HOPE IS ON THE WAY
On paper there was no person better suited to become President of the United States than John Kerry. The junior senator from Massachusetts was the ideal Presidential nominee. His gray, statesman-esque hair was perfectly trimmed. The wrinkles on his 65 year-old face were evidence of a long and distinguished career in the United States Senate. The biography of the Senator was thorough and genuinely ideal, especially for the Presidential Election of 2004. He was a war hero who received three purple hearts. As a veteran he fought for peace. As a Senator he fought for a stronger America. In reality, John Kerry should have had no problem defeating President George W. Bush - a man who wasn't known for choosing his words eloquently, someone with a history of drinking, and someone who had nowhere near the record as a veteran that John Kerry had achieved in Vietnam.
On the flip side, President George W. Bush should not have been involved in such a close battle for reelection. In late-2002 and much of 2003, most felt that the president was unbeatable. Some had suggested that Bush could carry almost as many states as Ronald Reagan in 1984 or Richard Nixon in 1972. The nation had overcome the worst terrorist attack in history and the image of George Bush standing on the rubble saying, "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" had yet to fade, and for good reason. In the wake of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks, George W. Bush gave America the response everyone wanted to see: a strong Commander-in-Chief who was ready to kick some ass. Not long after, America was ready to explore its options.
When the United States invaded Iraq to prevent the building of weapons of mass destruction, Americans were supportive, but soon those weapons didn't exist. The people had been told that the United States would not be alone - that there would be a coalition. Later, America defied the United Nations and became, basically, the only nation in the coalition. Though there was help from other nations, Americans bore almost all of the expenses and almost all of the lost lives. When the United States had the chance to kill Osama bin Laden, President Bush opted to allow others go in after him. When Saddam Hussein fell, the United States stayed the course in Iraq. And even after the mission was declared accomplished, the President announced we would stay the course.
The 2004 Presidential Election was bizarre. The defining issue was the War in Iraq. The Democratic Nominee was supposed to be Howard Dean, the most outspoken anti-war candidate on the stage. Everyone else seemed to be running for second. In December of 2003, a national poll by CBS showed John Kerry getting 4% of the vote. Howard Dean polled first with 23% while Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark tied for second, each getting 10%. Soon, the race was turned on its head. John Kerry won the Iowa Caucuses almost one month after the CBS Poll, Howard Dean's post-Iowa speech was ridiculed as the "I have a scream" speech after screaming in a high-pitch to supporters, and Kerry secured a victory in the New Hampshire Primary on January 27th. On February 18th, Howard Dean was out of the race. Just weeks later John Kerry secured enough delegates to become the presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee.
As the general election approached the voters were undecided. Kerry was attacked for being a flip-flopper while Bush was attacked for not doing enough. After the conventions and the debates ended the polls showed a tight race, it would come down to Ohio.
On Election Day 2004 the candidates voted themselves and waited anxiously for the polls to close and the results to start coming in. The media was abuzz, the possibility of a dragged-out recount much like that of 2000 was being openly talked about. The stakes were high and the future of the nation was on the line. In Ohio, reporters covered almost every polling place. Exit poll data was collected from a variety of people from all different races, political affiliations, and socioeconomic groups. The media wanted to know exactly how the 2004 Presidential Election would turn out, the events that happened in Florida four years earlier had forever changed American politics.
The events leading up to the day had been unpredictable. Everything from Kerry's lack of a convention bounce to the ads run by "Swift Boat Veterans For Truth" - it all pointed to one of the more unusual presidential elections in history, but that was all in the past. The time had come for the United States to choose a President. With a world at war, all eyes were on the United States as the voters went to the polls to make their decision. It was Decision Night in America and John Kerry was optimistic about his chances.
Equally optimistic was George W. Bush and his team. Karl Rove later recalled the mood as "anxious" and said that the President was "cautiously optimistic" going into Election Night. Senator Kerry appeared in an interview on one of the morning shows, urging all voters to get out and cast their ballot but maintaining he was optimistic about victory. "Hope," he declared, "is on the way!" It was a chant that spread across the Democratic Convention that had transformed into a rallying cry for Democrats across the nation. Late that day, around 7:00 in the evening, the polls began to close in parts of the nation and all Americans were on their seats, ready to see what democracy had in store for them.