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The Florida Recount: Public Relations, Legal Action Equally Important in Fight for White House

Aired November 17, 2000 - 2:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Sending surrogates out to do the talking has become a key strategy in this post-election battle, with the candidates themselves keeping fairly low profiles.

CNN's Kate Snow, now, reporting that it's all part of the winner- takes-all game of message management and spin control.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT: I propose this evening, a way to settle this matter with finality and justice.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aides say Al Gore had wanted to make a speech for a couple of days, but he waited until Wednesday night when he felt the timing was right.

LES FRANCIS, DEMOCRATIC MEDIA CONSULTANT: As people were getting home from work and getting ready to have dinner they turned on the news and the vice president was on making a statement.

SNOW: In this uncharted post-election territory, both the Gore and Bush teams are carefully calculating, not only the message, but when and how to deliver it, knowing that, ultimately, public opinion may mean more than any legal decision.

Gore spoke from a podium brought over from the White House; no official seal, but the look was presidential.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All Americans want a fair and accurate...

SNOW: A few hours later, George W. Bush followed suit, staring directly into the camera. Bush aides say he had the larger audience in prime time.

TOM EDMONDS, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: I think both of them are trying to win the popularity contest with the public and seem like they're reasonable individuals. George Bush, I think, is especially trying to look presidential and I think, to a large extent, succeeding.

HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: And they were holding up ballots to see if you could see sunlight through it. It reminded me of Johnny Carson, like Carnac the Great saying -- I believe this one was for Gore.

SNOW: Part of the public relations strategy let surrogates do the tough talking.

DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: That's why we have hand counts, because machines make mistakes.

SNOW: In Florida, two senior statesmen, James Baker and Warren Christopher, often field questions. In their absence both campaigns have teams of spokespeople guided by attorneys.

FRANCIS: So they're not only having to convey a public message -- that is, a message to the voting public nationally -- but they also have to do that with one eye cocked on what's going on in terms of litigation.

SNOW: All the while, both men are trying to look relaxed. George W. Bush bringing his dog to a news conference last weekend, Al Gore chatting on a radio show Thursday morning.

GORE: Because I think that it is a time for me and Governor Bush to try to calm the rhetoric a little bit, you know what I'm saying?

SNOW (on camera): The stakes are high for Bush and Gore, but analysts say most Americans aren't likely to be forming new opinions at this stage, simply reinforcing the impressions they formed before the election.

Kate Snow, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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