Due to a production error, several lines of type were missing in some editions from the Feb. 3 installment of the "Deadlock" series. The affected paragraph should have read: "With scarcely a murmur, eight judges and their assistants hunkered down to tally the roughly 9,000 undervotes left unstudied when the Miami-Dade canvassing board halted its recount on Thanksgiving eve. And so it went all over Florida. In Austin, Hughes felt her stomach sink as she watched on television. 'Well,' she thought, 'once again, we're counting votes.'" In the same article, a reference to when Al Gore's father lost his Senate seat was incorrect. It was 30 years ago. (Published 2/4/01) In Part 7 of the Deadlock series, which appeared Feb. 3, a sequence of events was mistakenly compressed. The final U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Florida recount case came down Dec. 12, the day after the court heard oral arguments in the case. In the same article, the first name of Ohio State law professor Richard Cordray was also incorrect. (Published 2/6/01)

Seventh in a series

Bright and early Saturday morning, Dec. 9, the phone rang at Karen Hughes's house. George W. Bush was on the line. The Texas governor relied on Hughes for advice and friendship, and he often began her day with a call at dawn. "Have we won yet?" Bush asked.

Bush considered morale one of his most important jobs. Routinely during the Battle for Florida, he placed calls to people who were doing a good job pursuing his cause. After Supreme Court arguments he called his constitutional lawyer, Ted Olson, to say thanks. When a Democrat from Tallahassee, Barry Richard, did a good job for him in court, Bush called the man's house and had to convince his wife that, yes, this really was George W. Bush. On Thanksgiving Day, Bush phoned a large group of loyalists sharing holiday dinner far from home.

So here he was, the former prep school cheerleader, trying to start a bad day on an up note for his communications director. In these waning days of the election dispute, Bush became "fully engaged," he said later. "I've got a lot of Lyndon Johnson in me, I guess. I'm on that phone: What does it mean? What are you seeing? What are you hearing?"

Bush also called Josh Bolten, his campaign policy director, who was working with James A. Baker III in Florida. Bolten gave him a pessimistic report. "I told him that counting was bad for us from a PR standpoint," Bolten remembered, "because it posed the risk that at some point Bush would fall into deficit and then we'd have serious public relations problems."

In Florida that Saturday morning, officials in nearly every county were preparing to start scrutinizing ballots, looking for uncounted votes that might just tip the election to Al Gore. When Bush called Hughes and asked if he had won, she wondered if she had missed some big event overnight. "Not that I'm aware of yet, sir," she hedged.

Hughes wasn't in a jocular mood. On Friday afternoon, Gore had been on the mat. Now, thanks to the Florida Supreme Court, he was back where he wanted to be -- counting ballots.

Nearly five weeks after the election ended in a virtual tie, an election supervisor in Leon County named Ion Sancho stood up in the community room of the county public library and said simply: "The process may begin."

With scarcely a murmur, eight judges and their assistants hunkered down to tally the roughly 9,000 undervotes left unstudied when the Miami-Dade canvassing board halted its recount on Thanksgiving eve. And so it went all over Florida. In Austin, Hughes felt her stomach sink as she watched on television. "Well," she thought, "once again, we're counting votes."

But no one had much chance to contemplate the matter. At 2:40 p.m., CNN reported that the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered an immediate halt to the effort. Gore was on the phone with lawyer Ron Klain when the news broke. It was the vice president's lowest moment.

In Tallahassee, the chief local judge, George Reynolds, confirmed the news and issued his order 12 minutes later. At 3 p.m., court spokesman Terre Cass was once more at the microphones: "We have stayed the recount," she said.

The simmering divisions in the U.S. Supreme Court had boiled over. The stay order -- and the related decision to hear oral arguments on the Bush appeal on Monday, Dec. 11 -- was issued on a 5 to 4 vote, perfectly splitting the court's most conservative members from its most liberal ones.

This dispute had always felt like a lost cause to Gore campaign chairman William Daley, and the court's action just confirmed it. He called Gore.

"He was shocked," Daley recalled. "In spite of some people saying that they thought the court would do the political thing, I think he wanted to believe they wouldn't. . . . So when they really did, he was genuinely surprised by that."

Daley was not. The son of the legendary Chicago mayor was no legal scholar, but he knew how to count votes. And so he told Gore: "Forget it. Five Republicans. We're going right in the tank." The decision by five Supreme Court conservatives, all appointed by Republican presidents, was enough to convince Daley that the die was cast. "They don't have to explain it to anybody, okay?" he told Gore. "They just have to write it, okay? All they have to do is find a way to say The End, and it's the end."

