Bush’s lead continues; wants Gore to concede

The Associated Press
Saturday November 11, 2000

In a war of nerves, George W. Bush’s camp pressed Al Gore to concede decisive Florida as the presidential race struggled through Election Day plus three. “The quicker we get this resolved the better off it is for the nation,” the Texas governor said Friday. The Democrats countered, “This election is not over.” 

Bush considered seeking an injuction to block recounts being done by hand at Gore’s request in at least three Florida counties. Gore campaign chairman William Daley left open the option of legal challenges that made even some Democrats flinch. 

“I think that people’s patience is going to be fairly limited,” said Gov. Jim Hodges of South Carolina. Other Democrats sought to carefully balance support for Gore with suggestions that his options were dwindling. 

“He needs to rise above it and say, ‘So be it.’ You deal with the hand you’re dealt,” said Paul Feleciano, longest serving Democrat in the Kansas Legislature. 

Bush clung to a razor-thin lead in Florida – the crucial White House state with its 25 electoral votes – after county officials completed a review of the 6 million ballots cast. Still to come were an unknown number of votes from Floridians living overseas and the state’s official certification, due Tuesday. 

To buy some time, Gore’s lawyers asked the state’s Republican secretary of state late Friday to defer certification of the results until the manual recounts are complete. The recounts could drag on, though canvassing board members face fines of $200 a day after Tuesday. 

The presidential election limbo rattled Wall Street for the second day in a row. Investors disappointed by poor earnings and unnerved by the election saga sent stocks sharply lower Friday with the Nasdaq composite index falling to a new closing low for the year. 

In Florida, Gore advisers cited confusing and irregular ballots to press for follow-up recounts by hand in four predominantly Democratic counties. They won approval in three – one recount began Friday, two more Saturday – and the fourth request will be heard Tuesday. 

Republicans were getting into the act: At Bush’s request, Palm Beach County officials will perform a mechanical recount Saturday of all ballots while conducting a separate recount by hand for Gore. 

“The entire effort that’s going on now in Florida is aimed at making sure that whoever takes office in January as president of the United States will do so with full legitimacy,” Gore running mate Joseph Lieberman told CBS. 

“As frustrating as this wait may be,” Daley said earlier, “what we are seeing here is democracy in action.” 

And so Republicans moved on several fronts to blunt Gore’s ballot challenges. Bush strategists considered seeking recounts in GOP areas of Florida if Democrats started having success in their recounts, a senior strategist said. 

Other responses to Gore’s tactics: 

l James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state protecting Bush’s interests in Florida, promised to “vigorously oppose” Gore’s recount petitions. He did not say how, but other Bush aides later said that Baker was considering seeking an injunction against the hand recounts. Republicans say the procedure welcomes error and fraud; the statewide recount being certified next Friday was done by machine. 

l Bush’s camp portrayed him as a man deep in planning for the presidency, victory nearly assured. “The vote on Tuesday night showed Governor Bush won Florida’s election, and a recount now confirmed his victory,” spokeswoman Karen Hughes said in a statement released at 5:30 a.m. EST, catching the first wave of the media cycle. 

l Strategists eyed other close-voting states in case Florida falls to Gore. Republicans in Wisconsin said they found ballot irregularities. And Baker, speaking of recount drives, said ominously: “That game can be played” by both sides. 

l Bush aides said Gore should concede the state and the White House if the initial recount and next week’s certification show Bush ahead. “We certainly hope that in the best interest of the country the vice president will think carefully about his talk of lawsuits and endless recounts,” Hughes said. 

An unofficial tally by The Associated Press in Florida’s 67 counties showed the Texas governor with a 327-vote lead. State officials said their recount showed Bush leading by 960 votes with one county left. That was Palm Beach County, where the AP showed a big Gore gain. 

Not counting the Sunshine State, Bush had won 29 states for 246 electoral votes. Gore, who added Oregon to his victory column Friday, had won 19 states plus the District of Columbia for 262, with 270 needed for victory. New Mexico, with five electoral votes, remained too close to call. 

Gore’s lead in New Mexico was down to about 100 Friday night. 

The incomplete national popular vote totals showed Gore with 49,191,750 votes, or 48.3 percent and Bush with 48,992,114, or 48.1 percent. 

Despite the show of confidence, Bush said it’s “a little early” for him to contact the outgoing Clinton administration about the mechanics of transition. He also tabled plans to resign as Texas governor and hand the reins to his Republican lieutenant governor during the transition; that decision will wait until after the election is resolved, aides said. 

The aides said Bush adviser Larry Lindsey was likely to be offered the job of treasury secretary or chief White House economist if Bush is elected. 

As he met with Lindsey and other advisers about the transition, two noisy groups of protesters shouted rival messages outside the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. “No Fuzzy Election” read some anti-Bush signs. The governor’s supporters chanted, “The people have spoken.” 

For his part, Gore was at the vice president’s residence in Washington, where he played touch football with his family. He talked of winning, then added with a smile: “I’m talking about the touch football game.” 

His Democratic allies were not so optimistic about the presidential race, and many were opposed to legal action. 

“I think everybody is waiting to see what happens but the general feeling is that Bush will probably win,” said Gene Bushmann, former chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. He praised Gore’s effort, but said, “I think going to the lawsuit stage would be too much.” 

Former Arkansas Sen. Dale Bumpers said Gore should consider calling it quits after Florida’s absentee ballots are counted. 

“There might come a time when the vice president would be well served to say the country’s interest is more important than the interests of one person or political party, and go ahead and concede,” Bumpers said. 

Hodges said Gore has a right to seek recounts, but doubted that a legal challenge of confusing Palm Beach ballots would work. “Generally, most successful challenges have been on fraud,” he said. 

“I’d advise we exhaust all other remedies before we attempt any consideration of a court challenge,” said Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. 

Though still talking legal action, Gore’s team was using softer tones than a day earlier. 

The campaign’s legal experts “feel strongly” that the ballot used Election Day in Palm Beach County was unlawful, Daley said. “We’ll see what actions follow out of that.”