Before Kerry’s Concession: Papers Cautious in Declaring a Winner

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By: Joe Strupp

America’s major newspapers, many of which received embarrassing black eyes four years ago for mistakenly declaring George W. Bush the winner too soon, took the cautious road Wednesday morning with nearly all offering headlines that, at most, reported Bush leading Sen. John Kerry.

Only the New York Post, which put out one of the most well-known “Bush Wins” front pages too early following Election Day 2000, gave the president the election, declaring “W2: Bush Seals Second Term in White House” on later editions. Some home delivery versions, however, offered a “Razor Edge” headline.

In most other cases, however, the top-circulation dailies were careful not to give Bush the final win as provisional votes in Ohio remain to be counted and Iowa and New Mexico remain statistically too close to call — all of which was even more uncertain in the very early morning hours, when papers were forced to go to press.

The outcome was not certain until Kerry called Bush to concede late this morning.

The New York Times printed two headlines in different editions. One declared, “Bush and Kerry Locked In Tight Race; Big Turnout After Tough Campaign.” Later editions offered “Bush Holds Lead,” with “Kerry Refuses to Concede Tight Race” underneath.

New York’s Daily News, meanwhile, stated “Deja Vote All Over Again,” while Newsday in Melville, N.Y., offered “Bush Closes In.”

At The Washington Post, editors proclaimed “Presidential Race Is Too Close to Call,” and the Los Angeles Times reported “It May Hang On Ohio.” The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, went with “Bush and Kerry in Close Race Amid Big Turnout.”

In Chicago, both the Chicago Tribune, stating “Bush Leads Popular Vote; Kerry Camp Vows A Fight,” and the Chicago Sun-Times, with the “Deja Vote All Over Again,” highlighted the delayed final result.

Bush received a hint of likely victory form The Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported “Bush Closes In,” while The Philadelphia Daily News ran the headline, “The Survivor?” over a large Bush photo. Across the Keystone State in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran with “All Eyes on Ohio,” and its crosstown rival, the conservative Tribune-Review stated only, “Cliffhanger.”

The Washington Times, another strong Bush supporter, also held back a victory declaration, with a headline that said only, “Night On The Edge.”

In Ohio, meanwhile, where reporters are already flocking to cover the close count, the unfinished election was a constant theme in headlines. The Columbus Dispatch said it simply with, “Cliffhanger,” while the Akron Beacon Journal declared, “Down to Ohio” and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland also reported, “It’s Down to Ohio.”

Other Buckeye State dailies include The Blade in Toledo, which headlined “Bush Has Slim Lead;” and the Dayton Daily News, with “Again, it’s too close to call; Ohio is Key.”

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