When the Fox News Channel called the state of Ohio for Bush a little after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, NBC quickly followed.
But ABC, CBS and CNN held out for hours - in part because they had been pressured not to make the crucial call by Clinton operative-turned-Kerry adviser Howard Wolfson.
Florida had just been called for Bush, with Pennsylvania going for Kerry hours before. After Fox put Ohio's deciding vote in Bush's column, the Clintonistas who had taken over team Kerry knew it was time to deploy the shock troops.
At that point, according to the New York Times, Wolfson, who served in 2000 as Hillary Clinton's press secretary, "burst into the 'boiler room' in Washington where the brain trust was huddled and said, 'we have 30 seconds' to stop the other networks from following suit."
Kerry pollster Mark Mellman and campaign organizer Michael Whouley started burning up the phone lines to ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.
Only the Peacock network refused. "Then Mr. Wolfson banged out a simple, two-line statement expressing confidence that Mr. Kerry would win Ohio once the remaining ballots were counted," the Times said.
The message was issued under campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill's name shortly after 1 a.m.:
"The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 votes that remain to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio."
The old Clinton war room tactic succeeded. ABC, CBS and CNN held their Ohio call till it was clear Kerry himself was prepared to concede.
It was blatently obvious when they refrained from calling any other state for Bush for the rest of the night, too. Anything to keep Bush from 270 votes.
Please raise your hand if you are surprised. Now slap yourself with that hand.