At 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Congressman Sanford Bishop's 18 years in the U.S. House appeared to be over.
At 1:15, he was declaring victory.
It was the political roller-coaster ride of a lifetime for a career politician left for dead in a Republican onslaught.
The Associated Press declared Republican Mike Keown as the winner of Georgia's 2nd District. An Albany television station reported it and you could feel the air leave the room where 100 Bishop supporters were waiting and watching inside the Albany Civic Center.
But Bishop never lost hope because he knew thousands of Muscogee County votes had not been counted. As the clock hit midnight, it appeared the Columbus total was going to rescue the congressman and send him back to Washington for a 10th term.
"I am thankful to God," an emotionally drained Bishop said. "It appears we are going to be victorious."
At 1:40 a.m., the Georgia Secretary of State office had Bishop with 51.4 percent of the vote and Keown with 48.6. About 95 percent of the vote had been counted and more 165,000 votes were cast in the district.
Bishop said he entertained the thought of losing when the television station reported it, but he refused to believe the numbers that had him trailing by 6,500 votes at the time because he knew Columbus had not fully reported.
"I did not study statistics, but I know a little arithmetic," Bishop said.
Keown did not concede Tuesday night.
Less than 15 minutes after AP declared Keown the winner, Bishop told several supporters not to lose hope.
"It ain't over yet," Bishop said.
Across the street, Keown was confident.
“Any time you are in the lead, you are feeling good,” Keown said.
Less that four months ago, Bishop's seat in the U.S. House seemed safe and it would take an election night miracle.
After the July primaries, the Democrat was considered a lock to win his 10th term. The New York Times political forecasting Website, Five Thirty Eight, had Bishop with a 99-percent chance to retain his seat against Keown, a little-known state representative from Coolidge, a small Thomas County community.
In early October, about the time Keown's television attack on Bishop's voting record and ethical issues with the congressman's family started, the incumbent's lead began to evaporate. In the week before the election, Five Thirty Eight began to forecast the possibility of a Keown upset as part of a Republican wave in the midterm election.
Tuesday, the site said the congressman had a 58.6-percent chance of losing.
Both camps have raised well over $1 million each to fund the campaigns.
One of the things working against Bishop was controversy stirred by his wife, Muscogee County Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop.
Last year, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found no criminal wrongdoing when it looked into jobs that Bishop’s step-daughter and her husband held with the Muscogee County Junior Marshal Program, which was funded in part by a federal grant secured by the congressman.
Money intended for her son-in-law was being deposited into one of Creighton Bishop's bank account.
In recent months, it came was reported by Politico that scholarships handed out by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation from private donations went to Bishop’s step-daughter and other family members.
The congressman has repeatedly denied knowledge of the ethical issues.
Keown has hammered Bishop in attack ads in the final weeks of the campaign.
In debates, Keown has repeatedly called out Bishop for the ethical issues.
Sunday, the Albany Herald endorsed Keown over the congressman and pointed to the scandal as the reason. Bishop went into Congress in 1992, unseating 12-year incumbent Charles Hatcher, who was embroiled in a congressional banking scandal.
Like Keown has pounded on Bishop this cycle, Bishop took his swings at the incumbent Hatcher 18 years ago.
"We believe Congressman Bishop should be held to his own standard in this regard," the Albany Herald editorial stated. "Just as it’s difficult to believe Hatcher didn’t know his account was overdrawn, it hard to accept that Bishop didn’t know money from a federal program and scholarships were going into his family’s accounts."
Bishop has also drawn fire from Keown for his votes on President's Obama's health-care legislation and the federal stimulus. The congressman has defended both of the votes on the campaign trail.
After the March health care vote, Keown's campaign signs contained a straight-forward message, "Boot Bishop."
Bishop countered by pointing out the good he had done for the district, bringing home more than $1 billion back to the district. The congressman is one of two Georgians on the House Appropriations Committee and the only one from Georgia on the military spending subcommittee.