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'It's a Victory for People Like Us'

"It's been rough. Very rough. I mean scraping by," Tara says. But "to us, the biggest things were the moral things."

Because of this, Tuesday came with what they both say was "a sense of urgency." They voted for Bush. They voted for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Cary went to bed toward midnight, when the outcome was not yet clear. Tara stayed up till 2:30, too nervous to sleep, mostly watching Fox News. An hour later, the alarm went off for the first time, and while Tara slept, Cary did what he always does -- tiptoe out, dress down the hall, eat a bowl of Wheaties, drive to the airport, fiddle with the radio, pray.

Cary and Tara Leslie, shown with their family, liked Bush because they felt he espoused moral values. (David Finkel -- The Washington Post)

By 7:30, when Tara awakened, Cary was already dealing with a number of customers wearing Kerry buttons, one of whom approached the counter singing a song about saving the world.

"We did that yesterday," Cary said to him. "What do you mean?" the man asked. "With the vote," Cary said, and as the customers kept coming, fleeing Ohio now that the election was settled, Tara was home-schooling the 5-year-old, and dressing the 3-year-old, and feeding the 6-month-old, and preparing the house so that when Cary walked in the front door after eight hours of whatever, he would know "that he's wanted. That he's home."

He walked in smiling, as he always tries to do, just as John F. Kerry was conceding defeat in faraway Boston, and an hour later, when Bush was declaring victory, he and Tara are in the thick of a day that would be the same no matter who won the election. A crying child with a bump on her head who needs a prayer. A neighbor who wants to borrow the minivan. A diaper that needs changing. A chair that the 5-year-old is trying to turn into a balance beam.

A typical day -- except with a particular hum to it that wasn't there the day before. The day before, they were the margins. Now they are the majority. "To know that he prays," Tara says of Bush, "and I really believe he does, that's a huge thing." The sanctity of marriage will be fine. The Supreme Court will be fine. The war on terror will be fine. The economy will be fine.

"It's not like a major euphoric outbreak," Cary says. "It's more like satisfaction."

"Validation," Tara says.

"I'm just kind of hopeful," Cary says.

"Definitely," Tara says.

A celebration, then, for two Bush votes as the next four years begin.

"Dear Lord," they say, one more time.

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