Chris Black reports on the Gore camp in Washington
CNN Correspondent Chris Black is covering the campaign of Vice President Al Gore in Washington.
Q: Has there been any notable change in the feeling in the Gore camp now that Gov. George Bush has declared himself the winner, even given the outstanding legal challenges?
BLACK: I haven't detected any change at all. In fact, the Gore forces seem even more determined. By their own calculation, based on votes that were counted, they feel that Gore got nine more votes than Bush, and that Katherine Harris [the Florida Secretary of State] jumped the gun by certifying the election.
They also believe that there is a pool of 13,000 ballots that were not counted by hand at all. Machines spit them out, and they think there is a mother lode of votes in those ballots.
Q: Sen. Tom Daschle and Rep. Dick Gephardt are speaking out on the vice president's behalf, and Sen. Joe Lieberman has also. What do the Democrats hope to gain from this?
BLACK: They're trying to show a couple of things. One, they want to explain why the vice president is contesting this election, and they feel it's important to use heavy hitters to do so. People like and respect Sen. Lieberman, and they listen to him.
Two, rolling out Daschle and Gephardt is to show Democratic solidarity. The Republicans have repeatedly suggested that the Democrats won't stand with Gore, and the Democrats want to show that's not the case. The Democrats are determined not to allow the Republicans to create the impression that there is disarray, lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Q: How important is the public relations aspect when it appears that the ultimate determination will be legal?
BLACK: The public relations aspect is always important in politics, for both Gore and Bush. It's how they maintain public support, so that when it's over, whoever will be president will be able to govern and command public support for what he wants to do.
But I do sense within the Democratic ranks that the public relations war is not as important as the legal one. They're convinced that the votes are there, and that if they are counted, Gore will win. They have tremendous confidence in the rule of law, in Florida and at the U.S. Supreme Court, and that they will win in the end.
Q: Why is Gore being quiet? Does the campaign think he may be suspected of being a poor loser?
BLACK: He's in a bit of a campaign mode. His advisers feel it's important for him to stay statesmanlike and above the fray. So for the partisan attacks, they roll out people like Lieberman. You have to use the candidate carefully in politics, and that's all this is.
On other side, the Bush team is also using Gov. Bush extremely selectively to respond to Gore, but rarely to anyone else.
Q: Anything else you want to talk about?
BLACK: Yes. The U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Friday [on Bush's appeal of the Florida Supreme Court ruling that allowed the recounts to go forward] ironically has given the Democrats a window. They don't feel the pressure they would normally feel after certification, because the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments this coming Friday.
Practically speaking, that means that things can't end until the high court rules. It's not over until that happens, and that gives the Democrats time to contest the case in Florida and be well on the way to winning it.