Gore disagreed. The issue of state sovereignty would surely peel off at least one conservative, he believed. After spending their whole careers arguing that federal courts should defer to the states, how could the rightward justices turn on a dime to overrule the Florida court?

"Forget it," Daley repeated.

In Tallahassee, Klain and David Boies, the leaders of Gore's legal team, called a quick news conference. The reporters turned to Boies. What about the Dec. 12 deadline for choosing electors -- now less than 80 hours from expiring? When the Florida justices started talking, back in mid-November, about a deadline weeks in the future, Boies greeted it as a lifeline. Now, as one senior Gore lawyer put it, the date loomed "like a tiger trap."

The court, said Boies, "has created a very serious issue as to whether that count can fully be completed or not by December 12th."

At Bush's Tallahassee headquarters, the stay was greeted with jubilation. Lawyers shouted and hugged and signed copies of the stay order like pages in a high school yearbook.

"It's great news," campaign chairman Don Evans told Bush in a phone call. But even if the counting resumed, he added, the standards being applied were quite acceptable to the Bush team. The way the precincts were going in the Miami-Dade hand count gave him rising confidence that Bush would not lose votes in that county. "We'll win the count if the count continues," he assured Bush, though his view was not shared by everyone on the Bush team.

But Bush was feeling pretty good about things. The governor decided it was time to head back to Austin. Time to get ready for the endgame.

No Limelight for Tribe One of the most substantial differences between George W. Bush and Al Gore -- evident in the campaign, but now vivid in the election dispute -- was the extent to which the two men tinker. Bush is reluctant to revisit decisions after he has made one he likes. Gore, on the other hand, was constantly revisiting his options.

Although the chaos of Florida never permitted anything remotely like long-term planning, the Bush team came pretty close to that goal. There was a political operation, run in Florida by Joe Allbaugh, alternating with Don Evans. There was a separate legal operation, divided into several divisions. One team, led by Barry Richard, handled the main cases in state court; smaller teams handled the ancillary state issues, such as military ballots; and a separate team, led by Ted Olson and George Terwilliger, handled the federal case -- with help from grinds and eggheads across the country. Bush had a general counsel, Ben Ginsberg, and he had a chairman of the whole Florida effort, Baker.

Gore's organization, by contrast, devolved in certain ways over time. True, Ron Klain was always in the Tallahassee control tower, and in the early days he put together quite an efficient team of local lawyers scattered through South Florida. But as the case matured, more and more responsibility settled on one man, David Boies, who ultimately would argue Gore's cause at every level of the process, from county canvassing board to U.S. Supreme Court.

Boies became the most quoted spokesman for the campaign; he shuttled from courtroom to courtroom -- and at the last possible moment, he took over the federal case too, and had to try to master in a matter of hours territory that Bush's federal team had been marking for weeks.

This happened because Gore decided to tinker. Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the recount and scheduled oral argument, Gore gathered his key legal advisers, in person and by phone, at his residence in Northwest Washington. Warren Christopher was there, along with Daley and Duke law professor Walter Dellinger; Klain was on the line from Tallahassee. Notably absent was Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, who had been nominally in charge, with Klain, of the federal case since the first week of the dispute.

On Friday, Dec. 8, Tribe had been teaching a legal seminar when news arrived of the Florida Supreme Court victory. He called Klain, one of his star students from earlier years, to ask what role he would play in the new appeal. Klain asked Tribe to get to work right away on a brief for the inevitable Bush appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tribe started Saturday working at home, but when the stay was ordered, he hopped a plane to Washington and checked into a suite at the Watergate Hotel. There, he resumed his frantic work -- with help from his vast network of former students, and Tom Goldstein, a ferocious workhorse, a self-made Supreme Court authority and, interestingly, a former associate at David Boies's firm.

On Saturday evening, Goldstein called Tribe at the Watergate. Warren Christopher wants to come see you, he said. Figuring that he was going to receive a pep talk from the elder statesman, Tribe said, sure, have Chris come on over.

During the conference at Gore's house, attention had quickly settled on the question of who should argue the vice president's case. Klain was loyally and emphatically for Tribe. But Gore had misgivings about the job Tribe had done in the first Supreme Court hearing on the election dispute. Many commentators judged the lawyer to have been glib, condescending and -- on the key case of McPherson v. Blacker -- unprepared. The initial Bush appeal had been a suit that all the law school professors said the court would never take, yet when the justices decided it, the result -- though mild -- was more favorable to Bush than to Gore. Maybe, Gore had thought, a different lawyer would have gotten a better result.

