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Eileen O'Connor on the Gore team and the waiting game

image
Eileen O'Connor  

CNN Correspondent Eileen O'Connor is reporting from Washington on the presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore.

Q: What are we hearing from the Gore campaign following Thursday's arguments before the Florida Supreme Court?

O'CONNOR: The vice president and his wife, Tipper, as well as his running mate Joseph Lieberman and his wife, watched the proceedings at the vice president's mansion here at the Naval Observatory.

The Gore team believes they made a good case before the Florida Supreme Court. (Team members) were encouraged that the justices were asking how the recounts could take place and that they zeroed in on the fact that Judge N. Sanders Sauls did not look at the ballots themselves, even though they were entered into evidence. That is one thing the Gore camp had really wanted to focus on; they believe that is a key reason Sauls' decision should be overturned.

Therefore, the Gore camp is saying they are pretty encouraged.

On the other hand, they noted you can never tell with these things. They noted there was tough questioning from the beginning on whether the state Supreme Court should even look at this case. And they do know that the U.S. Supreme Court decision is clearly weighing on the minds of the Florida Supreme Court justices. That is obviously some cause for concern.

Overall, the Gore camp said their case was well argued by David Boies and that they just need to let this play out.

Q: Were they surprised at all by the tough questioning at the outset of the hearing, in which the justices grilled Boies on issues relating to the U.S. Supreme Court case?

O'CONNOR: I wouldn't say surprised, but obviously it wasn't something that would give them great confidence. The Gore team has always said the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court didn't have any practical impact. And clearly, if the U.S. Supreme Court decision is weighing on the state court justices' minds, it is an aspect that is having a practical impact on the case.

But the Gore team says it didn't really surprise them that there were questions about it. They believe that the state high court's earlier decision was made based on Florida law, and the Gore team says they argued their appeal on the basis of Florida law, which allows for manual recounts in the case of a contested election.

Q: Where does Gore go from here?

O'CONNOR: The vice president's running mate Joseph Lieberman said the other day that the Florida state Supreme Court decision was going to be the ultimate decision. There were editorials Thursday in The New York Times and Washington Post supporting this appeal through the Florida state Supreme Court, saying that the Gore camp had made this appeal and that it needed to play out. But both editorials also made the point that if Gore loses in the Florida Supreme Court, that should be it -- that Gore should step forward and concede.

Q: What about the two cases in Seminole and Martin counties where Democrats are seeking to have thousands of absentee ballots that went for George W. Bush thrown out? Why hasn't Gore joined those suits?

O'CONNOR: The Gore team believes the arguments in those cases went counter to their argument all along: that every vote should count. It's difficult for them politically to make the case that every vote should count, when at the same time someone is arguing a case to throw out all these votes because of alleged improprieties in the application process.

But still, Gore's aides are not ruling out the possibility that they might wait out those lawsuits in Seminole and Martin counties. That, however, might not go over well with some Democrats on Capitol Hill who believe the Florida state Supreme Court should be the last outlet.




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Thursday, December 7, 2000

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