Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supporters Get More to Cheer About: A Bush Lead; Republicans Hope Their Man Will Win State by Wide Majority to Avoid Accusations like in 2000

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Supporters Get More to Cheer About: A Bush Lead; Republicans Hope Their Man Will Win State by Wide Majority to Avoid Accusations like in 2000

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY, The Times-Union

For most of Tuesday evening, Griffin Decker paced in front of a big-screen television as election results started trickling in.

If he looked a little nervous at the beginning of the evening, he wasn't by midnight, when he and other Bush supporters attending the Duval County Republicans watch party were cheering more frequently.

"This has the potential to be a far wider victory than expected, which gives him [Bush] the legitimacy he was accused of lacking" after the 2000 presidential race, said Decker, a 25-year-old Southside resident.

He made those comments moments after a cable news network announced that Bush was leading his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, in Ohio and Florida.

Before the major networks finally called the Sunshine State for the president, other Republicans were starting to sound pretty sure of themselves and their man for president.

"The good news is . . . Florida is going George Bush because of team Northeast Florida," said Duval County Republican Chairman Mike Hightower, who also is the Bush-Cheney chairman for the region.

Hightower gathered with fellow Republicans at the Leopard Lounge and Plush, connected night clubs located on University Boulevard in Arlington.

While the party had a more conservative tone earlier in the evening, it was getting boisterous as President Bush's numbers started looking better.

Thanks to Nassau, Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties, Hightower said, "George W. Bush is going to carry Florida."

Just minutes before that, Democrats gathered at the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel and Convention Center downtown cheered wildly when one of the major networks announced that Florida Democratic senate candidate Betty Castor was neck-and-neck with her GOP opponent, Mel Martinez.

The good news, Duval County Democratic Party Chairman Clyde Collins said, was that Castor "appears to be leading despite the ruthless, negative campaigning by Martinez."

Earlier in the evening, with election results barely trickling in, Jacksonville's Republicans and Democrats were finding plenty to cheer about, plenty to boo and, in some cases, a few things to worry about. …

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