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Awaiting Results Is High Drama in O.C. Bars

With presidential vote going down to the wire, 'it rates like "Monday Night Football" this year,' says one patron at Costa Mesa pub.


The clock was ticking down, the Elephants had made a dramatic comeback, edging ahead of the Donkeys, 236 to 231.

Danielle Devereaux was thrilled. Her friend, Tracy Clark, was hungry.

"Look, Bush is 5 up!" Devereaux said, pointing to the TV over the bar at the Clubhouse in Costa Mesa.

"Can you order?" Clark implored.

On a night that saw one of the closest presidential races of the television era, sets across Orange County were tuned to the biggest game going.

The contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore on Tuesday took the spot usually reserved for sporting spectacles like the Super Bowl--national theater, emotionally shared.

"This is deep. This is deep," said Devereaux, 37, who voted for Bush. "It's not just about who's going to govern the country. It's about everything: spirituality, the education of our children, the lack of ethical boundaries that Clinton has represented."

She looked at the TV and gasped. "I can't believe this." The score--the electoral vote count, that is--was tied at 242.

"This is history," said Bush supporter Barbara Montgomery, who was sitting a few stools away.

"It rates like 'Monday Night Football' this year," added her friend, Shelby Sim. "The whole year, it's been great games going down to the wire. When they say every vote counts, they're right. Look at it."

At Patrick's Pub in Costa Mesa, groups of people sat at the bar and played pool while keeping an eye on election results overhead.

Even though none said they'd voted, Amanda Gordon, Amy Ruffing and Keri Thomas were trying to figure out the vagaries of the popular vote versus the electoral college and what happens if there's a tie.

"They should teach you this in school," said Ruffing, 22.

"I think they did, but we didn't listen," said Gordon, 21.

Sharon Bruning, 25, a Bush supporter, was sitting at the bar between games of pool. "It's kind of one of those gut-wrenching things," she said. "Look at my hand. It's shaking."

At the Lost Bar inside the Disneyland Hotel complex, patrons and staff were glued to the nine monitors tuned to CNN. On every other night the TV screens show sports.

"I'm not going to sleep tonight. I want to be sure Gore is going to win," said bartender Randy Diaz, 40. "I'm not going to be able to close my eyes if Bush wins. If Al Gore wins, it will be a sunny day in California tomorrow."

In the nearby Top Brass bar, necks were craned toward two monitors hanging over the bar.

"It's unbelievable. I've never seen anything like it. With all the absentee ballots, it may be a few days before we know what happened," said Jim Benson, who was the Reform Party candidate for the 68th State Assembly seat.

Not everyone was surprised, including Dave Thompson, vice president for the Orange County Professional Firefighters Assn. "All the pundits were saying it was going to be close. It looks like they were dead right."

Back at the Clubhouse, it was nearly 10 p.m., Bush was back up but the vote from Florida was still out.

And Danielle Devereaux was nearing a decision. "I'm looking at the salmon," she said.


Contributing to this story was staff writer Christine Hanley.

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