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CNN Late Edition

Battle for the White House Continues in Florida

Aired November 12, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem, and 8:00 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to our interviews with Bush adviser, James Baker, and Gore campaign chairman, Bill Daley, shortly. But, first, the latest on the Florida recount.

It is emerging as perhaps the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history. The vote was last Tuesday, but we still don't know who won. The battle for the White House continues this weekend, with both sides waging war over the ballot recount in Florida.

CNN's John Zarrella has been following the story from West Palm Beach, where a hand recount is now under way.

John, give us the latest.


BLITZER: Secretary Baker, thanks so much for joining us once again on LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on our program.


BLITZER: Let's begin. The Gore campaign was criticized last week, including from some Democrats, for threatening to go to court. That would supposedly drag out this entire process. They didn't go to court, but the Bush campaign has now decided to go to court to prevent this manual hand recount from going forward in Palm Beach County. Tell us why you decided that this was your best course of action.

BAKER: Well, first of all, I think we make -- we ought to make sure everyone understands that, while the Gore campaign did not officially go to court, they supported action by local Democratic officials and citizens to file cases, and there were at least eight cases filed, and I think still pending in the courts of Florida, contesting the election in various ways. So they did in effect go to court, and in terms of prolonging their result and keeping us from reaching any sort of degree of finality, it's their request for recount after recount after recount, that has prolonged things. Why did we do what we did? We did because we felt we had no other choice. The Floridians have voted. The votes have been counted; Governor Bush was the winner; there was a full recount of those votes; it was unchallenged. No one has alleged any irregularities in that recount. That's not to say that there won't be some such allegations made, but anyway, there was a full recount; Governor Bush is still the winner, albeit by a very narrow margin.

Then the Gore campaign said, okay, well we'd like to have a manual recount in four predominantly Democratic counties, and we feel that that process, as it is set out in the statutes of the state of Florida, and as it is carried out, and as you saw on your own network last night as you watched them in Palm Beach County there, is very confusing.

It has no standards to guide the electoral officials. There are no uniform standards, no objective standards. They are given the authority to simply divine the intent of the voter, and exercising their complete discretion and subjective judgment.

We think that's unconstitutional. We think it treats the other voters of Florida in an unconstitutional way, and perhaps even the other voters who voted nationally in this presidential election, and we felt we had no other alternative.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, you don't dispute the fact that Florida law does allow one party to an election to ask for a manual recount, if they conclude that there may be a need for such a recount. That's stipulated in Florida law.

BAKER: We don't dispute the fact that there is a Florida statute that provides for a manual recount. But we do dispute whether or not that statute, that part of it anyway, at least in the way it's being carried out, is constitutional. We do dispute that, whether it's constitutional under our federal Constitution. Why are we -- go ahead.

BLITZER: I was going to say, now that you're going to federal court, presumably, this could go all the way up to the Supreme Court, which could delay this process, who knows how long.

BAKER: Well, I don't think we ought to start making a lot of assumptions until we see what happens on a number of fronts. We need to see what happens Monday at the hearing before the court. We need to see what happens with respect to this manual count that's now going on in these heavily Democratic counties. We need to see what happens even with respect to the overseas absentee ballots, which aren't going to be counted under Florida law anyway until November 17.

So we haven't prolonged anything yet, but we have given notice, as I said yesterday, that we intend to vigorously contest their efforts to run these selective manual recounts without any standards whatsoever, and we will continue to vigorously oppose those efforts.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, let me read to you from the appropriate Texas election code that was signed into law by Governor Bush in September 1997. It says this; let me read to you what the language says.

BAKER: I know what it says, but if you want to read it, go ahead.

BLITZER: I want to put it on our screen: "A manual recount shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount."

The question that Democrats and supporters of Vice President Gore are saying, if it's good for Texas to have this kind of manual recount, why isn't it good for Florida to have this kind of manual recount?

BAKER: I'm glad you asked me the question, and I'll give you the answer.

BAKER: It's not good for Florida, because here we're talking about a third recount --I mean a third count, a second recount. That statute you read from in Texas, it requires that that recount be done at the -- it is the first and only recount that Texas permits of an election.

And what happens when you recount these ballots over and over and over again, these punch ballots, they deteriorate and the little pieces of chad fall out and so forth. So there is much greater risk of human error, and, indeed, potential mischief.

Furthermore, that Texas statute, it's my understanding, sets out some objective standards to guide the election officials in performing the recount. It doesn't just give them carte blanche authority, so that they can come in, and through human error or even, indeed, mischief, count ballots for whom ever they favor.

BLITZER: So, are you...

BAKER: You know -- go ahead.

BLITZER: ... I was going to say, are you suggesting, Mr. Secretary, that there are no objective standards for a manual recount in the state of Florida?

BAKER: I am -- I'm not only suggesting that, I'm telling you that there are none. There are absolutely no objective standards. There are no uniform standards. One county may decide to do a manual recount in one way, another county may decide to do it in another way. There are no standards, Wolf, none. And that is the reason that we say that type of process is simply not constitutional. And we ought not to be subjected to that in these heavily Democratic counties, after the citizens of Florida have voted, after there has been a full recount.

What we ought to do -- what really ought to happen here, is that the Gore campaign ought to agree with us, that we will go with the automatic recount that has been concluded, and by some counts Governor Bush is only ahead in that automatic recount by 230 some votes.

And they should agree with us, OK, we'll stop all of these shenanigans. We dismiss our lawsuit. They withdraw their request for manual recounts. And we both agree to respect the results of the overseas absentee ballot count on November 17th, whichever way it goes, as long as it is done properly.

That is the way -- that would be the best result for the country. That would be responsible. That would be reasonable, and that is what both candidates, I think, should do, and ours is prepared to do that.

BLITZER: Well, there is no indication, at least at this point, that the Gore campaign is prepared to do that.

BAKER: No, unfortunately, I don't think they are.

BLITZER: As far as the hearing that is going to happen on Monday before this federal judge, if you should lose that, will you appeal it going up to the next level in the federal judicial system?

BAKER: The only thing I can tell you about that, Wolf, is that those types of significant decisions are not made right here in Tallahassee, Florida. They are made in Austin, Texas.

But we have said that we will vigorously contest the efforts for a manual recount in selective counties here in Florida. And if that means going up, maybe that's what it would mean. On the other hand, maybe he we won't. I'm just not in a position to answer that for you today.

BLITZER: There's a headline in The Washington Post today. I don't know if you saw this story. The headline reads as follows: "Bush Team Prepares 'Scorched-Earth' Plan," suggesting that if you lose the case in Florida, you are going to go to Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa -- states that Gore narrowly, very narrowly, carried -- and perhaps ask for recounts or another look at the votes in those states.

BAKER: Let me suggest to you that that is not "scorched-earth." That seems to me to be a heck of a lot more reasonable, to ask for one recount in a state that you have lost narrowly, than to do what the Gore campaign is trying to do here in Florida. And that is insist upon more -- recount after recount after recount until they like the result.

I don't see that that's a "scorched-earth" policy. If we have narrow losing margins in those states, there is nothing wrong, I don't think, with our asking for a recount. We didn't want to do that. As I have said, when we had these press conferences down here over the past couple of days -- and you were here. This isn't something we want to do, but we may be driven to it. We hope not.

BLITZER: So you are definitely, though, leaving open that option if necessary to protect the interests of Governor Bush?

BAKER: Well, I think, absolutely. I think he would owe to it his supporters, to the people that have supported him through the two years that he has been out there and that are now supporting Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney. But that is a decision that they will make, that I will not make. BLITZER: And the Gore people argue that they owe to it their supporters, that given, what they say, was a confusing ballot -- the so-called butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County, which resulted in 3,000, they say, 3,407 votes for Pat Buchanan, more than three times as many than in any other of the counties of Florida -- given the fact that Palm Beach County is a Democratic, liberal county, they say that that suggests that a recount is essential, the anomaly in the high Buchanan vote there.

What do you say to that argument, that they owe to it their supporters to protect Gore's interest?

