Election Eve Punch-Up

E-mail Rick!

Nov. 4, 2004 10:08 am

The last time I went to Tallahassee for “You Decide 2000” I was there for 30 days. This time, for “You Decide 2004” it was a three-day trip. I was prepared to stay longer, of course. We all were. We expected the race to be tight, and contentious, with hundreds of lawyers standing by to challenge the process and the results. A close race makes the election, and the story more exciting...but after struggling to keep up with the endless court cases the last time around, I have to admit I was pulling for either candidate to win convincingly.

I've never covered anything quite like the battle for Florida's electoral votes in 2000. That story changed more dramatically, more often than I ever could've predicted. Every day brought more lawyers and courtooms and judges into the mix, with twists and turns and unexpected curveballs forcing constant rewrites of even the most careful scripts.

I was handling the story for our FOX affiliates' afternoon and evening news shows, which meant I had to prepare and file reports several times a day. The first daily deadline was 4:30 p.m., when you'd think pretty much whatever could happen that day would've happened by then...but no matter how careful I tried to be when putting the elements together, considering all of the court cases and potential outcomes, this was the first and only time in my career that I had to literally scrap my story and start from scratch almost every single afternoon, in the final minutes before the first live shots at 5 p.m.

There was no such drama in Tallahassee this time. A close race for President, yes, and a squeaker for retiring Senator Bob Graham's seat, but no need for a recount, less demand for live shots, and no need to rewrite the story dozens of times a day. I kinda missed the action. I'd rather be busy than not, but this time around, the battleground was Ohio.

The highlight of the trip was the night BEFORE the election. We went to the hotel bar after work to catch the end of the Jets/Dolphins game. The place was nearly empty except for some of our colleagues from NBC. Then the room started to fill up with people whom attended a “Slacker Uprising Tour” event at the Civic Center in town featuring Michael Moore, Roseanne Barr, and the Goo Goo Dolls. Soon I realized the people at the bar wearing the event's official T-shirts weren't just attendees but organizers, and the woman sitting in the middle of them was Roseanne herself. I didn't talk to her, but one of the NBC guys introduced me to Michael Moore's publicist, and then Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac walked in.

One thing led to another, and eventually my co-workers and I found ourselves in a serious political debate with Moore's publicist, and Robby, the band's bass player. He told me he and the band played the show for free, paying their own way to get there, because of their fervent support for John Kerry and opposition to George Bush. He was flying home to vote the next day. We spent a couple hours arguing over the purpose and effectiveness of the war in Iraq, and parted ways agreeing to disagree.

I don't own any Goo Goo Dolls CD's, but I'm thinking about going out and getting one now.

[Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]

Hi Rick --

All I can say is BOY! AM I GLAD IT'S FINALLY OVER! The last month-and-a-half I spent sleeping on the sofa. Why? Because between talk radio and FOX News, I found myself staying in the living room. Didn't want to miss one word.

— Bob (Bronx, NY)


I may not agree with their politics, and that is the first I’ve heard of them stumping for Kerry, but they are a pretty good band, definitely worth a listen. Keep up the good work.

— Chuck


Thanks for all your writings and for your sincerity in sharing your experiences with the public. It's apparent that you do what you're good at!

All the best,


Hey Rick. I am a huge FOX Fan. I love catching your reports. You're great.



I just stumbled upon your column about the missing explosives in Iraq and it brought back so many memories! My Son-in-law was in Iraq when you were there and my daughter and her children stayed with us. We so looked forward to your reports each evening and we were on the edge of our seats as you rolled into Baghdad for the 1st time.

The honesty of your reports along with the brave commitment to bring us information encouraged and strengthened us as we waited for news of Robert's safety each day. I know it's late, but thank you so much for being there! If you ever see Greg Kelly, let him know, he too was a great source of hope and encouragement for the families back home!!!

Yours Truly,
The Elcook & Davis families of Warren County Ohio

Way to go Rick - keep on telling like it is! You were embedded with my son's unit in Iraq E/2/23 MARINES and the entire unit has spoke of your honesty and accurate reporting. My son still speaks of you today. Great story and keep up the honest good reporting.
God Bless
Colonel Chuck USA, Retired