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Wolf Blitzer gauges the presidential battle

December 5, 2000
Web posted at: 5:25 p.m. EST (2225 GMT)

CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke with CNN.com about the ongoing presidential, political landscape.

Blitzer

Q: What's the significance of everything that's going on this week?

BLITZER: I think it's Al Gore's last chance to overcome the deficit that he has in the vote. He really only has a couple lifelines left, given the setbacks he suffered on Monday. He has an opportunity -- slim, but he still has an opportunity that the Florida Supreme Court will overturn the ruling by Judge N. Sanders Sauls. He has another lifeline in the potential opportunity to throw away a whole bunch of Republican votes in Seminole and Martin Counties in Florida, suits brought by local Democrats not directly associated with Gore's campaign.

But short of that, it looks like the momentum is certainly moving toward Bush's direction.

Q: What's the mood there on Capitol Hill among Republicans and Democrats?

BLITZER: Republicans are certainly upbeat. They are very encouraged by these latest advances for George W. Bush, and they're moving full-speed ahead with the transition. Cheney has really been the point man for Gov. Bush in Washington in meeting with the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate, and getting that transition going as much as they can within proper boundaries given the fact that the election is somewhat still in doubt.

At the same time, the Democrats are putting their best face forward. They certainly are not giving up completely, although behind the scenes they certainly aren't as upbeat as the Republicans. They know that Gore and his legal team have a very, very difficult uphill struggle ahead of them in the next few days. A lot of them are saying privately that it will be a real long shot for Gore to pull this out, but they're not ready to cave yet.

Q: At what point does public pressure begin to take its toll in a possible Gore decision to concede?

BLITZER: They say that the public pressure has not developed yet, that the public is very patient, the Democrats are saying. The Democrats want to make sure that all options, all legal options, are exhausted before they concede. The polls seem to bear them out somewhat. Yes, a lot more Americans think that Gore should concede, but it's not overwhelming, according to the latest public opinion polls. They're certainly not ready to concede yet.

Q: What would be considered a victory for Gore at the Florida Supreme Court?

BLITZER: A victory for Gore would be the Florida Supreme Court hears the oral arguments Thursday at 10 a.m. and they quickly decide that Judge N. Sanders Sauls was wrong -- that there must be a recount of those disputed ballots. They then order a court master, a representative of the court, to go ahead and begin the process of counting, knowing that there's a deadline of December 12, when those Florida electors and the other state electors have to be sent to Washington. There would only be a few days to do the recount, maybe working through the weekend, if they have to do it.

That's the Gore team's long-shot hope, that the Supreme Court of Florida will not only say go ahead and count those disputed ballots, but will also send back an explanation to the U.S. Supreme Court why it was right in ordering those manual recounts to go forward.

Q: If Bush does become the next president-elect, what must he do to try to reach out to Democrats, and how difficult of a challenge will that be?

BLITZER: It would be very difficult. A lot will depend on the way Al Gore concedes, if in fact that happens. A lot of the opportunities that George W. Bush will have to unite the country, to get the country over this national political drama of the last month, will depend on the way Al Gore addresses the nation. If Gore does it in a very gracious way and seeks to bury the hatchet, that will certainly help Bush a great deal. But no matter how Gore concedes, if it comes down to that, remember there's a 50-50 split in the Senate and a very tiny Republican majority in the House. And there's still a lot of bitterness and a lot of substantive differences.

My guess is (in bringing the nation together) a lot will depend on what issues Bush, assuming he becomes the next president, decides to focus on first: whether its tax cuts or healthcare or education or national security. A lot will depend on what he decides are his signature issues during his first 100 days. I think that will have a big impact on whether he succeeds in getting over this trouble that we've been facing over the past four weeks.

Q: Do you think the closeness of the election has affected the legislative agenda Bush will pursue, assuming he does become president?

BLITZER: I think so. I think he realizes that to get stuff done, given how evenly divided the country is, he's not going to be able to go with the legislative agenda he put forward fully during his campaign. That $1.3 trillion, 10-year tax cut, I think he will realize, is going to have to be scaled back if he wants it to get through the closely divided Senate and House of Representatives.

He's a political realist. Bush, if in fact he does become president, will have to deal with the real world, and the real world isn't as neat and clean as it is during the campaign when you put forward proposals and don't immediately have to worry about getting them implemented. Once you're in the White House and have to deal with the opposition in Congress, it's a different story.

If Bush is sworn in on January 20 -- and certainly his chances seem better than Al Gore's right now, but it's not over -- then we'll see how quickly he can prove he is a uniter, not a divider.


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Tuesday, December 5, 2000


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