CHICAGO – Pat O'Connor's guy didn't win. But as he sat in the Billy Goat tavern in downtown Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, the phone company worker was just glad that the whole thing was over, that this year's presidential election didn't drag on three dozen days like it did four years ago.
"To me if it would have happened again, worldwide it would make everybody's opinion of the United States less than what it was," said O'Connor, 39, a few minutes after President Bush's acceptance speech played on the television behind the bar.
"The outside world, it hurts their view of us," he said.
Whether they were like O'Connor and voted for John Kerry (search) or cast their ballot for Bush, voters around the country expressed relief that the day after the election they know who will be the president for the next four years. And they said Kerry did the proper thing, the gracious thing by conceding defeat - and not unleashing the army of attorneys that both candidates had lined up in the event they would challenge the vote.
"The champions of Democracy that we are, we'd look pretty stupid to the rest of the world if we can't get our elections right here," said Dave Allen, a 32-year-old scientist who works in Chicago.
The way people saw it, between the war in Iraq and the sputtering economy, it is that much more important to know immediately who will be leading the country than it was in 2000 when the legal battle waged by Al Gore (search) and Bush caused an unprecedented delay.
"We've got a war overseas; we don't need one here, too," said Claudia Kearns, a 45-year-old Cincinnati insurance company employee who voted for Bush.
"We're better off moving on," agreed Bobby Woods, 50, who owns a hair salon in Savannah, Ga. "The country is so divided, we all need to get on. Why put the country through another week or another month of what we went through in 2000?"
For some people, the relief is less about the country than the sound of candidates, lawyers and pundits that won't be coming out of their televisions and radios for the next several weeks.
"I'm glad not to have those people in my living room, and not in my car," said Betty Rushton, a 63-year-old sales clerk from Mission, Kan.
To Kerry voter John Stockey of Verona, Pa., all the campaigning and the coverage "gets on your nerves a little bit" and the money spent on campaigns could be spent "to give prescriptions to the elderly, or something."
"I thought it was going to drag on for a couple weeks, from what everyone was saying, and when it didn't, that was great. Everybody can get on with their lives," said Stockey, 48, who works in the systems department for a newspaper. "At the end, I wasn't even watching the coverage all that much."
Tom Checkler is glad because maybe he won't have to listen to so many political arguments in his barbershop in suburban Columbus, Ohio. "When you see a conversation getting heated, you have to take control and get the conversation in another path," said Checkler, 44.
Ken Anderson had a different take on the whole affair. While he's glad he knows who was elected president, he thinks doesn't believe for a second that 2000 will be the last time the country will be put through a time-consuming and divisive challenge.
If Kerry didn't fight the outcome, he could have, said Anderson, a 53-year-old New York banker who was in Chicago on business.
"I'm pessimistic that that (the 2000 legal fight) is the way it's going to go from now on," he said. "Everything is going to get litigated and that's going to make people negative toward the whole process."
But Dave Allen, the scientist in Chicago, thinks Anderson's worries are unwarranted.
In 2000, that was just when all these forces came together," he said. "Kind of like Boston in the World Series."