Still no answers

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2000

The Associated Press

With the calendar closing in, the recount Al Gore believes would reverse George W.

Monday, December 04, 2000

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With the calendar closing in, the recount Al Gore believes would reverse George W. Bush’s minuscule margin in Florida and send him to the White House instead is up to a folksy but firm Tallahassee judge, with an appeal certain whatever his verdict.

And in the marbled splendor of the U.S. Supreme Court, a decision is pending on Bush’s appeal against the recount extension that delayed but did not stop his certification as the Florida winner by 537 votes, the fragment that would make him the 43rd president.

Should that be the outcome, Gore said, and should it be Bush, not he, who is inaugurated on Jan. 20, ”he will be sworn in as my president, too.”

That will be only ”at the end of the day, when all processes have taken place,” Gore said in an interview on CBS’ ”60 Minutes” Sunday night.

Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said today on NBC’s ”Today” show that both candidates will have to find ”an appropriate time” to conclude the election battle.

”The most important speech of this election is … going to be given by the loser when they concede because it will set the tone for the next four years,” said Breaux, who is among a number of Democrats that Bush advisers have suggested for a slot in his administration.

Both sides awaited a decision Monday by Leon County Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls on the Gore’s demand for a full recount of votes in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

”Whatever happens, both sides know this is going to end up in the Florida Supreme Court,” Gore said. ”It’s not a recount. We want a first count.”

It would be a recount, by hand, of ballots already tallied by machine in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. That would cover about 14,000 disputed ballots.

”We need to have these votes counted,” Gore lawyer Ron Klain said Monday on CBS’ ”The Early Show.”

”We’d like to see Judge Sauls order it, but if unfortunately that isn’t his decision, we’ll go from there,” he said.

Asked which legal battle he was most concerned about, Bush lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg said on CBS, ”What we’re most worried about actually is the vice president and how he chooses to deal with this situation.”

Republicans contend that Florida already has had a count and two recounts, and that the Bush win certified by the GOP secretary of state should stand. Katherine Harris announced that certification on Nov. 26, the deadline set by the Florida Supreme Court when it ruled for Gore on an earlier appeal and extended the deadline to permit more time for recounting before the official figures were sent to the secretary of state.

The Bush side appealed that to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Florida court violated federal law and the Constitution by changing the certification deadline set by the state Legislature.

That case was argued before the court Friday, and while the justices do not say when it will decide a case, a ruling on this one is expected soon, with Electoral College deadlines approaching.

Either way, the Supreme Court decision would not undo Bush’s lead in Florida. A ruling for Bush would put his margin back at the 930-vote edge he had on the original certification date, a week after the election. Otherwise, he’d be at the 537 margin, subject to the state court rulings on Gore’s recount case in the contest phase of his legal offensive.