BAKER: I say -- what I say to that is, that the Reform candidate for some other office -- and I can't remember which one it was in that county -- received almost an equivalent number of votes, if my memory serves me correctly.

But I also say that the idea of a selective manual recount without any standards whatsoever, Wolf, opens this process up to terrible possibilities of human error, and even worse possibilities for mischief -- that's what I would say to that.

BLITZER: But at that point of mischief, there's no evidence that has occurred.

BAKER: No, I'm not alleging that, but all I'm saying is, if you don't have objective standards, if you can't measure the performance by some appropriately measurable standard, it opens up great potential for mischief.

Human error, we think is a lot of that. As a matter of fact, there has indeed been, you know, even in the automated recount that was completed, there is an interesting situation in Palm Beach County where there were 600 votes moved over into the Gore column on an unexplained way. We haven't challenged that. That's not to say we won't.

In Gadsden County, there's an affidavit attached to our pleading in federal court that makes it very clear that the election officials up there took 150 or so ballots that they hadn't even counted on election night, and when they saw that the results were going to be close in Florida, they threw those into the pot, divined the intent of the voter to be a vote for Vice President Gore and counted them.

And so, that has happened already up there in Gadsden County. Now, you know, maybe that was improper, maybe it wasn't, but the fact that it happened is not in question.

So this is the kind of thing that a manual recount without any objective standards whatsoever opens the process up to.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, unfortunately we are all out of time, I know you'd only planned on going to Florida for a couple days. It looks like you're going to be there, you're going to be in Tallahassee for a few more days.

BAKER: Well, I don't know about that, Wolf, nice be with you.

BLITZER: And when we return: the Gore response. We'll be joined live by Gore campaign chairman William Daley, one of the vice president's chief advisers on the Florida election.



GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the people of America understand that there is a very good chance that Dick and I will be the president and vice president. And we need to be -- when that happens, we need to be prepared. Awesome responsibility. And so we are planning...


BLITZER: George W. Bush speaking yesterday on preparations to assume the White House if the Florida ballot issue is resolved in his favor. Welcome back to the special two-hour LATE EDITION.

Joining us now is the chairman of the Gore campaign, William Daley.

Mr. Daley, welcome back to LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: You have heard Secretary Baker say that this hand recount has opened all sorts of potential abuse that the mechanical recount is the way to go. And they are going to court, obviously, to prevent this continuing hand recount from going forward.

You're vigorously opposing that. Why?

DALEY: Well, the hand recount is not only allowed under Florida law, and probably most states, in such a situation, it is encouraged if the people of Florida believe there is an anomaly or something is wrong with the first recount, and they want to question that.

It is used in most jurisdictions of America, some means of addressing what citizens believe may be a mistake in a count. I think it is a normal procedure.

And obviously the recounts that are going on right now are not only having observers from both campaigns, but you have CNN, you have news agencies all over. So anyone's concern about the process should be alleviated by virtue of the openness of this process. But it's all being done in accordance with Florida law.

And this is a unique situation, no question about it. We have a close election in Florida. We have a close election, one of the closest elections in the history of our country. So there is great anxiety of people to see this brought to conclusion. But it has to be done in a way to make sure all votes are accurately counted. And in a race so close, citizens have a right to avail themselves of the procedures under their state laws.

BLITZER: But you have heard Baker say that in Florida, the situation is so ambiguous, there are no really objective standards. It's all very subjective, in effect, county by county by county. And it's open to human error as well as worse: some sort of abuse.

DALEY: Well, there is potential for human error, no question about it. There is potential for machine error, as we saw on election day, in count of election.

And many counties have already gone -- Seminole County in Florida has already gone to a hand count, and that is where George Bush picked up about a third of the increase of his latest count, that those people decided that they would take some of the ballots and hand count them, and where they thought there was a problem, replace them with a ballot that they thought indicated the intent of people. And they went ahead and counted those, and obviously, the Bush campaign believes those are accurate counts.

So there's a process that is moving forward and we ought to let it move forward and bring this to conclusion in Florida.

BLITZER: What Secretary Baker also suggests is that you, the Gore campaign, the Democrats, opened the door to all these legal challenges by supporting lawsuits filed by individuals, by supporters of your campaign, in Florida, even though your campaign didn't directly file the first legal action.

DALEY: Well, the lawsuits that have been filed really relate to the terrible injustice that occurred in Palm Beach County where 19,000 people believe that -- or a vast majority of them that have already come forward and stated that they believe that it was so confusing that their votes were not counted in the way in which they wanted to, and as mentioned about Pat Buchanan's vote in that county, even he admits probably most people that came and voted for -- thought they were voting for Al Gore instead of him.

Those suits are really reflective of the tremendous emotional feeling going on in Palm Beach from those citizens. As far as I know, those are the only suits that have been filed except for the suit by the Bush campaign to try to stop the recount that is going on in those counties.

BLITZER: You know, the sample, the ballot, that so-called butterfly ballot, which you say was an illegal ballot, but the secretary of state of Florida says to have these two sides side-by- side, she says it was not illegal, it was a very, very legal ballot. It had been put forward in advance, people got a copy of it, the Democrats knew all about it, no one filed any challenges in advance of last Tuesday's election.

DALEY: Well I'm not up on Florida election law and I didn't say it was illegal. Our counsel in Florida believes it is illegal. Obviously that's a point of contention if there's a lawsuit filed down there. But it clearly was beyond confusing. It was the only county in the state that set up their ballot in such a format. Every other state had the punch holes to the right. There was some question as to whether or not the sample ballot that was put forward and published was truly reflective of the ballot that was there on Election Day as to the exact location of the holes that had to be punched.

DALEY: But again, there's no question this was a confusing ballot.

BLITZER: You know, Karl Rove, the chief political strategist for Governor Bush, he spoke out last Thursday and he took a personal swipe at you, the fact that you're from Chicago and from Cook County. I want you to listen to what he had to say, and we'll get your response.


KARL ROVE, BUSH CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I have here a copy of the Cook County, Illinois, judicial ballot, which is a butterfly ballot. It's been used in a number of states and a number of counties, and it's historically been used in Cook County, Illinois. Maybe Mr. Daley's in a better place to decry democracy and confusion in Cook County than he is in Florida, if that's really the case.


DALEY: Well, Mr. Rove can make all the personal attacks. The truth of the matter is, the ballot for president and all the other statewide offices is the ballot where you vote to the right of the names. That ballot is for judicial retention in which the people don't run against an opponent; they run for retention and all they need to get is 60 percent of the vote. It has nothing to do with the vote for president.

And I think he was just trying to confuse the public and confuse the press and give me a personal shot, which he can do, and I guess that's what he thinks makes him a big man.

BLITZER: All right, Mr. Daley, stand by, we have to take a quick commercial break.

When we come back I'll ask Bill Daley how far the vice president is willing to go to push for his legal challenges. Could it go all the way to the Supreme Court?

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with Bill Daley, the Gore campaign's chairman.

Katherine Harris, the secretary of state of Florida, says she is going to certify the election on Tuesday, even though the overseas absentee ballots won't be completely counted until Friday -- two certifications, in effect, in Florida. If she certifies on Tuesday that Bush has won, based on the original recount, is that going to be accepted by the Gore campaign?

DALEY: Well, I think it's a question, because you have legitimate, legal hand counts going on. Now, of course, tomorrow, if the Bush campaign's legal actions are successful, that's a different situation. But the fact, right now, you have legally approved recounts going on by hand in four counties, and I think to certify while there's still a question as to a vote in a county would seem to me to be inappropriate. Obviously...

BLITZER: So you're asking her to delay any certification until the hand count is completed.

DALEY: I think that's a realistic question to be asked of her at some point is, how so you certify if legally approved hand counts are still going on?

BLITZER: Let me ask you to respond to the proposal Secretary Baker made on this program a little while ago. He said they'll drop all of their lawsuits, all of their legal challenges. They'll -- if you drop your requests for this hand recount and accept whatever happens on Friday, when the overseas absentee ballots come in and the state of Florida finally certifies the winner.

