Bush went on to declare his belief that he had won the election. He also appeared, for the first time, to question the legitimacy of a Gore presidency, should the Democrat wind up winning the election.
"I believe Secretary Cheney and I won the vote in Florida," he said. "I
believe some are determined to keep counting in an effort to change the
Later in the day, the Bush campaign filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee, asking
13 counties to reconsider hundreds of disqualified military ballots. News
reports from Florida indicate that the proportion of military absentee ballots
thrown out last week was no greater than four years ago.
If the courts order more military ballots counted, Bush is likely to gain
votes. There were 646 overseas ballots disqualified in the affected counties;
it is not known how many were from members of the armed forces.
While Bush was making his first statements on the Florida Supreme Court
decision, it was Gore's day to avoid public comments. The vice president and
his wife packed boxes of food for the needy, as they do each Thanksgiving
season, while campaign chairman Willliam Daley prepared to speak to reporters
outside the vice-president's residence, Gore's command post for much of the
past two weeks.
Just before Daley stepped out to give an optimistic report on developments
in Florida, the Miami-Dade canvassing board cut the Gore camp off at the
On a unanimous vote, following a morning of acrimony that included raucous
Republicans protesting the recount , Miami Dade's Democratic canvassing board
opted to abandon its manual recount.
David Leahy, the board chairman, explained that it seemed impossible to
recount more than 617,000 ballots by the 5 p.m. Sunday deadline set in the
Florida Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday. (actually, the justices had left
Harris, the secretary of state, the option of giving the counties until 9 a.m.
on Monday; she declined).
A partial count might disenfranchise some voters in the county, Leahy said,
in explaining the board's decision to return to its Nov. 8th count.
Gore's campaign asked a Florida judge late yesterday for an emergency order
to continue the recount and to include the ballots already counted in the
final tally. If that request is rejected, Gore would lose 157 votes already
tallied-and the possibility of gaining hundreds more.
Clearly shaken, Daley told reporters that the Gore camp was "disappointed"
with the Miami-Dade board's decision (the same word Bush had used earlier in
the day to describe his reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling).
The two remaining counties, both heavily Democratic, where counts are
continuing, have given Gore a net gain of 129 votes so far.
Broward County, where Gore gained 137 votes, has yet to count thousands of
disputed ballots. The same is true in Palm Beach County, where Bush has picked
up 14 votes. More than half the precincts there remain to be counted.
Democrats maintain that there are still enough potential votes in Broward
and Palm Beach to swing the election for Gore. But the vice president's
chances would be far brighter, they concede, if Miami-Dade continued to count.
Daley, the Gore chairman, dismissed as "hypothetical" a question about
whether the vice president could get enough votes without Miami-Dade to pass
Bush by the Sunday deadline.
Not long after he spoke, doctors at George Washington hospital briefed the
press and the nation on Cheney's condition. They reported that the GOP
vice-presidential nominee would likely be released in two to three days and
could resume his normal activities in a few weeks.
Not until a second briefing, however, and a flury of questions from
reporters who did not attend the first session, did the doctors concede that
Cheney had suffered a "very slight" heart attack.
Cheney's latest heart problems could further complicate the already
difficult task facing Bush, as he attempts to make plans to staff a possible
new administration while the ballot battle continues. Cheney had been named to
head up the Bush transition effort, drawing on his experience as White House
chief of staff in the Ford administration.
As doctors in Washington were scrambling to patch their embarassing
credibility gap, the Bush campaign was in the process of taking the election
to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arguing that Florida's justices had acted unconstitutionally in requiring
that hand recounts be added to the official vote tally, Bush asked the Supreme
Court to declare the election at an end and allow Harris to certify a winner
on the basis of returns received by last weekend. That, of course, would make
Bush the winner.
Unless the justices intervene, Bush lawyers argued, "the consequences may
well include the ascension of a president of questionable legitimacy or a
constitutional crisis." The current situation in Florida, they added, "borders
on anarchy." A ruling could come as early as tomorrow.
Down in Florida, as the day was drawing to a close, Republicans were
flexing their political clout and turning up the heat on the Gore campaign.
Republican Rep. Thomas C. Feeney III, the speaker of the state House of
Representatives, said he had requested legal advice on the GOP-dominated
legislature's role in choosing Florida's electors, should that become
Feeney echoed the Bush campaign's warning that a crisis is looming and said
the state legislature "intends to uphold the Florida constitution." His
remarks reflected the Republicans' determination to make sure that the state's
25 electoral votes are counted - for Bush.
"This is Thanksgiving eve," added the GOP leader. "I think we can all relax
and take a deep breath, at least for 24 hours."
Gore and Bush planned to spend the holiday in Washington, D.C. and Texas,
Any hopes for a grander celebration by either man, however, were lost days
ago in the uncertainty over the election.
During the campaign, Bush liked to joke that it would be "kind of tough
around the old Thanksgiving dinner table" for his younger brother, Jeb, the
Florida governor, if he lost the Sunshine State.
A spokeswoman for the Bush campaign said Jeb Bush and his family would be
spending the holiday in Florida and will not be with his brother today.
Recount in Miami stops on its own
County's action is only one of day's strange twists
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