels should have waited for final results," he said.

Chris Suever, 43, left her television on through the night. "It's a little frustrating that we still don't know the winner," said Suever, who also thought it wrong that the popular and electoral college votes might not match. "I expected Bush to take Pennsylvania. I was surprised he didn't."

And even seasoned political operators like Mr Gore's campaign chairman, William Daley, admitted they had never seen anything like it. "Now, let me say, I've been in politics a very long time, but I don't think there's ever been a night like this one," said Daley.

Film-maker Rob Reiner, a Gore supporter, told CNN: "This is one of the strangest nights in the history of American politics. "We had two of these moments tonight where we basically said 'Dewey wins'", a reference to the 1948 headlines that gave Republican Thomas Dewey the presidency, when in fact Democrat Harry Truman had.

"Unbelievable," sighed Bush adviser Karen Hughes. "It was an incredible political spectacle by any standard."

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