Gore camp staggered by decision

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON - Al Gore, suffering a body blow from the U.S. Supreme Court last night, ended an agonizing day of uncertainty searching for any shred of hope in the high court's ruling.

In a spare statement from his campaign chairman, Gore was said to be reviewing the decision, and he would have something to say about it today.

The vice president remained behind the closed doors of his official residence last night as one top Democratic official - and one of his own lawyers - called for him to concede.

Democratic National Chairman Ed Rendell said it was time for Gore to give up, a remark that infuriated members of the Gore team.

"He should act now and concede," Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor, said on MSNBC.

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, a Gore attorney who was benched in favor of Gore lawyer David Boies in arguing the case before the Supreme Court earlier this week, said the "gracious thing" would be for Gore to concede.

However, both Rendell and Tribe later softened their positions, saying the court decision was complicated and deserved closer scrutiny.

The Gore team's short statement, e-mailed to reporters late last night by campaign chairman William M. Daley, said that Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, "are now reviewing the 5-4 decision issued tonight by the Supreme Court of the United States."

Added Daley: "The decision is both complex and lengthy. It will take some time to completely analyze this opinion. We will address the court's decision in full detail at a time to be determined" today.

As a crowd outside Gore's residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory chanted, "Get out of Cheney's house," the vice president remained inside with his family, pondering his political and legal options. The vice president participated in conference calls with senior advisers and members of his legal team.

"I'd be very surprised if it's not over," a Gore senior aide said last night. "He's ready. I think he's been for weeks at peace with the idea of losing."

New Jersey Sen. Robert G. Torricelli said, "This is a very difficult evening for him. It has gotten to the end."

Earlier in the day, Gore staffers tried to deal with the agony of the wait.

Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway was sitting down for a haircut in Tallahassee - anything to distract him from the long wait for word from the U.S. Supreme Court - when his cell phone rang with news that a ruling was imminent.

Hattaway jumped from the chair and rushed to the campaign's headquarters in the Florida capital. It was just a rumor, but Hattaway had learned his lesson, refusing to leave the office the rest of the day.

"Fortunately," he said, "I didn't get my hair half-cut."

For the Gore campaign, whose very existence was riding on the pending decision by the high court, yesterday was like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie on pause. No one could anticipate the political explosions and commando action that would follow when the drama resumed. All they could do was stare at the freeze frame.

And so Gore - and his staff flung across Washington and Florida - spent the day waiting. The vice president spent nearly two hours at his White House office, sent an encouraging e-mail to staff members thanking them for their work. He also told his staff that no one should publicly slam the Supreme Court if the justices decide against him.

As the day wore on, some optimistic staffers began planning for the next step. Assuming the court would rule that thousands of ballots could be manually recounted, they made sure scores of recount observers were in place in all of Florida's 67 counties.

But many more staffers were simply glued to television sets at their desks, trying to distract themselves as the ruling loomed.

At the Democratic National Committee's headquarters here, Gore spokesman Chris Lehane was playing Tank Wars, a video game, while punchy co-workers spread the rumor that he wouldn't stop until the court announced its decision - a joke. Deputy campaign manager Mark Fabiani spent the afternoon scrolling through the Armani Web site looking for clothes. A couple of other staffers were napping on couches.

In Florida, senior adviser Nick Baldick was asking for e-mailed pictures from home of his newborn daughter, Serena. The Baltimore native, who has been in Florida since five weeks before Election Day, said he has given up trying to predict what the court will do.

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