Father and son Bush scold the media

Jake Tapper follows the Republican candidate as he votes and awaits the results.

By Jake Tapper

Published November 7, 2000 7:45PM (EST)

9:50 p.m."Nervous and proud," former President George Bush says of his mood, sitting with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law in the upstairs living room of the Governor's mansion, watching the returns come in.

He leaves out wise.

Bush Sr. remembers something few of us do when his son, Gov. George W. Bush, is cautioning the world not to take too seriously the networks' projections that Florida has been won by Vice President Al Gore.

Before the networks recant their projection, some of us in the press corps think that Bush Jr. is just trying to ensure that his West Coast supporters don't stay at home.

But Bush Sr. remembers another time that predictions were dead wrong about the Sunshine state. "Happened once before," he says. "In a Senate race."

Right he is. In 1988, Republican Sen. Connie Mack was challenged by Democratic Rep. Buddy MacKay.

The headline of some editions of the Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner: "Hey Buddy, you're a senator."

Not so fast. After 3.9 million votes came in that Election Day, the media projected MacKay the winner. But when results from the 134,000 absentee ballots came in, it turned out that Mack had won.


9:15 p.m. CST: When we walk into the upstairs living room of the governor's mansion, Gov. George W. Bush is on the phone with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

"We're not conceding anything until we see the actual vote," Bush says to Ridge. "Tom, I appreciate your calling."

He hangs up.

"I think America ought to wait until all the votes are counted," Bush says to us. "I don't believe the projections," he says, about both Pennsylvania and Florida, where his younger brother, Jeb, is governor.

"In states like Florida, I'm gonna wait for them to call all the votes," he says.

And indeed, just a few moments later, CNN -- the channel they're watching -- takes Florida out of the column of Vice President Al Gore, and puts it back under "Too close to call."

Bush has his jacket off, and is sitting between his wife, Laura, and mother, Barbara. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, is leaning back on the sofa, gripping his hands, legs crossed.

"I'm pretty darn upbeat about things," he says. "I don't believe some of these states they've called."

His father is asked if this is anything like the mood in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton.

"Helluva lot worse," the elder Bush says.

"Ditto," Barbara Bush says.

Bush is asked why he changed plans, fleeing the Four Seasons to watch the returns at home.

"It's very hard to be intimate with 100 kids running around," Barbara Bush says.

"I'm pleased to carry Tennessee," Bush says. "That's an interesting development."

A reporter, Frank Bruni of the New York Times, asks what that might say about Gore, that he would lose his home state. But he directs the question to Bush's occasionally sharp-tongued mother.

"Bruni, you're just trying to stir up trouble on national TV," Bush says. "It's gonna be a long night. Which is exciting."

"Looks like we're leading," Bush says. "185-182."

Within a half hour, Bush is up even further, 217 electoral votes to Gore's 167. He wins swing states like Missouri, West Virginia and New Hampshire. He's only 53 electoral votes away from the big enchilada.

On Congress Street, a guitarist takes the stage and the party finally begins.

7:35 p.m.: Though the race is still too close to call, there appears to be panic in the camp of Texas Gov. George W. Bush. In a sudden turnabout, Bush abandons plans to watch the election returns from a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin and instead opts to run for the cover of the governor's mansion.

"He preferred to be at home," says his aide, Gordon Johndroe. "He found his house was more relaxing than the hotel where there was a lot of activity." As preparations are made to bus the small pool of reporters and cameramen assigned to cover the governor over to the mansion, news comes via cellphone that one of the networks is about to call Pennsylvania for Vice President Al Gore, filling the last third of the Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania trifecta that is essential to any Gore victory.

"He's in retreat, he's running home," a senior Democratic official says by phone.

Not so fast: Gore still needs to carry his projected states plus at least one or two of the second-tier swing states before he gets the prize. That task, however, now looks far more attainable than it has at any time in the past month.

