I spent about a week in Ukraine as a member of the Official Observers' Mission organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI).
Ukraine was cold. Day after day was between -10 and -17 Celsius (14 and 1 degree Fahrenheit). Doesn't sound too awfully bad except Ukraine stays that cold for months at a time so the cold permeates everything: cars, buildings, souls … everything.
The election appeared to be legit. The pro-Russian guy came in first; the blonde Prime Minister came in second; so there will be in the runoff in a couple of weeks.
A country in which, twenty years ago, was a Republic of the Soviet Union and in which the concept of democracy was beyond most people's imagination; which five years ago needed an "Orange Revolution" to overturn a fixed election; last Sunday had an election with 18 candidates and any citizen could vote for whomever he or she wanted.
Pretty good for the people of Ukraine. And pretty good for the young Americans - Republicans and Democrats - who set up shop in places like Ukraine and wrestle authoritarianism to the ground.
Ukraine is seven hours ahead of Eastern time so, when the polls in Massachusetts closed at 8 PM Tuesday, it was 3 AM Wednesday in Kiev. I had set my alarm for 3:15 AM, but I couldn't get to sleep, so I stayed up and followed the guessing game being played out on-line among reporters and other political hacks.
The local TV carried CNN International. As the polls closed, CNN-I led with Kraft Foods' deal to buy Cadbury, which was of no use to me. In the end, I found that the Boston Globe's website was being updated minute-by-minute.
Throughout the counting Scott Brown lead with 52-53-54-52 percent of the vote. While the percentage was pretty constant, his numerical advantage kept creeping up.
I was trading e-mails with friends and reporters. I told one of them that Martha Coakley would concede when the margin of difference between the two candidates topped 100,000.
Sure enough, when the difference hit 102,000, she called Senator-elect Brown to congratulate him. Why? At 100k the difference was too great to ask for a re-count and was also too big for the outstanding absentee and military ballots to change the outcome.
It would not surprise me if it came to light that someone from the White House phoned Coakley and told her it was over and to call it a night.
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