The Unfinished Election of 2000

By Jack N. Rakove | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION:
DANGLING QUESTIONS

JACK N. RAKOVE

It is a rare presidential election indeed when the two leading candidates both wage losing campaigns, but so it was in 2000. George W. Bush, the eventual winner, led in virtually every national poll conducted between the first televised debates in October and election eve. His staff was so confident of victory that in the closing days of the campaign they sent their candidate to California and New Jersey, states he had little chance to carry (or if he did carry, would not need because he would almost certainly be doing so well everywhere else). Yet Bush awoke on the morning after the election to discover that he was trailing in the national popular vote and clinging to a razor-thin margin in the decisive state of Florida. As recounts proceeded across the country and absentee ballots were tallied, Bush's initial national deficit of roughly a quarter million votes grew to more than half a million. Prior to the election, some Bush aides worried that the popular plurality they expected might not produce a majority in the electoral college; afterward, they had to remind Americans that the constitutional majority of electors was not the same thing as a popular majority of the electorate.

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