Dellinger, a longtime rival of Tribe (both men, among other conflicts, harbored ambitions of becoming Supreme Court justices themselves), underscored Gore's feelings. The upcoming oral argument, he suggested, was certain to focus on the nuts and bolts of the Florida situation. Gore would be better served by a man who knew every nuance: Boies. Christopher concurred. The vice president dispatched his gray eminence to the Watergate.

Christopher settled lightly onto the sofa in Tribe's room. "I have some news to deliver that is not going to be very pleasant," Christopher said, as Tribe recalled it. "I've learned that when you have a hard message, it is best to come out and say it."

Tribe began to think this was not going to be a pep talk.

"The vice president has decided that David Boies should do the argument," Christopher said. "The vice president is a very decisive man, and when he makes up his mind about something like this, he doesn't change it." Christopher expressed his admiration for Tribe's advocacy. "But this is about Florida law and not constitutional law, and it will be better to have someone who has been on the ground."

Tribe was shocked and deflated, but he tried not to show it. "I think I maintained about as poker a face as he did," Tribe said later. He was not convinced by Christopher's explanation. After all, Supreme Court justices always care about constitutional issues, he thought.

"It seemed to me that a decision had been made by the client, and there was not any point in trying to shake it," Tribe explained later. The two men agreed that Tribe should finish the brief.

The former secretary of state thanked Tribe, collected his overcoat and left the room. Soon, the phone rang again. It was Gore, calling to thank Tribe for being agreeable. "You made it very easy for Chris," he said. "But this is a Florida matter," the vice president told him.

The phone rang again. This time it was Boies. "I'm sorry that it worked out this way. You should be doing it," he said. They arranged for Boies to visit Tribe a little after noon on Sunday. But when he arrived at the suite, Boies found the professor working frantically to meet a 4 p.m. deadline for filing Gore's brief. Boies dived in and started proofreading pages. They made the deadline, barely, then spent about two hours going over questions Boies might face the next morning. They finished around 7 p.m.

Two hours.

Ted Olson was also in Washington that day, winding up the last day of nearly five weeks of preparation for this moment.

In the stay, Antonin Scalia had noted that five justices were leaning toward Bush. If Olson could hold on to them, he would win. Boies's mission boiled down to changing one vote, and to accomplish that he first had to figure out which one. "You had to work on the assumption that there was no way you were going to get [Clarence] Thomas, [Chief Justice William] Rehnquist or Scalia," Boies said later. That left either Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice in the court's history, or Anthony Kennedy, arguably the court's most quintessential swing vote.

As the parties lined up at their seats Monday morning and stood for the justices filing into the courtroom, Boies felt that his case was a long shot indeed. Larry Tribe was not sitting with him. After being bumped from the oral argument, Tribe's only request was that he be allowed to skip the public appearance. Instead, he boarded a plane to meet his wife in South Florida, where he kept a second home.

Confusion From the Court Ninety minutes after the arguments began, Rehnquist said brusquely: "The case is submitted." The marshal rapped his gavel, and a long day of waiting began.

Early evening, still no word. In Austin, George W. Bush climbed into bed. His destiny was hanging, but he was a man of routines. He snapped on the bedside television, and waited. In Washington, Al Gore worked on an op-ed article for the New York Times justifying his fight and dined with film director Rob Reiner, an ardent supporter. The house was full of family: Gore and his wife, Tipper, three of their four children -- Kristin, Sarah and Albert -- Gore's best friend and brother-in-law Frank Hunger, and Gayle Romansky, Tipper's cousin.

Throughout dinner, Gore kept receiving messages on the tiny e-mail transmitter that was his favorite new gadget. Ever since the Supreme Court stopped the counting, and Daley said, "Forget it," Gore had been bracing for the end. The long day of waiting for an opinion further drained his hopes.

The heads-up came about 10 p.m. A decision was imminent. Within minutes, the television producers burst from the court's side entrance, the one nearest the clerk's office, and sprinted toward the cameras. And as all America watched, the correspondents began reading the 65-page parcel and commenting as they went. Very quickly, they bogged down.

What the court had produced was an unlovely and hastily composed pile of opinions, dissents, half-agreements and bitter recriminations. There was a per curiam order, an unsigned statement for the court -- this was the binding order. The three conservatives had concurred, but added more fuel. There were dissents signed by Breyer and Souter -- yet they also appeared to have joined the per curiam. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens had filed their own dissents.

