The White House says Ohio is theirs, though the long, tough race is still undecided

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated November 03, 2004 07:00 AM

The White House waited until 5:40 a.m. ET Wednesday morning to declare victory in the presidential race, with Andrew Card, the chief of staff, claiming Ohio as a Republican-win state that would give George W. Bush enough electoral votes to bring him to 269, just one shy of the 270 necessary for victory.

Card added that the President would wait until later Wednesday morning to address the nation “in an effort to allow Senator Kerry time to reflect” upon the election – which gave Bush a solid lead in the popular vote.

Only not so fast, is the word from the Democratic challenger John Kerry – who made no public appearance during election night but was said to have been visited at home by Sen. Edward Kennedy. Kerry planned not to make any announcement until at least 10 a.m.

“We will fight for every vote,” Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, told supporters in a scene eerily reminiscent of the Florida cliffhanger in 2000. Within hours, the Associated Press reports, a 10-person political and legal team from team Bush was dispatched to Ohio to brace for a Florida-like fight should the Kerry camp demand a recount in the hotly contested state.

Michigan, Wisconsin and New Hampshire appeared to go to Kerry, and an Ohio victory would put him over the 270 mark. It was being said that should the secretary of state certify the Ohio vote as a Bush victory before every vote is counted, Kerry’s campaign will file a lawsuit.

At the time of Card’s announcement, the nationwide count, with 96 percent of the nation’s precincts reporting, stood at 111 million people having voted – up from 105 million in 2000. Bush was winning the popular vote by nearly 4 million, or 51 percent, to Kerry’s 48 percent. Card said the Bush tally was the highest popular vote in the history of the United States.