DALEY: Well, why won't they accept what happens through these hand counts? They've got observers. It's done in an open, public way. There's a question by citizens of Florida as to these situations in elections, and not all the counties have approved -- have agreed to go forward with these hand counts.

Dade County hasn't even had a hearing yet on it. And so there is still a question whether or not they'll be approved, so I don't know what they're worried about. Nobody has a clear understanding at all as to what will be the end result votewise. Whether it would help the governor or hurt the governor, nobody really knows that.

BLITZER: Republican Senator John McCain was on "Face the Nation" earlier today, and he spoke directly about some comments you had earlier made. I want you to listen to what McCain had to say.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I was very disappointed in Secretary Daley's comments that, even if they resolve the Florida issue, they are not willing to abide by the decision of the voters there. That's rather disturbing.


BLITZER: Did you say that?

DALEY: I never said that.

BLITZER: All right.

DALEY: I never said that. Obviously, the voters -- what we want is a fair and accurate count of the citizens of Florida, and that is what the Floridian legal system will allow. And that is what the hand counts will produce.

BLITZER: So how...

DALEY: And I don't know why -- I never said that, so I'm disappointed.

BLITZER: So, how far is the Bush campaign -- Al Gore willing to go to end this matter, to continue to fight, the Gore campaign?

DALEY: I think we want to see -- well, obviously, the absentee ballots come from overseas in this 10-day period, and I think that ends on Thursday evening. We want to see the hand counts completed, and then we'll have a clear and accurate account of exactly what happened in Florida on election day.

And then there are others who have filed suits regarding these 19,000 people in Palm Beach who have a concern. We are looking at that issue. We haven't made a decision as to what, if anything, we would do. We stated that we would look at the opportunity to possibly support a lawsuit or file one ourselves, but that decision has not been made.

BLITZER: So you are leaving open that possibility, as Senator McCain is suggesting, that even if after Florida is resolved with the certification that that doesn't necessarily close the door for you.

DALEY: Well, how he defines "closed" -- the fact of the matter is, there is still a process that is open right now that's ongoing, and that ought to be brought to conclusion as quick as possible. Stop trying to slow it down, stop trying to go into court and try to use legal maneuvering to stop what is a legally approved hand count that's going on to get the most accurate count in those four counties.

BLITZER: Let me ask you one final political question. Former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley spoke out on Thursday, looking down the road and speculating about some possibilities. Listen to what Bill Bradley had to say.

Well, let me read it to you, because we don't have that audio sound: "If you appear as a sore loser and draw this thing out and out, you won't have a political future." That seemed to be a suggestion to Gore, and perhaps to Bush, that they should just accept whatever happens quickly, rather than let this thing go on and on and on.

DALEY: Look, there is no question -- no one wants this to drag out. Al Gore got more votes in this election than anyone in the history of our country running for president except Ronald Reagan. He is ahead in the popular vote. He is ahead in the electoral vote. He, clearly, at this point, was favored by the majority of the people who went to the polls, over 101 million people.

DALEY: We all wish it would have been solved on Tuesday night clearly. It wasn't, it was close election, maybe the closest in our nations history, and that has caused a unique situation. Generally, elections -- there's a clear winner and someone who loses rather easily. But here we are in a statewide race in Florida, a statewide election, that over six million Floridians voted, and it's only -- at this point, 300 and some votes apart. So that presents unique situation, as it did in New Mexico, when the Bush campaign went in, accepted the hand recounts that may have occurred, and brought them to victory by five votes. It's an unprecedented election.

BLITZER: It is indeed an unprecedented election. Bill Daley, thank you so much for joining us. You're heading back to Florida?

DALEY: Probably.

BLITZER: OK, perhaps see you down there; thanks for joining us.

We have to take another quick break. Up next, is Palm Beach County Florida really Buchanan country? We'll ask the man himself when we return.



PAT BUCHANAN, REFORM PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So what I think we have seen here is the lethal power of third parties in American politics even though they are small parties, and even though they garnered 1 percent or 2 percent or 3 percent of the national vote.


BLITZER: Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION. Joining us now is the Reform Party's presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who's vote numbers in West Palm Beach are central to this debate over who won Florida and perhaps the nation.

Mr. Buchanan, thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION.

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at how you did in Florida generally, your campaign. We have a chart that shows all 67 counties. Take a look at this chart. Shows all 67 counties, the most you did any of them, with the exception of Palm Beach County, was perhaps 1,000 votes. In Palm Beach County, you had 3,407 votes. In all of the state, you had 17,300 votes. Twenty percent of your supporters, supposedly, came from Palm Beach County, a liberal Democratic county in Florida. How do you explain that?

BUCHANAN: Well, I don't think I'm required to explain it, but let me say this: You know, it is true that we had got 20 percent of our vote in Florida there, and we only got 5 percent in 1996 in the primary. But in primary in 1996, I got I believe close to 9,000 votes out of Palm Beach County.

Now, I do believe that some of my votes clearly were intended to be votes for Al Gore. There's no question about that in my mind. That's my surmise. But the votes for me have to be counted for me, Wolf. Those people that punched the hole for me and left that voting place, they have to be I couldn't for me, and I believe they are being counted for me.

BLITZER: And even though some of these people are saying they thought -- they were confused by this so-called butterfly ballot, and that's why they voted for you.

BUCHANAN: Well, I don't care what -- I mean, you can't go on what we think people intended. You got to go on the votes as they were done and as they were counted.

And let me say one thing: The Gore people are using a lot of this and they're exaggerating it. Let me give you an example. They mentioned Delray Beach where this precinct, which was heavily Jewish, I think I got 49 votes, and they say there's no way I could have gotten that. I live there. I've got a condominium in Delray Beach. I go down there, I've been going down for 25 years. I walk the beach, I go to the pancake house every morning, and a lot of people are very, very friendly there. And the fact that I got 50 votes there is not outrageous.

So, my point is, it's my surmise that some probably intended to vote for me, but if they voted for me, those are my votes and they've got to be counted for me. And frankly I would urge the Bush people to get a little more hard-nosed than they are.

BLITZER: Well, what about this other suggestion that the Gore people are saying they were some 19,000 ballots in Palm Beach County that were double voted, they had to be thrown away because they voted, perhaps, for you and for Gore after realizing, perhaps, that they had made a mistake and it was too late.

BUCHANAN: Well, now if they were voted for me and Gore, and then they just left, I would probably, since Gore beat me maybe 50 to one there, they're probably mostly his.

But are they discards? I mean, did people go in and say, "Oh, oh, I voted twice, I'm going to go out and get a new ballot," and they get a fresh ballot? In that case, Gore got this vote.

BLITZER: Well, some people apparently decided that they weren't going to ask for a new ballot, they didn't know they could get a new ballot, and that's why they're saying they accidentally voted for you then they voted for Gore, discarding the entire ballot.

BUCHANAN: Let's back away and get to reality. Bush won the popular vote in Florida, Bush won the recount. The Democrats are demanding a vote -- a recount by hand in four counties that are heavily Democratic. That not only lends itself to human discretion and human error, it opens the thing up to more than just mischief.

I mean, a lot of people can look up those ballots, say, "Well, a tie, let's give it to our friend Al Gore." The machine is not going to give something to Al Gore that he didn't get. But you get human beings that are Democrats in Democratic counties, they might look at a ballot and say, "Well, this is a very close one, let's give that to Gore."

And in a situation like that, that lends itself to potential fraud and potential theft, once you get human beings in there dealing with that.

BLITZER: But mechanical errors are also a problem, potentially.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but mechanical errors will make errors on both sides. It won't make errors based on emotion, passion, where you stand in the, "Well, who would you like to see win this?"

BUCHANAN: Would you really like to see Pat Buchanan counting votes in Orange County if Ronald Reagan were the fellow whose presidency was at stake? Of course not.

BLITZER: So, what are you saying now? Put on your political analytical hat right now. Who is in the stronger position, right now, knowing what we know right now, to win Florida and the nation?

BUCHANAN: I think Bush won Florida that night, and I think he won Florida in the recount. I think if you recount the votes in four Democratic counties, with Democrats recounting it, there is a real likelihood they are going to find a lot more votes for Gore than they are for Bush. And Mr. Gore could well come out of this thing ahead before you get to the absentee ballots. I think that could happen.

