Overseas ballots have favored the Republican candidate in the past three presidential elections in Florida, and Bush aides say they expect them to favor him this week.
"This would not be tied up in the courts for another hour if the Gore
campaign would simply agree to abide by the results of a proper count of the
overseas absentee ballots," said Baker, who rejected the idea that the Bush
camp is fearful of what a hand count might bring.
They also pointed to what they termed a significant difference between a
Texas law, signed by Governor Bush in 1997, which calls hand counts superior
to machine counts, and the process in Florida. The Texas law prescribes
standards to guide officials in manual tallies, while Florida leaves those
decisions to the discretion of individual election commissions in each county.
Baker said the "subjective" process in Florida "opens up tremendous
possibilities for human error" and "for mischief." He acknowledged, however,
that he had no evidence that there has been any wrongdoing in the initial hand
counts, which are being closely watched by representatives of both campaigns.
The Gore camp, while increasingly optimistic that its hand-recount strategy
would deliver the presidency to their man, has refused to rule out future
The Bush campaign was the first to go to court, but that move followed a
public threat by the Gore team to back legal challenges to the election by
Gore voters in Florida.
Gore chairman William M. Daley said the campaign would continue to examine
"all options," including filing a legal challenge, over what Gore's lawyers
regard as an illegal ballot in Palm Beach County, which apparently confused
Individual Democrats in Florida have filed a number of lawsuits in state
courts over that disputed Palm Beach ballot, demanding a revote in the county.
The Bush campaign says the Democrats will keep recounting until they
finally get an outcome that favors Gore.
Bush is asking Judge Middlebrooks to assume responsibility over the
lawsuits that have been filed in state courts, apparently on the theory that
there would be less chance that he would take the drastic step of ordering a
new election than would a state judge.
The Bush campaign has not requested a hand recount, saying that it opposes
them "as a matter of principle" in Florida. But Baker said yesterday on NBC's
"Meet the Press" that the Bush campaign has missed a deadline for demanding a
hand recount in only "one or two" counties.
The Bush campaign is not ruling out a request for a manual recount
statewide. "When you do it in just selected counties, you don't treat all
voters the same way," Baker said.
It would be up to Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, to decide whether
to demand recounts in other states, if the court fails to halt the latest
Florida recount, Baker said.
Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Gore's chief surrogate in
Florida, disputed the Bush side's claim that machines can count more reliably
"Machine counts are very often inaccurate, just as ... your own credit card
bills are sometimes inaccurate," Christopher said. Because the results in
Florida will determine the next president, "there's a very great justification
for having the hand count to check the machine count," he added.
The Gore campaign would "certainly consider" a statewide hand recount,
Christopher said, while pointing out that the Bush side hasn't proposed that
The longest vote count in a modern presidential election will soon enter
its second week without a winner. But the Gore adviser said the public needs
to be patient for a while longer.
Christopher noted that only five of the 75 days between the election and
the presidential inauguration have passed, and predicted that the final result
would be known in "a matter of days - not weeks, not months."
While their spokesmen jousted over the airwaves, the candidates kept
largely out of the spotlight.