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Jeanne Meserve on the Bush campaign's recount strategy

Jeanne Meserve
Jeanne Meserve  

CNN Correspondent Jeanne Meserve is reporting from Austin, Texas, where she is covering the Bush campaign.

Q: What is the Bush campaign's main objection to the manual recounts in Florida?

MESERVE: They believe that the manual recounts are prone to human error and possibly to fraud. They believe the hand recounts are subjective. They believe the standards for evaluating the ballots are uncertain and changeable, and they believe that to conduct the recounts in a few counties that are heavily Democratic is unfair. They feel that distorts the results because there's no hand recounting going on in Republican-controlled counties.

The history has been that when there is a hand recount it tends to increase the margin of the victor and, of course, Al Gore was the victor in the counties where they are talking about doing recounts.

Q: Is the Bush camp receptive to having hand recounts in all 67 Florida counties?

MESERVE: That is an absolute non-starter for the Bush campaign. First of all, they've argued from the start that the process of hand recounting is fundamentally flawed, so they're not going to accept it on a statewide basis anymore than they will on a selective basis.

Second, they believe it will slow the process down and drag this out even further. And finally, there's the fact that the Bush campaign is not certain what the result would be if there were a hand recount statewide.

They know they've won the vote in Florida; they know they've won the machine recount; they are confident that they will get the majority of overseas ballots that are due in at midnight Friday. They are not so confident that they would come out on top if there was a hand recount statewide.

Q: What's their strategy if the hand recounts do go forward in the primarily Democratic counties?

MESERVE: Their immediate strategy is go forward (in the courts). ... They will argue that it is an unconstitutional matter to have these hand recounts go forward in just the four selected counties, because it will distort the results and deny due process to other Floridians.

Q: How important did they feel it was for Gov. George W. Bush to respond to Vice President Al Gore last night? (Gore said that if Bush agreed to extend the hand recount to include all Florida counties, he would abide by the result and forgo any legal challenges.)

MESERVE: They thought it was absolutely critical to respond to what Gore was saying. Gore had gone before the cameras in the middle of the evening news broadcasts for maximum exposure and made the offer, which the Democrats probably knew would be rejected out of hand. Nonetheless, it put Gore in the position of appearing to be the statesman.

It was imperative that Bush get out there and articulate his counter argument. So, he drove back from his ranch two hours away to Austin to appear before the cameras.

Q: Is the Bush camp moving ahead with its transition plans?

MESERVE: Yesterday, they certainly were. Their argument has been that they need to prepare for any contingency, and one contingency might be a Bush presidency. While Bush was at the ranch, he met with Dick Cheney, his running mate who is in charge of the transition efforts, and Andrew Card, who is rumored to be the White House chief of staff in a Bush administration.

The governor has also been doing state business in Texas and, of course, monitoring developments in Florida and consulting with his aides here in Austin and on the ground in Florida to plot strategy.


Thursday, November 16, 2000



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