"A little drama for you," Mark McKinnon, the media advisor to Gov. George W. Bush, says to me, smiling, as he makes his way into the celebration being held on rain-soaked Congress Street. "A little drama."
McKinnon doesn't know the half of it.
He jokes with me shortly after CNN calls Florida, and thus the election, for Bush. At 2:17 a.m. EST.
Bush 271 electoral votes, Gore 249.
Soon after that, Vice President Al Gore concedes the election to Bush. We wait for Gore to appear on the steps of the War Memorial in Nashville to concede to the world.
We wait. And wait.
We wonder when Bush will show up downtown to declare victory.
We wait. And wait.
Shortly after that, it's reported that Bush only won Florida by a few hundred votes. Florida law requires a recount if the victory is by less than one-half of 1 percent.
Shortly after that, Gore calls up Bush and recants his concession.
Bush, an aide tells CBS, finds Gore's recanting "unbelievable."
NBC soon declares Florida "too close to call." On CNN, the checkmark remains by Bush's name.
At 4:05 a.m., CNN removes the checkmark -- and Florida's 25 electoral votes -- from Bush's name. The electoral count becomes Gore 249, Bush 246.
A few minutes later, Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley says that he's "been in politics for very long time, but I've never seen a night like this." (Presumably, that doesn't include the night in 1960 when Daley's dad helped JFK steal the election from Richard Nixon.)
The networks called the election, Daley said, but "it now appears that their call was premature. Until the result is official, our campaign continues," he says to cheers.
Daley says that Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., are ready to concede -- but only after the Florida tally is official.
Gore and Lieberman go back to their hotel. And America waits on the edge of its seat.