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Gore Campaign Chairman William Daley and Gore Campaign Observer Warren Christopher Hold News Briefing on Florida Recount

Aired November 10, 2000 - 1:24 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take you to Tallahassee now, where William Daley, the Gore campaign manager, is at the podium.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: As you know, our campaign has been shut down as of today. And then we're on to Washington for the weekend.

As you know, the automatic recount required by Florida law is continuing. To date, that count has shown a considerable narrowing of the margin between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush. When one considers the number of ballots yet to arrive from Americans overseas, and presumably mostly men and women in the military, it seems very clear that the outcome here in Florida remains in doubt, as it will for several more days.

In addition, in the past 24 hours three counties have granted requests to have ballots counted -- hand counted, at least on a sample basis. These requests were made because of oddities in the computer vote totals. I hope all Americans agree that the will of the people, not a computer glitch, should select our next president.

The wait to get these results is frustrating, frustrating to all of us in both campaigns, and to the American people obviously as well. But calls for a declaration of a victor before all the votes are accurately tabulated are inappropriate. Waiting is unpleasant for all of us, but suggesting that the outcome of a vote is known before all the ballots are properly counted is inappropriate.

In addition, we continue to explore the questions of what can be done to remedy the unfairness of thousands of residents in Palm Beach County, who believed they were voting for Al Gore, having those votes tabulated for Pat Buchanan or not tabulated at all. Our legal team has concluded that the ballot in Palm Beach County was unlawful, it was complained about on Election Day, a complaint implicitly acknowledged by the election supervisor, who put out a flyer on Election Day warning about the problems.

In the end, as frustrating as this wait may be, what we are seeing here is democracy in action, careful and lawful effort to ensure that the will of the people is done. Other systems of government may work faster. Curtailing voters' rights may get a result that is faster. But no system of government is more just or more enduring than ours.

I hope that our friends in the Bush campaign will joining us in our efforts to get the fairest and most accurate vote count here in Florida. Respect for democratic principles and for the fundamental precept of our Constitution that the people should decide requires no less.

I think as we move forward it is implicit for all of us, and all of those concerned, that we carefully measure all of our words, recognizing the high stakes involved in these deliberations.

Secretary Christopher and I would be happy to answer a few of your questions.


QUESTION: If by next Friday the absentee ballots are counted and the state of Florida certifies that Governor Bush carried the state even by only one vote, will that end the bickering as some hope?

DALEY: I don't think this is bickering. This is our process that we're moving toward to. I think we've got to see it to completion. Obviously these hand counts -- and we are encouraged that the election -- that the county-level election committees are moving very quickly, one of them being even held today. And there are samples that are done first before a judgment's made whether an entire county has to be done.

So they seem, at a local level, to be moving rather quickly. So we're all encouraged that this process is moving about as quick as it can right now.



DALEY: Well, legal experts from Florida have told us that, have indicated that they feel strongly that was an unlawful ballot and we'll see what actions proceed out of that.



DALEY: Well, my understanding is that Senator Torricelli was misquoted in that comment, and I have not to talk to Senator Breaux. All we're trying to do is see this election be completed according to the laws, obviously. And the people of Florida, not us, are the ones who want to see this election completed according to the laws of Florida.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what Mr. Baker said in reference to the suggestion that if the Democrats didn't somewhat back down, then perhaps the Bush people would consider a challenge in some of the ballots in other states?

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, OBSERVER FOR GORE CAMPAIGN: It seems to me that the team of Governor Bush has every right to consider challenges in other states if they think that's in their interest to do so. And perhaps they have an obligation to do so if they regard the count as inaccurate.

Let's remember how we got here, how we came to Florida. You know, I think it would be really fixed in all of our minds. First we saw the state of Florida projected for Vice President Bush, then we saw it too close to call, then projected for the governor for Texas and then back to too close to call. That's what brought Florida into the particularly important situation and why we've come here.

It's an automatic vote count. We're following that vote count through. So I would like to try to make it as clear as I can that this is an orderly process.

We have no reason to want to slow it down. The -- Governor Bush's team, led by Secretary Baker, who's -- had a very good meeting with him yesterday -- will have to make their own decisions.

But we're going to proceed here in a very careful and lawful way to try to ensure that the will of the people of Florida is accurately represented.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, let me follow up on that. Secretary Baker said that -- he suggested there should be no reasonable end to this process, if legal challenges continue, and further added that for the good of the country and the sake of our standing in the globe this campaigning and legal wrangling should end. What's your response to this?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, we're only three days away from the election itself. Our constitutional fathers wisely provided a period of time after the election and before the electors meet; we're in the very early part of that period.

And I don't see any threat to our Constitution. Indeed, what we're doing is a constitutional process. There's no constitutional crisis. We're proceeding in accordance with the Constitution of laws and will continue to do so.

I don't see any threat at the moment to our standing overseas. We'll always have this period of interregnum between the election and the installation of the new administration. So I think we're proceeding in a very direct way.

If there was some escalation of rhetoric on the other side in the last few hours, I'm not inclined to join it

I'm inclined to try to stay on the path of being affirmative about it, trying to carry out our duties here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) CHRISTOPHER: I suppose it's more of a coincidence that both Secretary Baker and I were here. We had a good meeting. We talked about prior relationships. It was on a very professional basis.

I would say the main result of the meeting was an opening of lines of communication between two people who are old colleagues and old friends, even though we're in opposite parties.

We acknowledged that we had quite different interests in this situation, but I think we pledged ourselves to try to keep the rhetoric as low as possible, given the situation, and try to carry it out in a professional way.


DALEY: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate on what the judicial system would end up or where it would end up. I don't think that would be up to me.


QUESTION: The Florida secretary of state just released their opinion saying this was legal in Palm Beach. Are you prepared to litigate...

DALEY: Well, as I said, legal counsel have indicated that they thought it was not a legal ballot, and I assume that's an issue that will end up in dispute.

Yes, ma'am?


DALEY: I'm not going to be litigating it. There are Floridians who will look at this issue.

Yes, sir?


DALEY: Well, I think even Pat Buchanan indicated that he thought the majority of the votes in Palm Beach County were meant more for Al Gore than for him. I think if you look at the Reform candidate for Senate, you look at every other county, look at the candidacy in 1996, it's pretty obvious that something was wrong.

Yes, ma'am?


DALEY: I think as quick as we would -- as soon as the proper procedures would allow it, it can be done. All of us want this as quick possible to be over. There's no question about that.

Yes, sir? QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the overseas ballot has always favored the Republicans. What makes you think that Mr. Gore will fare well once those ballots...


DALEY: I'm not -- I didn't say that we predict that he will those ballots. It remains to be seen. But to assume they're one or the other would be inappropriate at this time. Why don't wait to see when they're counted how they come out?

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) in other words, you're talking now about looking at Milwaukee voters on the cigarette issue. At what point does this, sort of, spiral out of control (OFF-MIKE)

DALEY: I wouldn't want to speculate on any of that. Obviously, there are always disputes around elections. I think everyone would like to see this election process, which seems to have gone on -- this campaign process, to seems to have gone on forever, and I assume there are members of the press who would like to see it come to conclusion at some time. All of us would. And so the goal here is to get this done as quick as possible.

But there are processes, procedures, administrative processes, and laws that have to be, obviously, followed.

Yes, sir?


DALEY: I have great respect for Bob Dole. He was a very honorable public servant, a war hero, and someone that I've had enormous respect for, and I would never stoop to that level.



DALEY: My understanding, and I don't -- again, this is what I've been told. My understanding, in 1996, there were a total of 15,000, both non-voted ballots and double-punched ballots. This time there's double that amount. There's about 30,000 ballots that were either not voted or double-punched, so it's twice as many.

So, obviously -- and the bottom line is that mistake, the problem may very well dictate who's the president of the United States, where four years ago it was not an issue in contention in this state of the nation who was going to win.


Oh, on the transition? I'm sure Governor Bush and his team of very experienced people are well-prepared to transition in. They have said that. And I think, obviously, a great number of Americans believe them, as they've said that. And the vice president is prepared, as he has been prepared for eight years, in the event of an emergency, to transition into the presidency. So I don't see that as a big issue, to be frank with you.


QUESTION: Mr. Coffey was responsible for removing the sitting mayor in Miami. How far is the Gore campaign willing to go? Past inauguration to try to get this vote...

DALEY: No. No.

Yes, ma'am?


DALEY: He's taken steps over the last number of months to prepare for a transition. But as I say, he's had the job for eight years, where inherently in that job, you are prepared to transition at a moment's notice into the office. So his -- the need for a -- some sort of long, formal transition, maybe for him, would be less than someone who's coming in, not having been vice president.


