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Florida certification triggers new round of political maneuvering


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush said Sunday he will take on the responsibilities of a president-elect, naming vice presidential pick Dick Cheney as the head of a transition team and claiming his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, was on risky ground in challenging the results of the presidential election in Florida.

"The election was close, but tonight after a count, a recount, and yet another manual recount, Secretary Cheney and I are honored and humbled to have won the state of Florida, which gives us the needed electoral votes to win the election," Bush said Sunday night in a nationally televised address from Austin, Texas. "We will therefore undertake the responsibility of preparing to serve as America's next president and vice president."

Gore was considering making a speech to the nation Monday explaining his reasons for continuing the battle of the ballots.

Bush named longtime GOP activist Andrew Card as his chief of staff and claimed that with the votes certified, "we enter a different phase" of legal challenges.

"If the vice president chooses to go forward, he is filing a contest to the outcome of the election, and that is not the best route for America," Bush said.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman responds to Florida's vote certification (November 26)

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Watch former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker give his response to Florida's vote certification (November 26)

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Bush's statements were part of a new cycle of political and legal jostling that began moments after Florida's presidential vote was certified Sunday night by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Appearing almost immediately after the certification was announced, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman called it "an incomplete and inaccurate count," and Bush spokesman James Baker said, "There must be closure."

With a Democratic court challenge to the certification a certainty, Bush's strategy holds political risks. And it was immediately clear that the federal government would not allow Bush to occupy government office space that has been held aside for a president-elect for weeks.

The General Services Administration, the government agency that supplies material resources to federal employees, said Sunday it would not yet provide money or office space to either Gore or Bush for a transition into the presidency. "Until the results are clear, and as long as both sides are going to court, the results are not clear yet," GSA spokeswoman Beth Newberger told CNN.

Lieberman said the certified vote -- which did not include an incomplete hand count of votes in Palm Beach County and which does not reflect challenges of outcomes in other counties -- was not accurate. "It is in our nation's interest that the winner in Florida is truly the person who got the most votes," Lieberman said.

"Because of our belief in the importance of these fundamental American principles, Vice President (Al) Gore and I have no choice but to contest these actions, as provided under Florida law and in accord with the decision of the Florida Supreme Court," he said.

"We have an opportunity here, and we have a responsibility, to ensure that this election lifts up our democracy and respects every voter and every vote, no matter what the outcome. And that is precisely what Vice President Gore and I will seek to do in the days ahead," Lieberman said.

The Bush campaign wasted no time in responding. Only minutes after Lieberman finished, Baker appeared. The former secretary of state heads a team monitoring the Florida vote count for Bush.

"Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney had more votes on Election Night. They had more votes after the automatic recount. They had more votes in the election returns submitted by all of the counties on November 14, following additional recounts. They had more votes after the overseas absentee ballots were counted. They had more votes under the standards first applied in selective manual recounts in predominantly Democratic counties by Democratic election boards that were oftentimes divining the intentions of the voters.


"And now, once again, they have more votes, even after the application of a very loose standard for manual recounts of dimpled ballots," said Baker.

"At some point, there must be closure. At some point, the law must prevail and the lawyers must go home," Baker said. "We have reached that point. ... I can understand the pain and frustration of losing an election so very, very narrowly, but it is time to honor the will of the people."


Sunday, November 26, 2000



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