2000: The Supreme Court Decides the Winner
If there's an election that really left a bad taste in many Americans' mouths, this one is it. The Republican nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and his Democratic counterpart, Vice President Al Gore, battled hard all summer, and as Election Day approached, it seemed too close to call. That evening, though, Gore appeared on his way to victory, after the major TV networks projected Gore as the winner in the important state of Florida. But at around 10 p.m., they rescinded their predictions, and instead, at 2:15 a.m., called Florida for Bush. That led Gore to call Bush and congratulate him on winning the presidency [source: Miller Center].
But Gore's concession didn't last long. After the Florida vote count showed the margin narrowing tighter and tighter, Gore called Bush again and retracted his concession. For the next month or so, the two sides battled over a recount, and voting irregularities in places such as Palm Beach County, where the format of a punch-card ballot seemed to confuse some voters.
Gore wanted a manual recount of four counties, and the Florida Supreme Court agreed with him. But, on Dec. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a controversial 5-4 decision, stopped the recount. That gave Bush a victory in Florida of just 537 votes over Gore, who beat him in the nationwide popular vote by 500,000 [source: Levine].
Author's Note: 10 Bizarre Moments in Presidential Elections
Years ago, as a writer for John F. Kennedy Jr.'s long-defunct political magazine George, I wrote a profile of Dwayne Andreas, an agribusiness executive and deep-pockets political contributor who was a confidante of numerous national politicians. Andreas told me that after Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election, he asked Andreas to come to the White House, and made a strange request. Nixon wanted Andreas to help set up a rematch in four years with defeated Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, with whom he was also friendly. If Humphrey would agree to run, Nixon would help keep him in the public eye by appointing him ambassador to the United Nations, and allow Andreas to raise the then-magnificent sum of $20 million to bankroll Humphrey's campaign.
According to Andreas, Humphrey turned down Nixon's offer of the ambassador post so that he could run for his old U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota instead. Humphrey did eventually seek the 1972 presidential nomination, but lost out to another Andreas friend, Sen. George McGovern from South Dakota.
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HowStuffWorks looks at the many hurdles a third-party presidential candidate faces in the U.S., and why it's harder than ever for them to be elected.