And my view is the Democrats play hardball a lot better than Republicans. If they get a lead on this thing, they will get it shut down and say it is Al Gore's election. And I think the real possibility exists this thing could be taken away from the Republican Party because of ineptitude or because of human action.

BLITZER: A lot of viewers probably want to know what happens to Pat Buchanan now. You had $12.5 million dollars in matching funds. You got, what, 1 percent, if that, in the popular vote.


BLITZER: What do you do now? Do you continue this political struggle, or do you go on...

BUCHANAN: Well, clearly, you know, I think I'm recognized nationally, in terms of economic patriotism and bringing troops home and defense of America's borders. On these issues -- these are my signature issues -- I believe a majority of Americans agree with me on those issues, and I intend to do battle for them in whatever forum I can find.

BLITZER: Not necessarily the political forum?

BUCHANAN: Well, I don't know about -- you know, I don't look into this situation. It's very difficult for a third party even with $12.4 million. The people intended for me to be in that debate, 70 percent of them. That didn't make any difference, did it though, Wolf? They didn't put us in the debate.

BLITZER: You weren't in the debate.

BUCHANAN: That's right.

BLITZER: Pat Buchanan, thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on the program.

BUCHANAN: It's a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Sure you'll be back.

And just ahead, who says third parties don't make a difference? Surely no one in this election. Up next, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who won 97,000 votes in Florida, far more than the votes separating Gore and Bush. We'll talk about the Nader factor when this special two-hour LATE EDITION continues.



RALPH NADER, GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: By the way, I do think that Al Gore cost me the election, especially in Florida, and that's a far greater concern than whether I was supposed to help elect Al Gore.


BLITZER: Ralph Nader responding to questions regarding the impact on the Gore vote, and joining me now is the Reform party -- excuse me, the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader. I don't want to put words in your mouth.

Mr. Nader, thanks for joining us. You won almost 100,000 votes in Florida. Now exit polls have suggested, interviewing people who voted for you, Nader voters, that about 60 percent say if you had not been in the race, they would have voted for Gore, about 20 percent say they probably wouldn't have voted at all. Twenty percent say maybe they would have voted for Bush or someone else. So clearly, given the close vote in Florida, you did cost Al Gore potentially that state.

NADER: Well, there are different factors that cost him that state. That may be one, but the exit polls, the CNN exit polls, showed that Bush took 10 times more Democratic voters from Gore than I did. So, it's not a very fruitful discussion to figure out. I mean if Bush didn't take that Sunday off 10 days before the election, if he campaigned in Florida if, if, if.

BLITZER: You know, some of your supporters, some people who are ideological soulmates of yours, have been critical of you as you well know, and I'm sure you have been used to it. Yesterday, there's a columnist, a left leaning columnist in The L.A. Times, Robert Shear (ph), you known him, right? I don't know if you saw his column the other day, on Thursday, but listen to what he wrote, and I'll put it up on the screen.

"Ralph Nader's nearly 100,000 Florida votes likely has cost Democrats the White House, and with it the veto power President Clinton has used to protect the very people that Nader was bamboozling. He is a good man who went very wrong, and who now seems to find solace from his egregious error of judgment by getting drunk on his own words."

NADER: Well, you see, he doesn't know what we're pursuing. Gore and Bush are not as relevant as pursuing a long-range political reform movement in our country, to rescue our democracy and government from the grip of giant corporations and the Niagara of money flowing into both campaigns, corrupting the system, as Senator John McCain and many others have said, and returning government to the people in a deliberative democracy.

That's by far the most important thing. You know, I can say in response to this column, that for 20 years the Democrats have been rebuffing one part of the progressive agenda after another. Whether it's auto safety, whether it's food and drug, whether it's environment, whether it's solar energy, whether it's WTO, whether it's, you know, corporate welfare, corporate crime, you name it. And how long are we going to wait? As Phil Donohue said, "Are we going to wait another four years and then say to the two parties, can we do it now?"

BLITZER: The point, though, that some of your supporters are even now lamenting if Bush, in fact, does become the president: Who is going to veto efforts in Congress, for example, that you would regard as detrimental to the environment or labor rights, or increases in minimum wage, occupational standards, abortion rights, issues very close to Ralph Nader's heart? If Bush is there, he's not going to use a veto. Gore probably, you'd have to acknowledge, would have been more willing to use his veto pen than Bush.

NADER: Well, I didn't see Clinton veto WTO or NAFTA or China permanent relations; they were pushing him. I didn't see him veto the salvage rider that cut down so many trees in the national forest. And not only that, but there isn't much going to the Congress -- going to the White House, because the corporations have their grip on Capitol Hill, as well. Nine thousand political action committees, 22,000 corporate lobbyists. They don't spend their day looking at the Washington Monument.

BLITZER: You didn't get the five percent that you really wanted, that would have enabled the Green Party to have federal matching funds in 2004...


BLITZER: ... you wound up with about three percent of the national vote. So, what some say is that you got the worst, potentially, if Bush becomes the president, of all worlds. You've got Bush in the White House and you didn't get the five percent.

NADER: Yes, but we got the third largest party in America replacing the Reform Party, the fastest growing party, the party first in it's spirit of reform, thousands of young people coming into active political politics, hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

We've got our plan for the future underway to build this party in a big way. Have a watchdog party, the Green Party in Washington, putting both parties' feet to the fire. And right now, the volunteers are pouring in, the contributions are pouring in to our web site,, indicating that even after the election, people want to build a long range political reform movement here to clean up Washington, and to make sure the government is under the sovereignty of the people.

BLITZER: We only have a second, so you're going to stay in this political process.

NADER: Most definitely.

BLITZER: OK., Ralph Nader, thanks so much for joining us once again on LATE EDITION; always good to have you on our program.

NADER: Thank you; thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We hope you'll be back as well.

NADER: Thank you.

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. Stay tuned for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's top stories. We'll also invite -- we'll hear those top stories from Gene Randall -- we'll hear from Florida Representatives Tillie Fowler and Robert Wexler, then insight into the legal wranglings in Florida with Lanny Davis, the former Clinton special White House counsel, and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's last word. It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION: the Florida recount.


REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: It seems to me you have to have another election in Palm Beach County to get a fair result for president.



REP. TILLIE FOWLER (R), FLORIDA: It appears to be a growing Democratic strategy to take this election out of the hands of the voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Florida representatives fight over Florida. Republican Tillie Fowler and Democrat Robert Wexler push for their candidates and constituents.

Then, former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and Bush Attorney General Richard Thornburgh debate election law, politics and more.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Tucker Carlson.

And Bruce Morton has the last word on the transition of power: From president to president, a smooth handover remains the hallmark of American democracy.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We'll continue our conversation with Representatives Tillie Fowler and Robert Wexler.

Actually, we're just going to begin that conversation in just a moment. But first, here is Gene Randall at the CNN center in Atlanta with the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: The race for the White House is still undecided almost five days after the election. Officials in Palm Beach County began a manual recount yesterday, while the Bush campaign sought an injunction to stop them.

Joining us now to debate the Florida ballot issue are two members of Congress from Florida. Republican Tillie Fowler, who's also a deputy House Republican whip -- she joins us from Jacksonville. And Democrat Robert Wexler, who represents part of Palm Beach County -- he's with us here in Washington.

Welcome back, both of you, to LATE EDITION.

I'll begin with you Congresswoman Fowler.

You heard James Baker suggest that there are really no standards for a manual or hand recount in Florida. There are standards, objective standards, in Texas, but Florida's all over the place and it's open to potential errors if not worse, actual abuse. What do you say about that?

FOWLER: Well, that is correct, Wolf. Each county can make up its own standards and guidelines, as was shown yesterday in Palm Beach County when halfway through the count, they changed them, they went from a light test to a chad test.