What did it all mean?

Bush watched from his bed, then hauled himself out to work the phones. The scene on his TV set reminded him of the night more than a month before when reporters struggled to understand a jumbled story even as the cameras rolled. "It was hectic and chaotic and it was as much about the news broadcasters getting the story first as it was understanding the story and reporting it," he said later.

Campaign chairman Don Evans called from Tallahassee. "Find Olson," Bush said. "Find out if we won."

Bush's father, the former president, called next. "What does this mean?" he asked.

"I think we won," answered the son. "I think this is a victory."

"Call me back when you get something," his dad said. Then everyone was phoning from everywhere at once. Karl Rove, Bush's political guru, was in McLean, Va. -- the GOP Georgetown. He dialed in, desperate for analysis. Bush called Bolten at the Austin headquarters. "I told him, 'I read this as closing the door,' " Bolten said. "He was not exultant. He didn't even sound happy. He was interested in the dissents. He was plainly interested in how the American people would feel."

Jeb Bush phoned Austin, but he didn't connect with W. through the cacophony of calls. Several days would pass before the brothers spoke.

Baker was in Tallahassee with Allbaugh and Evans and the legal team. They got Olson on the speakerphone. A dozen people were channel-flipping and speed-reading. With each passing minute they grew more confident. Finally, Baker took one last scan around the room, seeking nods of agreement. Then he placed the call.

"Congratulations, Mr. President-elect," he said.

Gore Decides to Sleep on It Klain grabbed the pages as they spilled from the fax machine. The Supreme Court Web site was jammed and crashing. He was looking desperately for any sign of a crack in the court's conservative alliance.

It began to look like checkmate. Gore joined a conference call with Daley, Christopher, Boies, Dellinger, Klain and other key advisers, shortly after the opinion was released. There was a mixture of panic and chaos in the air. Things sounded worse by the minute, but still, no one had had much time to read the document.

"Well, why don't we do this?" Gore finally said. "Why don't we take a break while you guys read this thing, and let's talk in a half hour."

Over the next 90 minutes or so, the vice president spoke with many lawyers, via conference calls and one-to-one. Their readings were mostly bleak. Only Klain wanted to keep fighting. He was planning to put his team to work on a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, asking them to repudiate the higher court's opinion that Dec. 12 was final.

About 1 a.m., after talking to Klain, Gore asked to speak to Dexter Douglass privately. If anyone knew how the Florida justices would react to a new appeal, it was Douglass. He had been the late Gov. Lawton Chiles's legal adviser, and he had blessed the selection of nearly every justice.

"Dexter," Gore said, "I want to talk to you about where you want to go."

"I told him I thought that the Florida court would be hard pressed to do anything," Douglass later recounted. Even if the court defied the U.S. Supreme Court, and kept counting up to Dec. 18 (the day the electors voted), the best Gore could hope for was a slate of disputed electors. After that it was even more power politics.

"It would cause one tremendous uproar," Douglass told Gore. "My own feeling is that the Florida court would not be able to go forward. I don't think they would have time to shape an opinion."

Very late -- between 1 and 2 a.m., after his round of calls to the lawyers -- Gore rang up Daley again. If Klain wanted to keep going, let him -- at least for a few more hours. "The lawyers who think we have options ought to prepare some papers," Daley said. "But let's sleep on it."

The weight of the legal opinions was dire, and Daley also felt there was no point denying it. What the Supreme Court was saying, Daley felt, was simple: "You ain't going to count." Even if they managed to get the Florida justices wound up and defiant -- so what? The GOP would take them straight back to Washington, where the Supreme Court would repeat: "You ain't going to count, okay? So quit bothering us."

"I think he knew that," Daley said later. He went to bed confident that Gore would concede in the morning. "I just thought he had to get there."

After quickly digesting the opinions, and conducting a round of consultations, Baker decided to face the cameras in Tallahassee with a very short statement. Some people on the Bush team suggested an expression of sympathy for Gore; that seemingly generous suggestion was shot down. It would be tantamount to claiming victory, Baker believed. Gore must be given plenty of room to make his own decision to strike the flag.

But the public reticence masked a private relief. Bush general counsel Ben Ginsberg summoned the lawyers into a conference room. "You know, we've been waiting a long time to make this toast to the next president of the United States." With that, they clinked imaginary glasses and sipped imaginary champagne.