6:09 p.m.: Led by five Austin policemen on motorcycles, one cop car and two SUVs, all brimming with Secret Service agents, the Bush brood pulls up to the Shoreline Bar and Grill. The polls in four states have closed, with Gov. George W. Bush the projected winner in most of them. As the governor exits his Cadillac and straightens his tie, he has 28 electoral votes to Vice President Al Gore's three.

Bush's parents, wife and brother Jeb, the governor of Florida, whose own crucial state's polls closed only minutes before, get out of the car as well. "You won New Hampshire," one reporter yells. "What's that?" Bush asks, cupping his hands behind his left ear, Ronald Reagan style. "You won New Hampshire," the reporter repeats. "That's good," Bush says. "Thanks." He flashes a thumbs up.

In fact, many reports have New Hampshire as of that moment in the too-close-to-call column. Other questions are barked out: "How do you think you're doing?" is one of them. But Bush still can't hear. He jokingly says that his aide-de-camp, Logan Walters, will relay all questions to him. But then he decides he'll just give the one and only answer he has as of this minute. "I think we're doing fine," he says, before walking down the concrete steps to the restaurant.

10:30 a.m. CST: It's pouring rain here, but Gov. George W. Bush's mood is fair and mild.

At the governor's mansion, an aide tells the press, Bush wakes at 6:30 Tuesday morning, getting four or five hours of sleep. After a night of feeling "pretty wound up after the rally" in Austin late Monday, Bush feeds his two cats and his dog, Spot, brews the coffee and brings up a cup for his wife, Laura.

He phones up his dad, the former president, and his mom, the former first lady, in Houston. They'll be traveling to Austin later today, where the whole Bush brood -- Florida Gov. Jeb, S&L scandalmonger Neil, Bush DUI underage passenger Dorothy, fifth Beatle Marvin -- will convene to watch the election returns at the Four Seasons.

George and Barbara Bush are nervous. Their son tells them to relax. Bush reads some Bible, calls some Republicans, phones into some radio stations in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Cowboy boots on, he invites the press into his downstairs living room.

"It was a long day yesterday, but I feel great," he says. "They're nervous," he says of his folks. For his part, he feels "calm." He says he can identify with his parents' nervousness: "It's much harder to be the loved one than to be the candidate. I experienced that in 1988 and 1992.

"Let me see if you got this by now: I trust the people," he jokes, repeating one of his stump speech mantras. "We poured our hearts and souls into this campaign."

A grandfather clock chimes, interrupting his remarks.

"I'm excited," Bush says. "I'm getting ready to go to the polls myself. I'm a decided voter." Laura's calm, he says, "very relaxed. She knows that we gave it our best."

Is Jeb Bush nervous?

"If he is, he's not going to admit it," Bush says. His cat Ernie "doesn't seem to be too bothered."

Reporters start pelting him with questions. Does large turnout help?

"You need to talk to the all the pundits and all the experts and pollsters and spin-meisters," Bush says. "You'll get every answer you want to that question." He demurs when asked about how he's going to vote on a local light-rail provision on the ballot.

He says that a trip to Teen Challenge in Colfax, Iowa, was one of the highlights of the past year. "Even the low points turned out to be positive," he says.

For the benefit of the cameras, Bush makes some calls to supporters -- a medical sales representative in Orlando, Fla., and a stay-at-home mom in Detroit. The mom puts her 14-year-old son, Phillip, on the phone. He's home sick. "I've got some advice for you. Want to hear it?" Bush asks. "Always listen to your mother ... I'm able to give you that advice to listen to your mother because I'm still listening to mine."

At 10:30 a.m., George and Laura Bush hop into their sport utility vehicle to go to the Travis County Courthouse to vote.

Laura is asked how she feels. "Nervous," she says, putting her hand on her tummy to indicate some agitation.

Bush is asked the same thing. "Hanging in there," he says.

He takes a yellow ballot, goes into a voting booth, strolls out and puts his ballot into a gray box. Ten minutes in and out, and then he's back in the SUV.

The rain is unrelenting.

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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