San Diego Union Tribune

November 4, 2004

Lifelong goal eludes Kerry
Senator concedes to Bush, warns about 'the danger of division in our country'

By Otto Kreisher

BOSTON – With a voice choked with emotion, Sen. John Kerry conceded yesterday that the lofty goal he has pursued since his youth – the presidency – had been denied him.

Surrounded by equally emotional family members, friends and supporters in historic Faneuil Hall, where his campaign for the White House began nearly two years ago, Kerry said he had decided against challenging the close results in Ohio that gave President Bush the Electoral College total he needed for re-election.

"I would not give up this fight if there was a chance we would prevail," the Democratic presidential nominee said. "But it is now clear that even when all the provisional ballots are counted – which they will be – there won't be enough outstanding votes for us to be able to win Ohio, and therefore we cannot win this election."

The Massachusetts senator said he had called President Bush and congratulated him on his victory.

"We had a good conversation, and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today, I hope that we can begin the healing," he told the crowd.

Kerry went on to thank his supporters, struggling to get the words out.

His emotions were in sharp contrast with the clearly optimistic attitude he exhibited on arriving in his hometown barely 24 hours earlier.

"I am very confident that we made the case for change, the case for trust in new leadership, a new direction, a fresh start," Kerry had told a smaller crowd of supporters outside the nearby State House after casting his vote.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., listened as Sen. John Kerry delivered his concession speech yesterday at Faneuil Hall.
At that time, Kerry and his aides were buoyed by the news media's early exit polls and their own internal polling, campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told reporters yesterday.

"We felt very good about the way things were going," Cahill said.

Leaving nothing to chance, Kerry went to a downtown hotel and conducted 36 interviews with television stations in the critical battleground states before going to his Beacon Hill home for dinner with his family and Cahill, she said.

But when returns showed the vote in Florida moving more toward Bush than the exit polls had indicated, Cahill said she went back to their hotel workroom to monitor the action and to keep Kerry informed.

When the TV networks called Florida for Bush late in the evening, "all attention turned to Ohio," she said.

As Election Day turned into yesterday, Ohio's critical 20 Electoral College votes remained in limbo with Bush holding a lead of just over 100,000 votes but thousands of returns not reported and a large number of the "provisional ballots" cast by questionable voters uncounted.

At that time, Cahill said, "we thought we had 250,000 provisional ballots" that remained to be counted. In a telephone conversation with Kerry, they decided to send Sen. John Edwards, the vice presidential candidate, to make a brief statement to the supporters still enduring biting cold winds at an outdoor "celebration" in Copley Square.

Edwards said they were going to keep the campaign's promise that after the disputed Florida results of the 2000 election they would make sure every vote would be counted.

Kerry then went to bed about 2 a.m.

Cahill said they thought at that time they still "had a very good chance of winning" in Ohio and in enough of the remaining undecided states to win the election.

At Kerry's request, she said, "We prepared legal briefs overnight and were prepared to go into court to challenge the provisional ballots."

But, she continued, in the morning they got information from Ohio that there were no more than 140,000 provisional ballots, while Kerry was 135,000 votes behind Bush.

Kerry "immediately made the decision that he did not want to put the country through lengthy litigation," Cahill said.

The senator asked her to work out the details of his concession, she said.

"In America, it is vital that every vote count, and that every vote be counted," Kerry told the Faneuil Hall crowd. "But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process."

Although he was considered a favorite when he launched his bid for the Democratic nomination in December 2002, Kerry quickly was eclipsed by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. He turned it around in the Iowa caucus and swept aside a large field of rivals to clinch the nomination.

He then ran a campaign that came within perhaps 150,000 votes in Ohio of winning the office he had dreamed of for so long.

In conceding the end of that dream, Kerry vowed to continue working to bring the nation the unity it needs.

"I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask them, all of you, to join me in doing that," he said. "Now more than ever, with our soldiers in harm's way, we must stand together and succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror."

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