Reality Finally Sets In Ginsberg got word almost immediately that Klain's team down the street was busy working up a last-ditch appeal. That sent Ginsburg straight to the files. He reread the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling, searching for footnote No. 22: "We are mindful of the fact that due to the time constraints, the count of the undervotes places demands on the public servants throughout the State to work over this weekend."

That seemed to say -- maybe not say, but imply -- that the Florida Supreme Court thought the deadline was Dec. 12. If the counting could continue all the way up to the 18th, why would an opinion published on the 8th say people must work through the weekend?

It was one footnote in a dashed-off opinion, but Ginsberg felt sure it would be enough to withstand Klain's attack -- if not in Tallahassee, then in Washington. So he headed off to Clyde's, the Florida capital's favorite saloon. He sympathized with the Gore team's frame of mind, he said later: "Had the coin turned and we were on that end, I can understand it, because you can't give up."

In Douglass's back room, Gore's legal machinery was cranking up for one more all-nighter. About 11:30 p.m., Klain gathered the partners and associates of his "virtual law firm" and announced: "Here's what we're going to do."

There would be two lawsuits. One would address the case that the U.S. Supreme Court had just dumped, near death, back into the Florida court's lap. Gore would argue passionately that the only issue that mattered was the right of Florida residents to have their ballots examined -- and every legal vote counted.

Neither deadlines, nor convenience, nor partisan desire could overcome that priority. The second suit would challenge the actions of the Florida legislature. Klain knew that if Gore went back into court, the Florida Senate would immediately vote to join the state House in approving the Bush electors. That had to be stopped.

Mark Steinberg, a partner of Klain's at O'Melveny & Myers, outlined Klain's thinking and doled out the work. Mark Cordray, an Ohio State University professor and former Supreme Court clerk, wrote the draft of the brief.

"This Court has never . . . held" that there was a hard Dec. 12 deadline, he wrote, "and Florida's elections laws cannot remotely bear such a construction."

It was a go-for-broke document. The high court wanted a ballot-counting standard? They proposed one: Count every dimple. In boldfaced, italicized type -- a virtual scream by legal standards -- Cordray wrote: "The Court should direct the counting of all ballots which contained a discernible indentation or mark, at or near the ballot position for the candidate."

Shortly before dawn, Klain sent the draft to Boies, who was at home in Armonk, N.Y., outside the city. Then they got on the phone together. By this time, Boies had read and reread the opinions from the night before, and "it was clear that the U.S. Supreme Court had decided that the vote counting was going to end."

He was steamed. The courts in America execute people based on vague standards applied differently from case to case. That never seemed to bother the Supreme Court conservatives. It was only the counting of votes for Al Gore that disturbed them.

But Boies did not see anything in the brief that would change their minds. As for the Dec. 12 deadline -- Boies still believed it had a certain validity. It might not be hard-and-fast in a strict legal sense, but it was a very real political deadline. By missing that, Gore had opened the battlefield for the tanks of the state legislature.

Could they fight on? Sure, Boies said. Should they? "It is not just making a decision of whether this is viable or sensible," he said later, "it is whether the viability of it or the sensibility of it is great enough to consider it. It is not just a legal question." It was a question about a divided country, and about the future of Al Gore.

All this was hashed and rehashed in early morning conference calls. About 8:30, Daley and Gore spoke again. Even if they wanted to keep fighting, Daley said, there was scant running room and vanishing support.

At 9 a.m., the senior lawyers agreed by telephone that the new lawsuits wouldn't work. Around 9:30 a.m. -- just as he had done five incredible weeks earlier -- Daley placed a call to Don Evans to arrange Gore's concession.

The War Is Over Joe Allbaugh put down the phone, walked into James Baker's office and said: "Let's go home."

Daley had told Evans, and Evans told Allbaugh that the Gore campaign was about to issue a cease-fire statement. Gore would address the nation at 9 p.m. The war was over.

At the same time, in a little room nearby, Klain gathered his team and gave them the news. "I'm privileged to have worked with a group like you," Klain began. "It is time for us to stand down. This has been a difficult decision, but based on what's good for the country, and what we have before us, it's time."

Gore called the war room soon after that, and he was put on the speakerphone. "Hey, Ron," Gore said in his signature deadpan, "that was some election night!" Then he turned serious. "There are no words to express my gratitude. You people are unbelievable, just unbelievable," the vice president said. "I hope and expect -- in fact, I know in my heart -- that you will look back on this experience as a crucible in which you were proven. Your performance was absolutely astonishing."

Dexter Douglass studied Klain's face, and he felt a wave of admiration as he saw tears well up in the eyes of the man who had held the team together.

