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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 18:17 GMT
Gore's night of drama
Gore supporters in Tennessee
Mr Gore's supporters celebrated victory prematurely
By David Willis in Nashville and BBC News Online's Russell Smith

The atmosphere at Al Gore's campaign headquarters in Nashville has vacillated wildly from joy to despair and has now swung back to one of tentative hope.

During a long night of unprecedented political confusion, the tide of victory has ebbed and flowed between Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W Bush.

And Mr Gore was within a whisker of announcing to the world that he had lost the election.

The cause of the uncertainty has been the desire by America's competing television networks to call the result of what has been the closest presidential race for decades, long before all the votes were actually counted.

The confusion began when the networks claimed that the vice-president had taken Florida.

But that claim was later retracted because it was felt that the result was too close to call.

Bad omens

Mr Gore's spokesman came out to say that victory would be all the sweeter when it was announced the second time around.

Gore supporter
Desolation after bad news from Florida
He confidently predicted that Mr Gore would take Florida, but then when it did not happen, it was greeted with absolute disappointment in the pouring rain.

Just as the storm clouds were gathering over Mr Gore's presidential hopes, a nasty weather front was closing in on Nashville.

Hundreds of Mr Gore's supporters were drenched by a thunderstorm as they waited for him to concede defeat or possibly call for some sort of recount in Florida.

Then the networks declared Governor Bush the winner in Florida, giving him the 270 electoral college votes needed to claim the White House.

Close to conceding

The crowds were shocked and silent in the pouring rain.

Democrat supporter prays
And with hope returned are left with a prayer
Mr Gore phoned Governor Bush to offer congratulations and was being driven to Nashville's main square to make his concession official.

But when he was just two blocks away one of his staff was paged with the news that there were fewer votes dividing the two men in Florida than earlier thought and that state electoral law would mean a recount.

In an instant Mr Gore had gone from being a loser to a contender once again.

Back in the race

He made a second phone call to the Governor's mansion in Texas at about 0330 EST (0830 GMT) where the celebrations were already underway.

Mr Gore was heard by an aide to tell Governor Bush: "Circumstances have changed since I first called you."

"We have now learned we are down by only about 600 votes out of millions cast and that means an automatic recount."

"I need to withdraw my concession until the situation is clear,'" the aide quoted Mr Gore as saying.

Governor Bush, first president-elect and then back to plain old governor again, reportedly replied that Mr Gore had to do what he had to do.

The remarkable change in Democratic fortunes was then broken to the thousands waiting in the pouring rain in Nashville's main square.

Hope had returned for the Democrats.


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