But I want to make a point here. I'm astounded that the Democratic Party and the Gore campaign is saying that it's an anomaly when third-party candidates get a lot of votes. FOWLER: In Volusia County, Florida, which is in my district, Secretary Christopher has said that because the Libertarian Party candidate got over 2,000 votes, that there has to be manual recount in that county. In Palm Beach County, which has been a Reform and independent stronghold in our state, in one precinct the reform socialist candidate got over 2,000 votes. They are trying to invade the sanctity of the voting booth, and Reform and independent voters in my state of Florida need to be aware they are trying to have their votes discredited.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring in Congressman Wexler.

Congressman Wexler, this whole notion that anything goes in Palm Beach County, that there are no objective standards -- I want you to listen to what Bob Nichols, a Palm Beach County spokesman, said about these ballots, these punch cards, how they would determine whether there was a legal vote there as they go over it manually. Listen to this excerpt.


BOB NICHOLS, PALM BEACH COUNTY SPOKESMAN: The chads that will be counted under our procedures, now adopted and being followed by the canvassing board, the hanging chad. The second type is the swinging door, which is counted. It's attached at the top and it swings out. The tri-chad also is counted. The ones that are not counted are those that are called the pregnant chads.


BLITZER: Pregnant chads, swinging chads, hanging-out chads. Perhaps Congressman Fowler and James Baker have a point in saying, how do you determine when that is a hole and should be counted if you're looking at it manually?

WEXLER: What the people of Palm Beach County want is to have their vote counted. And, ironically, it makes sense, the American people agree, too. CNN, I think just this morning, announced that three-quarters of the American people want a fair and honest count, not a hasty decision.

But what I also find ironic: this question of whether the manual count is better than the machine count. It's an irrelevant discussion. Florida law provides for a manual count in this situation. And that is what we are going to get.

We also found that the mechanical counts were actually mistaken quite a bit. What we are finding is that in places where Gore should have gotten many more votes than were tallied on election night, and what the estimate is 1900 now, we could get more out of Palm Beach County. Well, that's an important fact when Bush only won the state, as of now, by less than 300.

BLITZER: Well, let me read to Congresswoman Fowler the relevant section of Florida statute, of Florida law. Here is what it says, Congresswoman Fowler. It says, "If the manual recount indicates an error in the vote tabulation which could affect the outcome of the election, the county canvassing board shall A, correct the error and recount the remaining precincts with a vote tabulation system, B, request the department of state to verify the tabulation software, or C, manually recount all ballots." That's what the Florida law says, Congresswoman.

FOWLER: Well, our problem is that what they're doing is cherry- picking counties. They are trolling for votes. George W. Bush won the state of Florida. There was a fair, orderly, and transparent election and a recount in which he won it. And so they are now trolling for votes in Democratic counties, trying to pick up votes here, there, and yon. This is not good for the process in this country.

We had an election, we had a recount. We need now to move forward. The manual recount is prone to human error. Machines make a less-error rate than human error can. You've got human error, possibilities for mischief. We need to move forward. We need to let the recount be completed, the original recount, the second one that was done throughout the state. Let the overseas absentee ballots be counted this next week, and then call an end to it.

And that's what Secretary Baker made clear this morning, that Governor Bush is willing to abide by that. Unfortunately, the Gore campaign continues to want to pursue lawsuits, legal wrangling, leading this country down a very slippery slope.

BLITZER: Well, I want to get a caller in in a second, Congressman, but what do you say to the charge that, as she just said, that you're simply -- the Gore people -- trolling for votes, not going to be satisfied until you like the vote?

WEXLER: Al Gore and George Bush don't get to decide who the president is. The American people decide by their votes. We are not trolling for votes. We want the people who went to the ballot this Tuesday in Palm Beach County to have their ballots counted.

WEXLER: And that ballot was in fact illegal because Al Gore's name was second on the descriptive part of the ballot...

FOWLER: It's not illegal.

WEXLER: ... but his punch hole was third. And that is clearly in violation of Florida law. And the secretary of state put out a memo, which some people have cited, which does not address this issue.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a caller from -- where, of all places? -- West Palm Beach, Florida.

Go ahead with your question, please.

QUESTION: Hi. I just called to make a comment. I'm registered Democrat and I live in West Palm Beach. And I voted for Pat Buchanan and I know that a lot of my friends also voted for Pat Buchanan. And I just wanted to say that if they automatically assume that because we happen to be registered Democrat that our votes should automatically go to Al Gore, that, you know, they're really misrepresenting -- misrepresenting us...

BLITZER: Well, let's bring in Congressman Wexler.

It's possible that Pat Buchanan does have a following in Palm Beach County, isn't it?

WEXLER: Of course, he got certain votes. But the precincts in which Pat Buchanan got four and five dozen votes is not where this lady lives, with all due respect. I mean, those precincts, I would bet my last dollar it's impossible that Pat Buchanan got those votes. That's what Pat Buchanan said earlier in the week.

Newspapers, local newspapers, went around and were actually knocking on people's door in these precincts asking if anybody voted for Buchanan. They didn't find a single person.

BLITZER: What about that, Congresswoman Fowler? Go ahead.

FOWLER: You know, Congressman Wexler is now trying to divine the intent of these voters when they went to the polls. You know, back in 1996, Ross Perot got 30,000 votes in Palm Beach County. As I said before, this is a stronghold of Reform and independent-minded voters. Over 17,000 voters in that county are registered to either Reform or independent parties; 2,000 in one precinct voted for the Reform, Socialist Party.

This is not an anomaly here. Over 400,000 voters in that county went to the polls and cast their votes correctly. And if some made mistakes, then they don't get to re-vote.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller.

From Hagerstown, Maryland, go ahead with your question, please.

QUESTION: Yes, hello, Wolf.

Ms. Fowler, I'd like to know how you can defend Mr. Baker and the Bush campaign's assertion that the machine count is accurate and precise. Every time I go through the checkout at the grocery store, I'm reminded how fallible machines are.


FOWLER: Well, I hope the voting machines are better than scanners in grocery stores. And as the experts have said that with machines, there's about a two to five percent error rate, which is a much smaller error rate than you get with manual recount. There's no perfect system in this country.

BLITZER: Is that what you think...

FOWLER: There's none.

BLITZER: Let me ask Congressman Wexler.

WEXLER: No. There's nothing to suggest that. In Texas, Governor Bush signed into law himself a law that said: Have a hand count because it's the preferable way.

And the important thing here is to make certain that each Floridian gets their opportunity to vote. It is ironic that George Bush is now in court in Palm Beach County saying, "Don't let them have a hand count."

Why would people be afraid of a full count of the vote?

BLITZER: On that point...

FOWLER: There's already been a full count of the vote; there has already been a full recount of the vote in Palm Beach County.

WEXLER: Not by hand.

BLITZER: All right, Congressmen, unfortunately we are all out of time.

Tillie Fowler in Jacksonville, Florida, one of my favorite cities; Robert Wexler representing West Palm Beach, himself, another lovely place in Florida -- thanks to both of you for joining us.

WEXLER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And when we return: The legal battles -- how will they be resolved? To make sense of it all, we'll be joined by Lanny Davis, former Clinton White House special counsel, and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

We'll be right back with more of our special two-hour LATE EDITION.



WARREN CHRISTOPHER: The will of the people expressed in accordance with our constitution should decide who our next president will be.



BAKER: We urge the Gore campaign to accept the finality of the election, subject of course to the counting of the absentee, the overseas absentee ballots, in accordance with law.


BLITZER: Within hours of Tuesday's election, each campaign dispatched teams of lawyers to Florida to oversee the ballot recount. And with each turn, the legal situation seems to have become more tangled. Joining us now to explain it all is Lanny Davis, former Clinton White House special counsel, and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, frequent guests here on LATE EDITION. Welcome to both of you once again.

Let me begin with you, Dick Thornburgh. A federal judge is going to hear this case that the Bush campaign is making to impose an injunction against continuing with this hand or manual recount. Objectively speaking, is there any solid ground that the Republican presidential candidate has to seek such an -- to get such a court injunction?

DICK THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think the first thing to realize is that this suit was filed in response to eight other Democratic suits that had been filed earlier, and four Democratic requests for hand recounts in heavily Democratic counties.

BLITZER: By individuals, not by the Gore campaign.

THORNBURGH: No, but who's kidding whom? These are on behalf of the Democratic ticket, and I think really force the hand of the Bush people to go to court.

There are at least two substantial grounds that they're asserting, and the judge will have to decide. One relates to the procedures that are being used. There are no standards set up, and anybody who watched the floundering around that went on yesterday as the rules were changed in midstream, and there were a series of two- to-one partisan votes on particular issues, realized that this is hardly a sound way to put our nation's fate in the balance.

The other is perhaps more serious -- it's a constitutional matter -- is the question of whether there's a denial of equal protection of the laws to voters and citizens in other counties, other than these carefully selected Democratic counties, that have been brought into this hand recount process.

BLITZER: That second point is the point that the Bush lawyers seem to be stressing, that if you do it in one county, you've got to do it all over the state. You can't just selectively pick Democratic counties to go ahead with a hand recount.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: I agree with that. Look, let's make this very, very simple. It isn't recounting going on, it's counting for the first time going on. Ten thousand ballots in Palm Beach County were not counted by the machine; many of those ballots have holes in them that the machine didn't pick up.

James Baker somehow wants to rush to judgment because he doesn't want those ballots counted for the first time, not for second time. One wonders whether their motive, Wolf, is because they know the outcome is there were more people in Florida who voted for Al Gore than George Bush.

But I agree, General Thornburgh, that we shouldn't cherry- picking. We should have in this kind of close election, a recount of the entire state, and then we'll know who won the actual election.

BLITZER: But Dick Thornburgh, is that realistic?

THORNBURGH: People recognize what's going on here, and golfers will recognize what a mulligan is: You shoot your first shot, you don't like it, you take another shot, and so on so on.

What's happened here is that, Vice President Gore lost the first electoral count, lost the recount, is by all accounts going to lose the absentee ballot count, and now they're seeking a fourth way of taking these concentrated Democratic counties and having this hand count, with all its frailties, carried out. And those frailties were clear to everyone watching.

DAVIS: What I don't get is how you know who won if ballots weren't counted, that were in fact punctured, and is Dick Thornburgh telling me that you know the outcome of that election when those ballots need to be counted under Florida law, and maybe you're afraid of the result if they are counted under Florida law.

THORNBURGH: I'm not afraid of the results, I'm afraid of the logic. I've monitored elections all over the world in many countries, and I've never seen a place where they -- when ballots are either unmarked or they're marked for two candidates for the same position...

DAVIS: That's not what I'm talking about.

THORNBURGH: ... then they're thrown out.

DAVIS: I'm talking about ballots punctured that did not get counted by the machines.

BLITZER: Because the machine didn't go through the hole?

DAVIS: The hole didn't go through, or the flap, called the chad, closed up as it went through the machine. Dick Thornburgh, I know if the shoe were on the other foot, you'd be saying every vote should be counting. What's the rush? Why are you afraid, Lanny, of getting to the end of the road? And I know that that's the way you would debate.

THORNBURGH: Where does he come up with these 10,000 votes?

BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Germany. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Hello. Yes, I'm a caller from Germany, so I believe I'm probably quite impartial to all this. I was just wondering, is there a legal reason as to why a state-wide revote cannot be held, only considering the people that voted the first time? Because surely that would solve all this mess. And then those votes can then be counted impartial non-Democratic, non-Republican machines. And then that result be the final result for state of Florida.

BLITZER: Well, that's what some people are suggesting, Dick Thornburgh. Why not just have the whole state revote once again and get it over with? THORNBURGH: Well, there's an enormous practical difficulty with that, delaying the election beyond the time when the electors have to cast their ballots. And moreover, it's just a bad precedent. We do have inadequate mechanisms for counting votes, and I hope one of the items high on the agenda of the next Congress is to realize how disastrous this failure of the technology that we have and should be utilizing on our nation's behalf has become.

DAVIS: Actually, there's a little bit of irony here that Governor Bush, who ran on a program of states' rights and "trust the people," runs to federal court to override the voters in Florida and state law. Let's just be patient. Let's have this process. Let's count every vote, Dick; that is unambiguous. I think we ought to do it statewide. We can do it statewide, and then everybody will be certain who won.

THORNBURGH: He is not running to override the voters. He's running to court to try to frustrate an attempt to jigger this election around these heavily Democratic counties.

DAVIS: This is after spending a whole week about turning it over to lawyers. Jim Baker, on behalf of Governor Bush, went to federal court. The Gore campaign did not.

THORNBURGH: In response to eight Democratic suits.

DAVIS: Not quite in response.

BLITZER: We're going to continue this conversation. We have a lot more to talk about. We have to take a quick break.

When we return, more of your phone calls about the Florida recount for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh. This special LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the legal issues involved with the Florida recount.

Joining us: former Clinton White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.

Let's take a caller from my old stomping ground in Massena, New York.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: I'm just curious why there is such an emphasis on the votes that are ambiguous, that are double punched. I know that in our state if you vote by absentee and you punch more than one candidate or forget to vote for a candidate, that's the way it is, the results are the same.

BLITZER: Isn't that true, Lanny Davis, that if you screw up, it's, you know, forget about it. DAVIS: Yes. I do have a problem with going down the road of trying to fix voters who were confused by ballots. I'd like to have the legal review on that question. I know Congressman Wexler and others says that the ballots are illegal.

But I do have a problem with going down that road. But I certainly think -- and I hope Dick Thornburgh agrees with me -- that if there's an unambiguous card with a hole punctured in it, that the machine didn't pick up in a close election like this one -- in the state of Texas, Dick, they are hand recounts. Under law, throughout United States, there are hand recounts for this very reason. Machines, in fact, are less reliable in many instances. Mr. Baker's comment that there is less reliability in hand counting is ridiculous if we're talking about clearly unambiguous, punctured cards that the machine didn't pick up.

THORNBURGH: I just hark back to what I said about the agonizing experience of watching these people trying to divine an intent from ambiguous cards and any card that the machine didn't accept has got to be ambiguous. And that calls upon these reviewers, these have hand counters, who are in a Democratic majority in each of these four counties, that try to read the mind of the voter who cast this ballot in that way. If it's unambiguous, it would have been counted.

BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Geneva, Switzerland.

Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, good evening. I was just wondering if there's an actual date either by Floridian law or under U.S. constitutional law where there have to be a decision to the outcome of this election. All the uncertainty, especially from an international perspective, is quite unsettling. I was wondering, is there some end date to this whole situation?

THORNBURGH: There is an end date, December 18, when the electors have to be certified. And there's a very ugly negative incentive on the part of the Gore team to leave Florida unresolved by that date because it would result in a majority of the then-appointed electors being able to elect Al Gore as the next president. I don't think that's going to happen, because I think they realize what a negative reaction that would provoke, but that's the date and that is what we have...


BLITZER: And precisely on that point, Lanny Davis, some Republicans are suggesting that is precisely the objective right now behind the scenes of the Gore people: delay, delay, delay, stall for time, get to that December 18 date and let the electors beat from 49 states and the District of Columbia, without Florida, and then Gore wins.

DAVIS: Look, the ultimate test of intellectual honesty here is whether the Gore refrain -- rather the Bush refrain today becomes a different refrain tomorrow when the shoe's on the other foot. As a result of this count for the first time, of the ones that weren't counted, and recount, if Al Gore goes ahead in Florida, all the things that you're now hearing us accused of, I wonder whether Jim Baker's going to be opposed to recounts or he's going to be opposed to machine -- mistakes that need be looked at, and especially motives to delay the election through December. I think it's totally false that we have that motive, and we just want a fair count, the way 75 percent of the American people are telling us they want.

THORNBURGH: Their job is to keep you wondering, Lanny.

But I want to just reiterate that George W. Bush won election, he won the recount, by all reports he will win the majority of the absentee overseas ballots, and this a last-ditch effort to try to salvage something in four heavily Democratic counties under Democratic control.

BLITZER: You're a former attorney general of the United States. Aren't federal judges very reluctant to get involved in state election cases, as the Bush campaign is asking a federal judge to?

THORNBURGH: Yes, they are, and as they should be, quite frankly. But where constitutional issues are involved, there's always authority for a federal judge to step in regardless of what the state action has been, and that's going to be the question before the court tomorrow: Is there a constitutional issue involved?

DAVIS: What I find troubling -- and my friend Dick Thornburgh, who I really respect, is doing it again -- is the rush to judgment, talking about who won something when not all the votes have been counted. Not even the overseas votes have yet been counted.

Governor Bush went so far as to start to talk about his cabinet, his national security advisor, his chief of staff, when we even haven't counted the overseas votes yet.

DAVIS: He has a margin of under 300, the polls in Florida, Wolf, showed Al Gore had by four to six points coming in to Election Day. There is a reason why this vote needs to take place because his votes weren't appropriately counted...


THORNBURGH: I hope the vice president is planning for the future as well. I think it would be foolhardy not to do so. Regardless of what the outcome is, I want whoever takes that oath on January of next year to be fully prepared to step into the job.

BLITZER: Let's assure you that we at LATE EDITION, we're planning for the future. Our future's next week.

But thanks to both of you, Dick Thornburgh and Lanny Davis.

DAVIS: Thank you, Wolf.

THORNBURGH: Always a pleasure. BLITZER: I have a feeling this story could go on. You guys might be back on this program, and hopefully...

THORNBURGH: We all hope for an early termination.

BLITZER: All right, thanks once again for joining us.

And at this point we'd like to say goodbye to our international viewers.

For our North American audience: Will the winner of the Florida recount, whoever he may be, win the support of the American people? We'll go round the table with Roberts, Page and Carlson when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me here in Washington, Susan Page, White House bureau chief -- excuse me, Washington bureau chief for USA Today; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report; and Tucker Carlson, political writer for The Weekly Standard and co-host of CNN's The Spin Room, a popular program on CNN. We'll get to that later. Tucker, you're getting me nervous already.


Let's talk a little bit about this political mess. Steve Roberts, you've been in this reportorial business a long time. Have you ever seen anything like this in your career?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: No, I have not. And, look, it never should have come down to this. If Al Gore had been about to win his home state, we wouldn't have had a problem.

And I do think there has been a lot of hypocrisy on both sides. But I must say, the going into court by Bush, took hypocrisy to a new level, in at least four ways. They, of course, they said -- they denounced the Gore people for entertaining a legal action, as you pointed out. They're the campaign that has always favored state power over federal power, and they're reversing that. They have always campaigned against activist federal judges, and here they are, asking a federal judge to intervene in a state matter. And George Bush signed the law, as we all know, which not only permitted but favored this exact procedure, which he now says is unfair and illegitimate. If that's not hypocrisy, I don't know what is.

BLITZER: Hypocrisy, Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, CNN COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure hypocrisy, but it makes it harder for them to, you know, have the high ground here. I mean, clearly, the candidate who is seen as resorting to the courts and as dispatching most lawyers and otherwise tampering with the system is the one who loses politically.

I do think the Gore campaign has a lot to answer for, however, mostly for not reining in Jessie Jackson. I mean, allowing him to go down there and make this into some sort of racial issue and demagogue it in the worst, ugliest, really an immoral way, I think, and the Gore campaign has said nothing. To whip crowds into a frenzy like that, I just think, doesn't help Gore at all.

BLITZER: Susan, what about that?

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think there is a kind of battle going on, and has been for several days, to influence what Vice President Gore will do, because in the end, this is going to come down to his decision, and Governor Bush's decision, on how to proceed.

And on the one hand, there are some Democratic core groups that worked very hard for Al Gore, who turned out their voters, and who would really like to see him fight for every last vote, go to the final legal challenge to win this election. But there are also some senior Democrats who think this is not the right course to take for the country.

I think all the Democrats are very supportive of the idea of a recount in Florida. But when Friday comes, I think there will be enormous pressure on both these candidates, for whoever fails to win the certified vote in Florida, to graciously concede. And, you know, we've had some history in this country of the one who concedes graciously, in a case like this, is able to come back very powerfully four or eight years down the road.

ROBERTS: I agree with you about Jessie Jackson. I think this is an inappropriate politicization of the process. I agree that for the Gore camp to go into federal court and try to get election overturned because of civil rights violations, or even because of the butterfly ballot that somehow was illegal -- throw all of that out.

And any notion of a revote -- for instance, if you had a revote, all those people who were stupid enough to vote for Ralph Nader could now vote for Al Gore, realizing they had helped throw the election to George Bush. If they were stupid enough to do it, they shouldn't get a second chance.

But, in this balancing act of being fair and fast, I think we can all agree that the dividing line at least should be a fair count of the ballots that have already been cast. That's a fair point at which to say we won't go beyond that, but let's be fair about those votes.

BLITZER: You know, Tucker, John McCain was on "Face the Nation" earlier today. He made it clear there are huge risks here for both of these candidates. Listen to what McCain had to say.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Whatever the voters have decided in the state of Florida, then it's over. I think that the nation is growing a little weary of this. We're not in constitutional crisis, but the American people are growing weary. And whoever wins is having a rapidly diminishing mandate, to say the least.


CARLSON: I think that's absolutely right. I mean, at some point, the whole system really operates under a gentlemen's agreement. You know, we have elections and we all sort of agree to believe that they provide a definitive outcome. So that is absolutely right. The longer this goes on, the worse it is for everybody.

I do think that the Gore campaign clearly has an endgame in mind, however. This is -- in some ways, it's like a bar fight. You don't get into the -- you know, you don't start to wrangle unless you're ready to throw the blows.

And I think that the Gore people are smart enough to recognize that the longer this keeps up, the more it poisons Gore's chances in 2004. And, therefore, the ultimate goal has to be becoming president now. So, you know, I don't think they're kidding around. I don't think the Gore people are kidding around. I think intend to win.

BLITZER: Both sides, Susan, are clearly ready to play hardball. I mean, this is -- the presidency is on the line. I don't think they're looking beyond much further than a week or two. They are not looking to 2004 or anything like that. They smell the White House.

PAGE: And the result is that it hardens partisan lines, it inflames partisan sentiments, it's going to make it very hard -- even harder to get past this. Because, presumably, one of these guys is going to be inaugurated on January 20.

PAGE: We should remember the other results from Election Day, which is that we'll probably have a 50-50 Senate. We've never had that before. We'll have a House that is so closely divided that if four Republicans bolt, the Republicans don't hold control anymore on a particular vote.

So the new president not only will have this bitterness to get over in this question of whether his victory was tainted, he's also going to deal with a Congress where no one effectively is in control.

BLITZER: And, Steve, you know, I spent a lot of time in Florida this past week, and I spoke to people from both of these sides, the Bush people and the Gore people. They are both so passionately convinced that their side is right. They don't see the other side's arguments. They're 100 percent convinced that justice is on their side.

And when you have two parties to a dispute with such absolute conviction that they're right, it sets the stage for -- it doesn't set the stage for compromise and for reasonable outcomes.

ROBERTS: And both sides have handled this badly, both sides have been inflammatory. George Bush going out there and saying, "Well, I'm starting my transition," was arrogant and inflammatory.

The arguments on the Gore side saying, "We're not really going to accept the Florida results, we're going to keep pushing for legal challenges down the line," that was inflammatory. One of these guys is going to be president, and neither one of them has shown the temperament and the judgment and the maturity that we need and expect in a president. Both of them are off to a bad start.

CARLSON: Well, if I could just say, though, I think that Gore's off to a much worst start because the Gore side started the argument. And you heard it from the very first comments they made: "Look, we won the popular vote."

So this is really an argument that was taking place outside the system. Of course, the popular doesn't really mean anything...

ROBERTS: You heard Dick Thornburgh just now saying, "Bush won, and why doesn't Gore concede?" Bush has not won. And that has been the lie...

CARLSON: I think that's right. But still, you know, the Bush campaign is arguing within the framework of the system itself. The Gore campaign from the very beginning implied that it doesn't really matter what the electoral vote winds up being because "we won the popular vote and the people's will is that Al Gore be president." That's a very dangerous and creepy argument.

ROBERTS: There's another very important point here. Susan alluded to it. The day one of these guys is inaugurated is the first day of the next campaign for the guy who lost. And how they handle this between now and when this decision is made is going to have a lot to say about whether the loser is a viable candidate next time around.

BLITZER: Let me ask this: You know these two campaigns -- these two men individually, Bush and Gore. Are they looking ahead -- maybe I'm wrong -- are they looking ahead to their political futures, how viable they'll be if they do blink?

PAGE: Yes, I think that both of them are. I think there's an awareness in both camps that they're fighting for a prize, but they need to try to preserve that prize, not being -- that prize still being worthwhile if they should win it.

I think that the Bush camp has been quite -- were surprised and quite unhappy that they apparently have lost the popular vote. They know, too, the history that only three men have become president having lost the popular vote, and that those three presidencies were all unsuccessful one-term presidencies.

And I think the same is true of the Gore camp.

Yes, I think both these men are looking beyond next Friday or whenever this issue is settled to what kind of presidency will they be able to have.

BLITZER: Stand by. We have to take a quick break. A lot more with our roundtable when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable. You know, it didn't take long, Susan, for Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton from New York State to speak out on this entire controversy. She spoke about the Electoral College and what should or should not happen. Listen to Mrs. Clinton.


U.S. SENATOR-ELECT HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): I believe strongly that in a democracy we should respect the which will of the people. And to me that means it's time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our presidents.


PAGE: Now this is so wonderful, because this is a New Yorker's point of view. I mean, New York would do a lot better if we went to a popular vote system for president, because they have so many people. This is not the Arkansas point of view that she might have represented, say a year ago, which is presumably in favor of the Electoral College, because the electoral college does several things.

One of the things it does is it forces candidates to pay attention and form coalitions in states other than the very biggest, most populous states. That's probably a good thing. When people talk about changing the Electoral College, that would require a vote, support of three-quarters of the states, 38 of the states. I think that's unlikely to happen, because it does not serve the interest of the smaller states.

ROBERTS: And it's not only -- it might be a New Yorker's point of view, but it's not a black New Yorker's point of view; it's not a Hispanic New Yorker's point of view; it's not a Jewish or a Muslim New Yorker's point of view. Because one of the things that the Electoral College does is force attention. We wouldn't have paid any attention to Muslims in Michigan unless there was an Electoral College -- or Jews in Florida, for that matter.

I also think that this notion, that somehow the Electoral College is undemocratic and unAmerican, is ridiculous, because the founders always understood that the undiluted popular will could be dangerous. That's why we have a Senate where there are two seats for every state; that's why we have a filibuster. The whole system has all of these checks built into it so that the undiluted popular will is reined in.

BLITZER: Steve Roberts disagreeing with Hillary Rodham Clinton strongly. Let's hear from Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: I mean, of course that the, as Steve put it, the undiluted popular will can be dangerous. I'm not sure it's even legal to say that nowadays (OFF-MIKE) Oprah.

I think Mrs. Clinton's statements are exactly the reason she'll be the single least popular senator on the Democratic side. This sort of thing is going to drive other Democratic senators absolutely bananas. Imagine if you were a Democrat who had been in the Senate, you know, two or three or four terms and you worked hard, and you know, worked on some boring minutiae and stuff, and all of a sudden Mrs. Clinton, who has never been elected to anything, shows up and ten minutes after getting elected, you know, makes the front page of the paper with these ill-considered statements, taking therefore the publicity away from you: It would drive you insane.

PAGE: Hey, get used to it, because Hillary...

CARLSON: I know, I know.

PAGE: The junior senator from New York. She's going to be one of the central figures in the Senate...

CARLSON: They're going to hate her; I think the other side...

PAGE: Well, you saw what Trent Lott said a day after she had been elected, that maybe she'd be struck by lightning so she wouldn't make it to the Senate.

CARLSON: But Chuck Schumer, what's he going to say? I mean, he must have just been -- oh, tearing his hair out.

PAGE: She represents more than the people. She represents a whole slice of the Democratic party and if Al Gore loses, I think he'll face some competition in 2004 from people who back Hillary Clinton for the next...

BLITZER: And on that point, I just want to make it clear that our viewers out there, here in the United States, around the world, get the information they need to know here on this roundtable first and foremost. Listen to what one member of this roundtable said only one week ago.


PAGE: I think the one state to look at is Florida. It seems to me the candidate who wins Florida is going to win the presidency.


BLITZER: How did you know that?

PAGE: You know, it was just, this came to me in a dream, and I appreciate your using the bytes that made me look smart instead of the bytes that made me look stupid.

BLITZER: We only use those bytes. We have some bytes from Steve and from Tucker that we're not going to use.


For sound bytes, it's an amazing story; we'll be watching all of it. There's no end in sight, right?

ROBERTS: Yes, there is. Next Friday, I think, will be an end in sight, and I think that the vote's going to show that Al Gore has won Florida, and I see no reason why the Bush people would be taking this risk and going into court unless they agreed with it.

BLITZER: All right, we'll play that byte next week. Steve Roberts, Tucker Carlson, Susan Page thanks to all of you once again.

When we return, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nowadays, everything is instant, but elections used to be slow, and even then the U. S. always muddled through somehow.


BLITZER: As the nation waits on Florida, Bruce Morton takes a look back at past presidential transitions that have not always been clear-cut. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on other days when Americans found themselves waiting for their leader.


MORTON (voice-over): It's funny, of course. The late night guys love it.


JAY LENO, HOST: Well, you just got all kinds of voting irregularities being reported down there in Florida. Hear the latest? In Orlando now, now the seven dwarfs are claiming they couldn't reach the ballot box.



DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: I got a sad story. I got a call today from my mom. She's all upset. She accidentally voted for Pat Sajak.


MORTON: But it isn't just funny. Oprah's worried.


OPRAH WINFREY: We are live in Chicago on November 9, and we are leaderless. Aren't we still shocked?


MORTON: Nowadays, everything is instant. but elections used to be slow. But even then, the U.S. always muddled through somehow. Abraham Lincoln was murdered. His vice president, Andrew Johnson, was impeached in a country bitterly divided at the end of the Civil War. But power passed smoothly.

Andrew Jackson won the popular vote and the electoral vote, but not a majority. And the House elected John Quincy Adams president. Power passed smoothly. And Jackson won the presidency four years later.

Same with Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote, but the electoral college went for Benjamin Harrison. And Cleveland got elected four years later.

When Richard Nixon resigned the presidency -- something that had never happened before -- in 1974, people said this will be bad for the country. But it was only bad for Nixon. The country, under Gerald Ford, was calm.

It was the same Nixon, who, when he lost a very close election to John Kennedy in 1960, did not pursue vote fraud charges in Illinois, but accepted the results.

This time, however, the nation could be facing a long, drawn-out legal battle.


DALEY: In the end, as frustrating as this wait may be, what we are seeing here is a democracy in action, a careful and lawful effort to ensure that the will of the people is done.



BAKER: There is no reasonable end to this process if it slips away. First in Florida, but potentially in other states as well.


MORTON: They'll debate changing the system for next time, but the odds are this election will be decided under the law fairly calmly. No coups, no national collapse. And if we need a temporary president, somebody to mind the store while the lawsuits get settled, I know just the guy, and so do you. You know he'd love to be asked. It absolutely beats being the spouse of a famous senator.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.

BLITZER: Now, look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

Time magazine proclaims, "Standoff: The Wildest Election in History," -- on the cover.

Newsweek declares, "The Winner is" -- dot, dot, dot -- "The Inside Story of America's Closest, Craziest Election," with a morphed Al Gore and George Bush on the cover.

And on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, "The Ugly Election -- The War For Votes in Florida. Bush and Gore: Who Will Blink First? And Can Either Lead a Divided Nation?"

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 12.

Be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And join me again tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Eastern for another special edition of The World Today as the Florida recount continues.

And of course, stay with CNN for all of the latest developments in this election.

For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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