Gore was being funny again. He said he hoped everyone would come visit him at the vice president's residence in Washington. "You'll know it," he said, "when you see a group of people shouting, 'Get out of Cheney's house!' "

When the speech ended and the phone went silent, as the lawyers shuffled from the room, one of them shouted: "Okay, let's file the brief!"

Readying the Speeches Austin awoke that morning to a surreal scene. An ice storm had hit overnight, and the city was glistening and silent, littered with the wreckage of snapped power lines and broken branches. Karen Hughes, the Bush communications czar, had been too excited the night before to go to sleep, so she sat with her husband in front of the fireplace until almost 1 a.m., talking about the wild past and a momentous future. The power failed before they went to bed, and so she couldn't set her alarm clock. It was nearly 8 a.m. when she jolted awake.

She immediately called Bush. "I've been trying" to reach you, he scolded. Gore was dropping out, and Bush needed a speech.

Throughout the campaign, Bush had presented himself as a man who knew how to bring people together. After the painfully divisive dispute, Hughes wanted to reassert that aspect of Bush's record. So she arranged for him to speak from the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives, where he had championed a good deal of bipartisan legislation. "This was not the time for celebration," she explained later. "But on the other hand, I felt that it should not be the governor alone, the lonely man." She and Bush had already arranged, more than a week earlier, for House Speaker Pete Laney -- a Democrat -- to introduce Bush if and when the time came.

Hughes had finished polishing the speech -- the one she had abandoned in anger several days before. When the stay came and her spirits lifted, Hughes had decided that it needed a historical flourish, so she called Karl Rove, the political guru. Rove's vocation was politics, but his love was history -- he had been taking classes for years at the University of Texas up the hill. "Look at the election of 1800," he told her. So she sent an aide to Rove's house to pick up a book, and she spent the day studying America's first bitterly contested two-party race.

The Republican Thomas Jefferson tied with Federalist Aaron Burr in the electoral college, which was, in those days, chosen mostly by state legislatures. Thrown into the House of Representatives, the dispute raged for six days through 36 ballots before Jefferson was elected the nation's third president. Hughes found the perfect sentiment in a letter Jefferson wrote soon after that: "The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor. . . . Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able, I hope, to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom and harmony." Hughes wrote the quote into Bush's speech.

In Washington, Gore worked on his own speech. When Daley arrived for lunch at Gore's house, he found the vice president with his familiar marking pens and easels, jotting down lines and themes and weighing them with family and friends. Other friends were faxing and e-mailing suggestions, some bitter, some grand, some designed just to help Gore laugh.

His advisers were unsure about his closing. Gore wanted to turn a joke on his famous campaign line from 1992: "It is time for them to go." He wanted to say: "And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go."

Daley had disappeared for most of the afternoon. Speeches weren't his thing. But now he was back, and he took in the debate. At last, he spoke up. "If you like it," Daley told Gore, "it's your goddamn speech. Give it."

After 36 Days, Champagne Gore kept the phrase in and, invoking his father's defeat in a Senate race 40 years before, said the words he had planned to say once and now, it turned out, had only been postponed: ". . . for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."

An hour later, Bush claimed victory and then went home to a small gathering of some of the men and women who had given their all to help him across the finish line.

The future president worked the room, hugging and mugging and wiping away tears with some of his most ardent supporters and advisers. The champagne was popped, a gift from the first President Bush to the second. The wine from Dad had been in the house on Nov. 7. Then it sat, unopened, for 36 of the most difficult days in American political history. Now the bubbly was poured and many people took a taste.

Not George W. Bush, however. He was a teetotaler. And besides, for Bush the battle wasn't over. His work was only beginning.

NEXT: Epilogue

Texas Gov. George W. Bush leaves the governor's mansion in Austin with Karen Hughes, a top aide who also became a friend, hours before Vice President Gore conceded the election.As his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), left, watches, Al Gore hugs his wife, Tipper, after the vice president's televised concession speech in Washington on Dec. 13.After his concession speech, Gore dances at a star-studded party at the vice president's residence in Washington. Meanwhile, Bush was celebrating his victory more quietly in Austin at a small champagne gathering.On Dec. 12, television correspondents and others outside the U.S. Supreme Court frantically read the justices' jumble of opinions in Bush v. Gore. People on both sides were cautious about summing up what it all meant.George W. Bush's lawyers greeted the U.S. Supreme Court's stay of the recount in Florida on Dec. 9 with jubilation, signing copies of the justices' order as if they were pages in a high school yearbook.