As polling places were closing across the country, the 2004 presidential race remained too close to call for Republican incumbent George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.
The vote counting was expected to go until late Tuesday night, if not Wednesday morning. At stake are several battleground states whose electoral votes will eventually decide who occupies the White House for the next four years.
By 9:45 p.m. Eastern time – with Bush having taken 18 states for 170 electoral votes to Kerry's 11 states and 112 electoral votes – the Bush family gathered to watch the election results on TV in the White House's Yellow Room.
The mood there was described as good, and during a photo op with the press, President Bush said, "I think I will win tonight. I think it will be over tonight."
Especially key are the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, with a combined 68 electoral votes – or one-fourth of the required goal of at least 270. In other closely watched races, Bush took West Virginia's five electoral votes, while Kerry won Maine's three. Not surprisingly, Texas went for Bush (its former governor) and New York for Kerry.
Exit polls suggested that slightly more voters preferred Bush to Kerry when it came to handling terrorism, while among those who expressed a concern about a terrorist strike, Kerry held a slight lead, reports the Associated Press.
As for the war in Iraq, most Americans said the situation was going poorly, which tipped the scales to Kerry – who also was drawing strongly from young voters.