Why the Trump campaign's Al Gore comparison is bogus

Al Gore Concession Speech oirgwx cs_00042728
Al Gore Concession Speech oirgwx cs_00042728

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    Al Gore concedes presidential election of 2000

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Al Gore concedes presidential election of 2000 07:18

Story highlights

  • Donald Trump and his surrogates are citing the 2000 election
  • The analogy doesn't necessarily match the accusation of widespread voter fraud in 2016

(CNN)Donald Trump offered a glib assurance Thursday that he would respect the general election outcome, saying he would abide by the results -- dramatic pause -- "if I win."

The Republican presidential nominee's top aides and surrogates, including daughter Ivanka Trump, running mate Mike Pence and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, have been less cryptic, stating clearly that the Republican ticket would accept the final decision.
But the campaign, in an attempt to normalize Trump's unfounded claims of a "rigged vote" and "large scale voter fraud," has begun to peddle an odd and misleading rationalization -- comparing Trump's promise during the debate to keep the country "in suspense" on Election Day and possibly after with the protracted 2000 recount fight.
    "Donald Trump has said, over time, if you take all his statements together, he has said that he will accept the results of the election," Conway told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day," "but everybody, including Al Gore in 2000, waits to see what those election results are. You wait to see what the results are -- if they're verified, if they're certified."
    But that comparison, as CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger put it later Thursday, "is like an apple to an elephant. They are two completely different things."
    To start, as Borger noted, Gore never suggested that the results were rigged before the 2000 election. Nor did he make the argument, as Trump has over and again and without a shred of evidence, that he was going to be or had been bamboozled by some amorphous band of electoral conspirators.
    The Trump camp has sought to deflect from that reality by claiming, as Conway did in her interview with Cuomo, that Gore in 2000 waited to see how the Florida tally played out before seeking to initiate the long recount.
    Gore did, in fact, withdraw his concession to Bush that night -- an entirely unbinding formality in any event -- after the gap between their totals dwindled, but he did not actively set off the crisis that followed.
    In fact, George Bush's own brother — then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — wasn't sure that the television networks were correct in projecting Florida — and with it the presidency — for Bush.
    Karen Hughes, George W. Bush's communications director, told CNN in 2015, "At the time (Al Gore) conceded, Jeb Bush was still over there on his computer and he was like 'I don't know what they're seeing. I don't know what numbers they're seeing. I think it's still too close.'"
    The younger Bush was correct, and the results got closer and closer.
    "It was an automatic recount at half of 1%," Borger explained. "When Donald Trump talks about the legal suits and all the rest -- there was an automatic recount, but it was (top Bush recount adviser and former Secretary of State) Jim Baker who actually ended up taking this case to the Supreme Court."
    And why did he do that?
    Because, as Baker explained in the 2015 CNN documentary "Bush v. Gore: The Endless Election," the Florida Supreme Court was dominated by Democrats and more likely -- as they, in fact, did -- to green light a more extensive series of recounts.
    This would mean, in the parlance of the GOP, the Bush campaign had federalized a state issue, but as Baker says he asked uncomfortable Republicans at the time: "Do you want to be ideologically pure or do you want to win?"
    They chose the latter.
    In the end, Gore graciously recognized the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to put an end to the recount and effectively hand the White House to Bush, saying after the ruling in an address on December 13, 2000, "I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession."
    And then, as CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash recalled Thursday, Gore carried out his duties as the outgoing vice president and president of the Senate by formally certifying the federal election results -- even as fellow Democrats pleaded with him to keep up the fight.