TOO CLOSE TO CALL
Florida Recount Denies Bush Win;
Dan Bernard, Staff Writer, Channel Cincinnati
Gore Won't Concede; Campaign Says Florida Must Recount
November 8, 2000, 9:27 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON -- The first U.S. presidential election of the 21st century was supposed to be decided on Tuesday.
In a twist that defied belief, the win in Florida that seemed to give George W. Bush the minimum necessary electoral votes to take the White House was thrown into a recount process because the margin was too slim.
The official winner might not be declared for a day or for several days, experts told television networks.
"I've been in politics a very long time, but there has never been a night like this one," Gore campaign chairman William Daley told a punch-drunk crowd of supporters in Nashville.
If the near-tie weren't confounding enough, there was also a split that raised the spectre of a constitutional crisis. Bush won the decisive electoral vote count, but Democratic candidate Al Gore appeared to have won more of the popular vote.
The Constitution would rule Bush the winner by grace of reaping a majority of states' electoral votes, awarded on a winner-take-all basis. But Bush's credibility could be undermined if Gore pointed out that he had won more of the votes cast by individual voters.
For an updated count of the electoral and popular votes, click here
Neither campaign conceded defeat pending official rulings, and American voters were thrown into limbo for perhaps many days. As television audiences watched astonished, Gore went to bed without conceding -- while Bush's campaign expressed confidence they would ultimately prevail.
"Until the recount is official and certified in the state of Florida ... our campaign continues," Gore chairman Daley told a rally crowd that had been rocked between apparent victory and defeat for hours. Click for video clip.
Minutes later, Bush adviser Don Evans told supporters in Austin: "I'm confident that when it's all said and done, we will prevail." Evans cited a margin of about 1,200. Click for video clip.
Different news sources put Bush's apparent margin in Florida as little as 220 votes or as many as 1,200 -- either one slender enough to trigger a recount of ballots no sooner than Wednesday.
Further clouding the Florida results were that as many as 2,300 absentee ballots were outstanding and could be for as many as 10 days, Florida elections official Clay Roberts told MSNBC. Many absentee ballots are cast by overseas military personnel who tend to vote Republican, MSNBC reported.
Media Look Foolish
It was a "Dewey-Defeats-Truman" night for the U.S. media, with commentators eating their predictions repeatedly. Florida Goes Gore -- Or Maybe Not
Few viewers had gone to bed when major networks declared that Gore had won Florida -- then backtracked within the hour and said the state was too close to call.
Florida Goes Bush -- Maybe
After hours of suspenseful vote-counting, networks declared Bush had won a plurality of individual votes in Florida, and thus all of the states' 25 electoral votes, and thus the 2000 presidential election, since that brought him to 271 electoral votes. 270 electoral votes are needed to win.
Networks reported that Gore had called Bush to offer congratulations and was preparing a concession speech.Florida Undecided
But then as more votes were counted, Bush's lead in Florida dwindled to about 6,000 in the vote count. After 3:30 a.m. Eastern, word came out that Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore had cancelled his speech -- and telephoned Bush to retract his earlier phone call. Shortly after 4 a.m. Eastern time, television networks removed Florida from Bush's "win" column.
Confusion prevailed as CNN suggested on its Web site that the vote-count figures earlier reported to the media may not have matched the actual numbers compiled by Florida election officials. But Gore supporters at a rally in Tennessee began chanting "recount" and cheering as television reporters said Florida would be legally required to recount the ballots if the margin ended up being less than half a percentage point.
The astonishing repeated flip-flop of events made for a wild ride through the night and into Wednesday. NBC's Tom Brokaw confessed that news commentators not only had egg on their faces but "omelette all over our suits." The venerable New York Times stopped its presses early Tuesday morning waiting for a clearer outcome.
Bush's Tough Sell
Bush, the Republican governor of Texas, had urged the country to change leadership even in the midst of unprecedented prosperity overseen by the administration of his opponent, Vice President Gore.
While Bush also pledged to avoid the partisan divisiveness that has typified politics in Washington, D.C., that would not be a problem if he prevails: His Republican Party held control of the U.S. House and Senate in Tuesday's voting, dashing Democrats' hopes of regaining power after six years in the minority.
The last time the GOP controlled the White House and both houses of Congress was in 1952, CNN said.
