Americans woke up Wednesday morning to find that, regardless of what they might have heard on the news before they went to bed, the presidential race wasn't over at all.
"It's incredible," Mary Houle, a supporter of Vice President Al Gore, said as she stopped by a Springfield, Mass., bagel shop for a badly needed cup of coffee. "I stayed up until 2 a.m. I didn't go to bed until the television networks said Bush won."
"I was so down I didn't even turn the radio on until I was driving in to work, because I didn't want to hear Bush. And then I find out that's it's not over after all," she said. "Am I dreaming?"
Besides surprise, bleary-eyed citizens felt shock, annoyance -- even fear. Some said the Electoral College system ought to be dropped. Others, though, said they weren't too concerned about having to wait for a winner and saw the whole exercise as democracy as action.
Veronica Rucker of Pennsauken, N.J., said the back-and-forth race was "real madness" to watch. "At 10 p.m. it was Gore. Then I fell asleep and woke up around midnight and it was Bush," she said. "Then this morning it's no one. The whole thing was pretty screwy."
In the key state of Florida, Wanda Berkeley, a 39-year-old systems analyst in Miami who voted for George W. Bush, went to bed when he was declared the winner. "I thought, 'They pulled a switcheroo," she said after waking up to the news that wasn't necessarily the case.
Jeff Hyman expressed his disapproval as he ate breakfast at the cafeteria at the Federal Reserve Building in Miami. "I don't think it's a positive thing," Hyman said. "It's just prolonging the process."
At a nearby table, Rob Sinninger, 34, seemed pleased that the recount was to take place and saw it as a reflection of the democratic process at its finest.
"It feels like the people are in power," he said. "And they're double-checking, to make sure they get it right. With the state of Florida, your vote truly counts. This proves it to the nation."
Working the front desk of the Kelly Inn in Bismarck, N.D., T.J. Doll said the stalemate was "really not giving me a lot of faith in the system now." With Wednesday's paper in front of him, he added: "I mean, they should have had one picked by now. But all things considered, I guess I'd rather have them do it right and take their time and do it right."
Marshall Lewis, a 57-year-old process analyst in Kansas City, Mo., said: "It's awfully aggravating because I was up late last night watching the returns and it's unsettling to wake up this morning because you hope your man won in a landslide and it turns out people in Florida are going to decide it."
Jane Reznicek, Chicago, a 37-year-old saleswoman who voted for Gore, said she watched 10 minutes of the 10 p.m. news Tuesday night and then heard about the deadlock on the morning news before she headed for work.
"I can't take anymore. It's just too much," she said. "I know it's important and it does determine which directions we turn. Clearly, it affects all of us. But you know, you can only take so much."
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