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He was right, although sometimes the exposure backfired, as it did at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Florence when a woman asked what he could do to help her chronically ill son. Bush danced around the question for a while, talking about the virtues of medical savings accounts, before acknowledging that he couldn't help her. He shrugged in a way that suggested he didn't know why he was supposed to solve everyone's problems. "I'm sorry," he said. "I wish I could wave a wand." It was an honest answer, but it lacked the empathy Americans have come to expect from their President. At other times, Bush would shout so loudly that he seemed to have studied at the Al Gore school of campaign makeovers, where volume is considered a substitute for passion.
But what was clear by Saturday was that Bush had just survived the toughest three weeks of his political life, and it had changed him. Not long after he was given the first exit polls showing he would win, Bush emerged from his hotel suite in Columbia in his running shorts and a sweat jacket. His eyes were bloodshot from exhaustion and from the nap he had just taken. Asked how he felt to have won, he barely smiled. "It's good," he said soberly. "But there's still a long way to go."