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Is he president yet? Gore, Bush assume leadership roles on TV

Gore and Bush
Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush both comment on the Florida recount controversy, Wednesday  
  • A look ahead to the next three days
Patty Davis on Al Gore's activities

Bill Hemmer on the significance of the Florida recount

Jeanne Meserve on the Bush campaign's recount strategy

Bob Franken on the legal wrangling over Florida recount

(CNN) -- Neither Vice President Al Gore nor Texas Gov. George W. Bush are president yet, but they're doing their best to play one on TV.

Both men appeared on national television Wednesday night in appearances timed for maximum exposure and in stately, dignified settings that gave them the air of a presidential address -- part of an effort by both camps to win over public opinion while the Florida recount remains unresolved.

Gore took to a podium at his official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington at the dinner hour, during broadcast network newscasts, to propose a solution to the Florida recount impasse: If Bush accepted a manual recount in Florida -- either in selected counties or statewide -- Gore would skip any legal challenge to the result.

Gore also proposed a meeting between the two men and urged both sides to avoid any "inflammatory" rhetoric.

"We should both call on all of our supporters to respect the outcome of this election, whatever it may be," Gore said. "We should both call on all of our supporters to prepare themselves to close ranks as Americans and unite the country behind the winner as soon as this process is complete."

The offer took the Bush camp by surprise. The Texas governor was at his ranch in Crawford, about two hours from the state capital Austin. Four hours after Gore went on the air, Bush appeared in the governor's mansion to reject the offer.

After the state court session on Florida's hand recounts, Gore attorney David Boies spoke with the press (November 16)

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"The outcome of this election will not be a result of deals or efforts to mold public opinion," Bush said. "The outcome of this election will be determined by the votes, by the law."

But public opinion is important: Whoever wins the White House once Florida's outcome is determined could be hampered by a public belief that their presidency is the result of a fluke -- or worse.

Democrats note that Gore is leading the popular vote nationwide, leading Bush in the Electoral College tally as long as Florida remains undecided and trails Bush by only 300 votes in Florida's recount. Bush, they argue, is trying to declare himself a winner without counting all the votes.

Gore's running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, said voters who supported the Democratic ticket need to see a "reasonable and just conclusion" to the impasse if the next president is to have legitimacy.

Gore himself pressed the point in a Thursday morning interview on ABC radio.

"The choice really is whether the voters are going to decide this election by having every vote count or whether that process is going to be short-circuited without all the votes being examined," he said.

Wednesday night's statement was Bush's first public comment since the weekend. Aides left the Republican nominee's remarks to stand for themselves Thursday, avoiding further comment that might overshadow their candidate's statement.

On the Republican side, Bush's aides have tried to paint him as the winner whose victory is being held up by red tape. He has been shown meeting with advisers, trying to move forward with the task of assembling a government: Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes this week accused Gore of urging Florida officials to "ignore the law so that he can overturn the results of this election."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Wednesday any Gore presidency would be "remarkably tainted" if he wins by going to court over the Florida recount and complaints about the ballot in Palm Beach County.

"Gore is teetering on the edge, I think, of not being legitimate," said Gingrich, a former Georgia congressman who resigned after Republican electoral losses in 1998.

But public sentiment seems to contradict the hand wringing by the commentators who worry that whoever prevails will have trouble rallying any support. A CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll this week found that about 80 percent of the public would consider either man the legitimately elected president.


Thursday, November 16, 2000



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