Nader The Spoiler?
Green Party candidate Ralph Nader received at least 100,000 votes in Florida, MSNBC said. That was well more than Bush's margin of victory, fueling pundits' assessment that the presence of the third-party candidate had tipped the race to Bush by draining liberal voters from Democrat Gore.
The spoiler effect would only add to a sense of symmetry if Bush wins. George Walker Bush's father, President George Herbert Walker Bush, was denied a second term by Bill Clinton and running mate Gore in 1992. Father and son believed the Bush campaign had lost votes to centrist independent candidate H. Ross Perot.
On Tuesday, the younger Bush was within a hair's breadth of denying Gore his bid to take Clinton's place, with the presence of third-party candidate Nader a possible contributing factor.
As votes came in Tuesday evening, the race proved to be as tight as polls had predicted. Then it stayed that way, hour after hour, even as key battleground states fell to Gore.
Bush changed his plans, watching the returns in the privacy of the Texas governor's mansion rather than with a large group of with friends and relatives at a hotel, the AP reported.
Gore won most of the Great Lakes region and the Northeast and California.
- He won the populous and pivotal states of Pennsylvania and Michigan and California along with Washington state, New York and all of New England but New Hampshire.
- Also siding with Gore: Minnesota, Iowa, New Mexico and Maine, overcoming a feared "Nader effect."
Bush virtually monopolized the mountain states and the Southeast.
- The Florida deadlock kept him from claiming the state where brother Jeb is governor, but Bush did take his own home state and those of Gore and Clinton -- Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas.
- Bush took a majority in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Missouri, the Carolinas and the Dakotas.
Still in doubt early Wednesday were Oregon and, of course, Florida.
Voter turnout was reported brisk throughout the country. In an extreme case, Democrats in Michigan attempted to force polling places to stay open later to meet demand, but a judge turned down their request Tuesday evening. For updates, click this link on affiliate Web site ClickOnDetroit.
The presidential deadlock overshadows the major parties' turf wars over Congress as well as the 11 contested governors' races.
Bush portrayed himself as more trustworthy and capable of ending bickering in Washington -- "a uniter." Gore said his two decades in government give him the experience to prevail in taking on the special interests. Voters interviewed by The Associated Press said the characters of the candidates influenced their voting choices more than pressing issues:
- In Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, dentist John Scovic said integrity was the issue that led him to vote for Bush. "I just think George Bush has more leadership skills and a more principled, centered-type personality," Scovic said.
- But Bruce Mitzit, who works in information technology at the University of Chicago, said he chose Gore because Bush "wants to make life easy for big business and for the wealthy."
- At a fire station in Little Rock, Ark., the line of voters was 200 deep, and it took nearly 90 minutes to complete the process. To help move things along faster, election workers let voters take the paper ballots into a garage. With felt-tip pens in hand, they leaned against truck bumpers, making their marks.
- Weather proved an Election Day obstacle to some voters. Up to a foot of snow prevented poll workers from reaching their posts in part of New Mexico, and snowplows delivered ballots through blowing snow on part of the northern Plains.
Behind the presidential candidates was the most expensive campaign in history -- $3 billion spent on presidential and congressional races or about $30 for every vote cast, according to the AP. Yet the campaign season failed to stir much excitement.In some cases, factors barely raised in the campaign influenced how voters decided. Ray Bettge, 42, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who escorted his Vietnamese-born wife to the polls to vote in her first U.S. election, said he voted for Gore in part because of Bush's views on capital punishment. "I think Bush is a rather cruel person," Bettge said. "He executes people and enjoys doing it." And in Buffalo, N.Y., college student James Park, 26, said he voted for Bush for a simple reason: "I liked his father." Gore's task was complicated by "Clinton fatigue" -- a weariness of the sex scandal that led to an impeachment ordeal -- and by the base-eroding threat posed by the insurgent Ralph Nader, who argued that both major parties are captives of the same corporate money.Voter William Slugg, a factory manager in Albany, Ga., gave vent to exasperation with Clinton. "I'm a broken-glass Republican -- that is what I would crawl across to get those guys out of office," he told a reporter. "Bill has screwed up the White House."
For more campaign coverage from Channel Cincinnati, click here
Copyright 2001 by Channel Cincinnati.
All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten