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Garrick Utley explains why the real presidential election happens in December

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The edge was slim but almost constant. Seldom, and not by much, did Vice President Al Gore lead Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the polls.

That razor-thin margin remained beyond November 7 as determining the winner stretched into a five-week process. Although Gore won the nationwide popular vote by more than 300,000 ballots, that wasn't enough. Under the U.S. Constitution, the winning candidate needs 270 electoral votes, a total neither Bush nor Gore had reached.

That made Florida key. The state's race was too close to call, holding its 25 electoral votes, and the outcome of the presidential election, hostage. Gore turned to the courts seeking a hand count of disputed "undervote" ballots, but Bush fought this move and sustained his lead.

The contest about vote counting eventually found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices there ended the suspense by ruling that the recounts were unconstitutional, and Bush became the one who will lead.


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