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The Florida Recount: Judge Clears Way for Final Vote Certification Saturday; Gore Response Expected Shortly

Aired November 17, 2000 - 11:50 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And there will be plenty tonight for our prime-time partners to talk about here on CNN later tonight, given what happened from a Florida courthouse earlier today when a judge decided that the secretary of state was well within her discretion to decide not to include those manual recounts coming from Broward and Palm Beach County and other counties who had asked to do that as well.

For reaction, we want to check in with each of the campaigns. First we go to Austin, Texas where our Jeanne Meserve is standing by.

Jeanne, good morning once again.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, good morning.

New information a bit hard to come by here in Austin this morning. I think the campaign is doing what it has on several occasions when this story has taken a major turn, they let Secretary Baker, who is the point man down in Florida, come out and make a public statement, and then they let that reverberate for a while.

The principal part of his message here today: The rule of law has prevailed. That is what the Bush camp has been saying for a week, that there has been a vote, there has been a recount. We are the winner pending those overseas absentee ballots.

They feel now, I am sure, some sense of vindication in that the court has said that the hand counting of ballots does not have to be included in that final vote tally -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Pending that this might work out like the Bush camp would like it to, that those overseas ballots come in enough to keep George W. Bush in the lead, that he would win the popular vote in Florida, and those 25 electoral votes, and that all of these election votes from Florida would be certified by tomorrow by the secretary of state.

Do you think that there would be a plan for -- Remember about nine days ago, there was supposed to be a big fiesta right there at the state capital in Austin. And that kind of -- really didn't work out. Do you think that there would be a big celebration or how the Bush camp handles this post-Florida is very important as well?

MESERVE: I really have no idea, Daryn, what -- How they tell mark this occasion, when and if it does indeed come tomorrow, it's true, that election day, there were huge stages and platforms set up on the other side of the state capital ready for mariachi bands and everything else to come out. Everyone anticipated a huge party. Those were disassembled quickly the day after the election, as the governor went into relative seclusion to consider events as they unfolded in Florida.

I have no idea what they will do, when and if this election is certified tomorrow. I have to imagine there would be some kind of statement from Governor Bush. But we have heard nothing definitive along those lines at all.

And one has to point out, of course, that tomorrow, even if that election is certified, recounts are still going on in Florida. And what does that portend? Is there the possibility of even more legal action down the road?

So, you know, I have to think that they would be relatively low key about this at this point in time. Also anxious I think to be sensitive to the public relations aspects of this. They know that this is very controversial, that there are people with very strong, heart-felt opinions on both the Bush side and the Gore side.

The governor's talked a lot about the need to unite the country. I doubt very much that he is going to do something that would sort of rub things in the face of there other side -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve, in Austin, Texas, thank you -- Stephen.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, that circumspection that Jeanne described is also being practiced over at the Gore campaign, although our Eileen O'Connor has been managing to get little bits of information out of them, as the morning has worn on.

Eileen, are you back there with us? And can you tell us anything new?

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am much. There is not much, and they are tiny bits of information. Basically the Gore campaign said that they would come out within an hour, that was about an hour ago. 20 minutes from now should be about when they come out, and they have said that timetable is slipping, it probably will be Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

And this shows you, Stephen, how long they've been huddling, shows you the sensitivity of their response. I am being told they are still considering their response.

Now Secretary of State Warren Christopher did say on CNN earlier today that they would take any legal recourse that they had to, as long as those hand counts are continuing to go on, and they are showing the vice president gaining votes in some of those precincts, in some of those counties. The Gore campaign believes that they still have public opinion on their side to go forward with these recounts.

Now, this response right now that they are considering is not just about the appeal, it's very much about the public statements they're going to be making in response to former Secretary of State James Baker, and also in response to Secretary of State Katherine Harris' obvious ruling that she will certify this tomorrow. And also, you know, they said that as long as those recounts are going on, Secretary of State Warren Christopher said, he would not be willing to concede -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Eileen, thanks for those insights, we will be turning to you again later as the day goes on.

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