DALEY: Oh, I don't know. He hasn't asked me.

STAFF: Two more questions.

DALEY: Yes, sir?


DALEY: Well, as of whenever it was, a few minutes ago, watching CNN, the vote count seems to be somewhere -- this is unofficial as I understand it -- 300 votes.

So obviously, the votes that are still out there are expected votes on overseas absentees and possible changes that may occur by virtue of these hand counts may be able to change that. But that's just a guess on my part, no more.


DALEY: Well, obviously, that's a much larger amount of votes, of people who made a mistake or felt that they were confused by virtue of the setup. And when you have this close of an election, in this process that's going on right now, just waiting for the absentee ballots may very well change the numbers.


QUESTION: Secretary Daley?


QUESTION: What kind of support are you getting from your Democratic congressmen in Washington?

DALEY: Well, I talked to Congressman Gephardt yesterday, others in our operation have talked to members of Congress. We seem to be getting very strong support. Obviously, they're as concerned as all Americans and all of us as to the outcome of this and the speed with which it moves forward, which we all are.

But as far as their strong feeling that the rights of the people of Florida should be protected and the actual vote as it is, no matter what the outcome is of that vote, should be protected and should be gotten.


Thank you. Thank you.

WATERS: OK, Gore campaign chairman William Daley, with Warren Christopher, former secretary of state, at his side, briefing reporters in Tallahassee today, saying the waiting is unpleasant for all of us. But as much as we want this over with, William Daley saying, we must be careful that a lawful effort is done to see that the will of the people is done.

John King, senior White House correspondent, is in Washington. He also had some pointed words for the Bush people, again, "We must carefully measure our words," he says. So there is some subtle messages being delivered here each day.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: First and foremost, Lou, reinforcement from the Gore campaign that they believe the Bush are trying to rush the country to judgment. Essentially, what the Gore people are saying is: What do you have against a fair and thorough recount of the vote. If turns out Governor Bush won, then we will say Governor Bush won. If it turns out differently, it will be your turn to say the vice president won. How could you object to a fair recount? That is message number one from the Gore campaign.

But look today also a bit of a change in the nuance here in the tone from the Gore campaign. Yesterday, very aggressively saying they were prepared to go to court, if necessary, to fight this. Today they are stepping back a bit, focusing much more on the recount.

They say they want to see those absentee ballots from overseas counted. Now there's been a lot of talk that most of those would go for Governor Bush because they likely are for military personnel. But the Gore people say that they made a pretty aggressive effort to reach out to Jewish Americans whose live in Florida, technically, but are residing now in Israel, to get votes from there. So maybe there are some votes there.

What they want to do is make this about the recount now. Essentially say: Look, let's recount the votes, let's wait for the absentee ballots. Let's let the counties that are double checking, double check; and then let's take it from there. And that is a step back from where they were yesterday. And that is because, as this legal battle plays out, we have a public relations controversy going on. And the Gore campaign right now does not want to be talking about lawsuits and lawyers, they want to be talking about a fair recount.

WATERS: The public relations aspect of all of this. What is -- what is required of the candidates and their people when they step out at moments like this? What are the messages they want to be getting through to the voters? And how significant are those messages in the end?

KING: Well, the Bush campaign is trying to make the case that this is over. Now Florida not certified the results of this election, yet the Bush campaign is saying: Hey, look, we have had two recounts, it is time to move on and not put the country through this drama -- trauma even. And the Gore campaign is saying quite the opposite, saying: Hey, Florida has not certified the results. Until we have a total recount done, let's everyone just step back and let them count.

Now, in the midst of all that, there are people in both parties who privately wish both of the campaigns would simply be quiet until Florida decides what to do, until the secretary of state goes ahead with certifying the results because they believe we're putting the country through a very difficult turmoil right now.

So there is pressure within both parties for everybody to ratchet the rhetoric down. And even some pressure directly on the vice president from prominent Democrats today, which is one of the reasons we are hearing less about lawsuits, a lot of pressure from Democrats on the vice president not to drag this out too long.

We will hear from Dick Gephardt, the House Democratic leader, in a little while. He will make a public show of support for the vice president. But again, the message from Democrats today, and especially from the Gore campaign is: Let's have the recount finished. Then we will decide to do what next. Much less talk about lawyers and lawsuits, which even people within the Gore campaign believe strategically is the wrong thing to be talking about. That, they believe, might offend many people.

WATERS: All right, John King, covering us in Washington today.



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