Bush waits with friends, relatives in Texas

By TOM RAUM

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas – George W. Bush, pronouncing himself calm and ready to “trust the people” with their verdict, gathered relatives and friends around him today to await it. But first, he had to calm down an agitated former first family.

“I called my parents first thing when I woke up to assure them that I feel pretty good. They’re nervous,” Bush said. “It’s much harder to be the loved one than to be the candidate.”

Former President George Bush and Barbara Bush were coming to Austin from their Houston home to join their son, other members of the extended Bush clan and friends. Bush said brothers Jeb, Marvin and Neil and sister Doro would be with them for the Election Night vigil. The Bush’s twin 18-year old daughters, Jenna and Barbara, both in their freshman year at college, were also attending.

Bush was bidding to be only the second father-son team to win the presidency since John Adams and John Quincy Adams in the nation’s early years.

He said he planned to exercise on the University of Texas campus and perhaps nap for several hours before a family dinner.

Bush and his wife Laura voted at 10:30 a.m. local time in the Travis County Courthouse, a block from the Texas governor’s mansion where they live. Bush took about two minutes to fill out a paper ballot, then slid it into the ballot box.

He shook hands with poll workers and well wishers. “Hanging in there,” he told one woman who asked how he was doing.

Laura Bush seemed a little less serene, acknowledging her nervousness to reporters. After casting her ballot, she told reporters, “That was pretty fun.”

She also said they had enjoyed “a lot of sleep in our own bed” after being on the campaign trail together for months – including eight final back-to-back days.

A chilly, intermittent rain fell as workers put the finishing touches on the stage and sound system for an evening “victory” party. Congress Street, Austin’s main drag, was shut off two blocks below the state capitol to make room for the outdoor festivities.

Bush, who said he got four to five hours sleep after a concluding midnight campaign rally at the Austin airport, began the day at 6 a.m. He said he made coffee and brought a cup to Laura, fed their three pets (dog Spot and cats Ernie and India) and phoned his parents and several friends.

He also read a passage from the Bible to himself, something he does nearly every morning, said aide Gordon Johndroe.

Bush invited a group of reporters into the governor’s mansion to watch him make a few last-minute get-out-the vote calls.

Asked how he felt, Bush said, “Calm.”

“The people are going to decide. And I trust the people, I trust their will and I trust their verdict,” he said. He said his supporters had “poured their hearts” into his campaign, and that, “We gave it our best.”

He likened his campaign to a marathon: “A marathon runner has to be conditioned and focused. I feel our campaign was a disciplined campaign.”

Bush also placed some last-minute calls to West Coast radio stations. And he called two battleground-state voters, a woman in the Detroit area and a man in Orlando, Fla. Both said they would support him and he thanked them. “I can report it’s 2-0,” he joked with reporters.

The Michigan woman, Tina Garehart, asked Bush to say a few words to her 14-year-old son, Philip.

“I got some advice for you. You want to hear it?” Bush said to the ninth-grader. “Listen to your mother … . I’m still listening to mine.”

Asked why his parents were so nervous, Bush said he was nervous on Election Day 1988 when his father won the presidency and again in 1992 when he lost it to President Clinton.

Furthermore, Bush said, “He and mother haven’t seen what I have seen” in terms of crowd enthusiasm over the past few weeks.

“When I told him how many people showed up in northeast Arkansas, he thought I might be exaggerating a little bit. He said, ‘this is amazing,’ ” Bush said in relaying his conversation with his father.

At least 6,000 people braved a steady rain Monday night for an airport gathering in Bentonville, Ark., in Clinton’s home state.

Running mate Dick Cheney cast his vote at 8:45 a.m. at a volunteer fire department in Wilson, Wyo.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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