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Jonathan Karl on the behind-the-scenes juggling of the Gore campaign

Jonathan Karl
Jonathan Karl  

CNN Correspondent Jonathan Karl is reporting from Washington on the campaign of Vice President Al Gore.

Q: What is the Gore team saying following Mondayís landmark hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court?

KARL: The Gore team has been faced with what everybody thought was near- certain defeat on several occasions during this process. They believe that, despite what everyone is saying, they can surprise everybody once again.

The official line from the Gore camp is that all they need is one vote out of the nine justices at the United States Supreme Court to be able to count the more than 40,000 under-votes down in Florida. Thatís because the decision to stay the counting was 5-4 against them. If they can convince just one of those five justices to change their minds, then the Gore camp says they can start the counting once again.

If that happens, then they say itís Gore who ultimately stands a very good chance of winning. In fact, the Gore team is watching very closely Justice Sandra Day OíConnor, who they believe could potentially be the swing vote in all this.

Q: Are they saying anything about possible exit strategy should Gore lose?

KARL: The official line from Goreís top aides is that they believe heís got a good chance of prevailing before the U.S. Supreme Court. So, publicly they are not willing to talk about whatís next if he loses.

But privately, his closest confidants have thought quite a bit about what to do if Gore loses before the Supreme Court, in terms of conceding and maintaining his political viability.

Iím told that these discussions, the aides insist, have not been raised directly with the vice president, but among themselves. If Gore loses before the U.S. Supreme Court, his aides say point blank that itís over and he will concede.

Q: Is there a concession speech already written?

KARL: If you rewind to November 7 Election Day, Goreís top speechwriter, Eli Atty, had written two speeches at the beginning of that day. He had written a victory speech and he had written a concession speech.

He didnít actually show the concession speech until right before Gore was ready to concede, and at that point there were some quick changes made. Gore is a very hands-on person and doesnít just take a speech and give it; he works with the person writing the speech.

Itís not too far of a stretch to say that there are two speeches written right now. Iíve spoken with some of Goreís top media advisers and they say if he is forced into the position where he has to concede again, this speech is quite different from the one that written on election night. They say that speech, if he had delivered it, would have been a speech to supporters; this speech, they say, is a speech to the nation -- not a speech to supporters.

According to the top aides Iíve spoken with, Goreís overriding message will be that he has faith in Americaís democratic system, that he will do everything he can in this speech not to appear as a bitter loser or to question the legitimacy of the process that elected his opponent.

Gore has already said that he would like to meet with George W. Bush. He actually wanted to meet with him before the resolution of this; Gore has also said that if he loses or if he wins, the first order of business is to meet with George W. Bush.

Q: Would Gore call George W. Bush to congratulate him if Bush does indeed win?

KARL: Itís very important to remember that thereís a very big caveat to all this. This is all based on discussions with top aides, and they say they havenít directly talked to Gore about this. Gore has very much kept his own counsel on this matter.

But you could predict, and his aides certainly expect, that Gore would place yet another concession call to George W. Bush should he lose before the United States Supreme Court.

Q: Is Gore still politically viable for 2004 if he loses?

KARL: What Goreís aides say is that this whole process has made him a stronger candidate in the future. If Gore had lost on Election Day, they say there would have been an immediate discussion of how a sitting vice president during a time of unprecedented prosperity and peace lose this election: How could he have lost Tennessee? How could he have lost West Virginia, a state that had gone Democratic every year since 1984?

Instead, his aides say that Democrats will look at Al Gore and think that he did win the election - that he won the popular vote and probably won the vote in Florida, and theyíll think he is (their) standard bearer in the future.

That may be wishful thinking, but Goreís team really believes that this whole process is actually something that, in the end, will work to Goreís advantage.


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Monday, December 11, 2000

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