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Jenna Bush Hager recalls nail-biting election nights past

George Bush Library via TODAY

Jenna Bush Hager, now a TODAY correspondent, embraces her father, George W. Bush, during his presidency.

On Tuesday night, Jenna Bush Hager will watch election numbers roll in like any other American -- which will be a nice change from the intense anxiety she experienced when both her father and grandfather awaited results as presidential candidates.

“One thing I think we don’t talk enough in this country is politicans as humans, as fathers, as husbands,” the daughter of former President George W. Bush told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “Both of the men tonight, they’re dads, they’re husbands. For me, watching my dad go through that stress, it’s hard for the kids.”

Hager recalled her family’s experience during the 2000 election, one of the nation’s most historic because of the lengthy recount it triggered. America waited 36 tense days before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling determined Hager’s father the victor over Democrat and then-Vice President Al Gore.

Hager and her twin sister, Barbara, were attending college at the time. “It was really hard, and I think it was particularly hard for my mom because we were 18, so we were off at college and kind of could go back to our routine of Christmas break and then school,” she recalled. “But it was hard for my mom to watch my dad go through this really stressful time.”


On election night 2000, Laura Bush dealt with tension by cleaning.

Asked about a photograph taken of her mother on election night 2000, Hager laughed. The picture shows former first lady Laura Bush hovering over a dishwasher at the Texas governor’s mansion. “She has a little bit of an OCD issue, so actually, when she’s stressed, she cleans,” Hager joked.

She said she and her sister had originally resisted the idea of her father running for higher office. “When we were 18, there might have been some of that selfishness. When they told us he was running for president, Barbara and I were shocked, because we were college kids and we were most important,” she said.

George Bush Library via TODAY

Election night suspense: The Bush family await returns in the White House.

But by the next presidential race, significant world events had changed their views, she said.

“In 2004, we wanted him to be president. We’d witnessed September 11 as college students, and we wanted him to keep us safe.”

Another election night Hager recalled was when she was a fourth-grader. She was in Houston at the time, waiting to see if her grandfather, George H. W. Bush, would win a second term. Hager said she cried when she learned he had lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.

“I remember watching him. He’s my Gampy. He’s my grandfather. I love him so much and I remember wanting him to win because he worked so hard, and it’s what he wanted,” she said.

The 2012 race between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be a close one, according to nearly every national poll. Hager is hoping that whichever way the election goes, the outcome becomes clear sooner rather than later.

“Both in 2000 and in 2004, we went to bed, our whole family, not knowing that he’d (her father) been elected,” Hager said. “So I just hope tonight, we go to bed with a winner, for all the family’s sake.”

The daughter of George W. Bush and granddaughter of George H.W. Bush shares a few of her memories from her father and grandfather's presidential campaigns and White House terms, saying election night is "hard" on candidates and their families.

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