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Wary of dissent, Democrats quickly back Gore appeal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were quick to support Vice President Al Gore's appeal of a major setback in his contest of Florida's election results Monday, but a number of party sources said privately the vice president was running short of time -- and legal options.

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt  

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, and Senate counterpart Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, issued a joint statement less than a hour after Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls refused Gore's request to order recounts in two south Florida counties.

"Given the decision of the Leon County Circuit Court against a manual recount of thousands of ballots in Florida, we are united in our support of the decision to appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court," Gephardt and Daschle said in the statement.

"We also believe Democrats in the House and Senate share our view. While the courts go about their important work, we remain committed to a full fair and accurate count in Florida," the statement continued. "There is still enough time to count all the votes."

"It is vitally important that every vote is counted and that this election is resolved as accurately as possible, so the American people have confidence that their next president was the candidate who got the most votes. The American people deserve to have their voices heard, and our democracy demands that in an election this close we do everything we can to give full expression to their will."

However, some centrist Democrats -- especially those with large constituencies that voted for Bush on Election Day -- are growing restive as the legal wrangling over the state's 25 electoral votes goes on.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle  

"It is going to be much more difficult now to keep the already nervous people from speaking out, urging the vice president to bow out," one leading Democrat told CNN on condition of anonymity.

"It is going to take a lot of work to keep people in line. Most understand his case, and understand his appeal, but there comes a point when it just seems beyond reach. My sense is we can hold them through the appeal, but it is going to take some work," the lawmaker said.

With Congress back in town to finish work on the long-overdue federal budget, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman and Gore campaign chairman William Daley were scheduled to meet with the House and Senate Democratic caucuses Tuesday to explain the Gore legal and political strategy in the coming days.

Having Gore himself deliver an appeal for Democratic unity "is not off the table," a senior advisor told CNN. The advisor, who spoke an condition of anonymity, also said that a Democratic appeal to Florida's Supreme Court "sure looks like the last hope of turning this around."

The adviser, however, also noted Democratic challenges to absentee ballot counts in Seminole and Martin counties, saying: "I guess there is a possibility we could get help from elsewhere."


Monday, December 4, 2000



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