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Vice President Al Gore Remains Optimistic About Presidential Hopes; Poised to Let All Legal Options Play Out

Aired December 5, 2000 - 2:51 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there is another live picture of the White House, where we await the vice president. And here he comes out to the microphone. We heard from Gore -- Gore's running mate Joe Lieberman a few moments ago, saying they continue to fight. Let's hear.

AL GORE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really have an opening statement. If you want to ask any questions, feel free.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, sir, is this the last battleground, sir? If you lose at the Supreme Court of Florida, will you concede?

GORE: Well, the effort I have under way is simply to make sure that all the votes are counted. And when the issues that are now being considered in the Florida Supreme Court are decided, that'll be an important point. But I don't want to speculate on what the Florida Supreme Court will do.

QUESTION: Realistically, would you say the odds are against you now?

GORE: I don't really feel that way, no.

QUESTION: Do you feel like an underdog?

GORE: Well, you know, I've felt that way for two years now. But I don't feel anything other than optimistic. And the team down in Tallahassee feels that way also.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, you said last week that you thought your chances were 50-50.

GORE: Yes, I'll stay with that. I'll stay with that.

QUESTION: Even after the court rulings have gone against you consistently the past three or four days?

GORE: Well, I think the U.S. Supreme Court ruling was neutral. It may have even been slightly favorable to us, in the sense that it gave a clear road map to the Florida Supreme Court. But those are things that the lawyers can tell you more about than I can.

I just don't want to accept your premise that they've all been negative. I don't think the U.S. Supreme Court decision was negative.

QUESTION: Why do you...

GORE: And as for the other decision yesterday, everybody knew from the start that that was going to be ultimately decided by the Florida Supreme Court.


QUESTION: Do the votes in Seminole and Martin County count, the absentee ballots?

GORE: Well, there were more than enough votes to make the difference that were apparently thrown into -- the applications for ballots were thrown into the trash can by the supervisor of elections there, apparently, even though they were missing the same number that the Republican Party workers were allowed to come in and fix the other applications with.

So I don't want to speculate on what remedy might be. I'm not a party to that case or the Martin County case.

But more than enough votes were potentially taken away from Democrats, because they were not given the same access that Republicans were. Remember, according to what's come out in that case -- again, I'm not a party to it, but I've read about it.

Apparently the Democratic Party chair was denied the opportunity to even look at the list of applications, whereas the Republican Party workers were allowed to roam around unsupervised inside the office, and bring their computers in, and fix all of the valid applications for one side even as the Democrats were denied an opportunity to come in, denied a chance to even look at the applications and those applications were thrown out. Now, that doesn't seem fair to me.

And apparently in Martin County, they were able to go in and take all the applications home with them.

So, you know, that's a...


QUESTION: ... talk about the black votes being discounted there?

GORE: Excuse me, say that -- what?

QUESTION: The black votes that were discounted. Wasn't Jesse Jackson and the NAACP saying that the black votes were discounted in Florida as well?

GORE: Well, I am very troubled by a lot of the stories that have been reported about a roadblock on the way to one precinct, questions raised about various activities there. I do not have a personal or firsthand knowledge of those events. But whenever there are problems of that kind alleged, they are deserving of attention.

QUESTION: Will you meet with Jesse Jackson...

GORE: I talk with him regularly, of course. And I have worked with him closely. I have spoken with Kweisi Mfume and Julian Bond. Penda Hair, who is a head of the effort by the NAACP against voter suppression, has been in touch with our people.

But I have no knowledge of those activities. I want to say to you clearly that, in my opinion, whenever you have allegations of those kinds, that is a matter that the entire country ought to take seriously. They are not part of the ongoing court action, and I don't want to mislead you on that, but I certainty want you to know that I think that they're serious allegations.


QUESTION: ... you are not party to the suits in Seminole and Martin counties, but how will what happens there affect your decision to continue or to concede?

GORE: I don't know. I don't know what'll happen there. I think that those two cases are likely to travel the same route as the case that went into Judge Sauls' court and will end up in the Florida Supreme Court.

QUESTION: Will you hang on while that happens?

GORE: Well, look, I'm not going to speculate on what the outcome will be, what the remedy might be, depending on that outcome. Those are hypotheticals on top of hypotheticals, and I'm just not comfortable dealing with a hypothetical like that.

I do think that it's likely that all of the current controversies will end up being resolved, one way or another, in the Florida Supreme Court. And that's been predicted for a long time now, but...


GORE: Momento. Aqui.

QUESTION: Thank you. Gracias. What do you make of the fact, sir, that the American people don't seem to be outraged that not all the ballots have been counted?

GORE: Well, actually, you know, I spent a lot of time debunking the importance of public opinion polls. Every once in a while, I see one that I like.


One of them that caught my eye recently indicated that, by a very solid majority, the American people believe that every single vote that is legally cast should be counted and not just arbitrarily not be counted.

And the votes in Miami-Dade County, for example, deserve to be looked at and counted. And I think there is a very strong feeling among the American people that that ought to happen.

Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.

ALLEN: Al Gore, this afternoon stepping out of the White House, where he's working today, saying he remains optimistic. Just like last week, he still believes he has a 50/50 chance in this battle. "Are the odds against you?" he was asked. "I don't feel that way, no." He also commented on the hearing that will take place in the Seminole, Martin County cases regarding those absentee ballots.

And he also talked about, as you heard, troubling allegations about African-Americans being denied the right to vote in Florida. He said he would meet with Jesse Jackson on that issue as well.

Let's go to CNN's Jeanne Meserve with the Bush camp in Texas.

He did not give, Jeanne, the wish of the Bush-Cheney team: that he would concede -- as Mr. Cheney said it was time for him to do -- and wouldn't even take the question when asked if he loses before the Florida Supreme Court, if he concedes then -- wouldn't take that one.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think, Natalie, they really expect him to either make that move or say definitively when he will. I think they feel ultimately still he may have to. The Bush campaign is more optimistic than it has been, given yesterday's Supreme Court's ruling -- excuse me -- yesterday's court rulings in Leon County Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

But optimism here quite tempered, because they have been up and down and around and through on this roller-coaster. And they know things could still change. One of the things that you heard the vice president talking about are these cases in Seminole and Martin County, which involve absentee ballots, where Republican officials were allowed to come in and modify the applications for those ballots. You heard what the vice president had to say.

Let me tell you a little bit about what the Bush campaign is saying about that. They feel quite strongly that the law is on their side on this case. And they feel that the remedy that is being cited in that case -- that is, the throwing out of 15,000 absentee ballots -- is really quite radical. But what they really point to is the public-relations problem this case presents for the Gore campaign.

Even though Gore is not a party to it, the gentleman who is pressing it has been a major contributor to the Gore campaign. And the Bush people maintain there was some coordination with some of the Gore advisers. And they say: How can -- how can the Gore people or his supporters be talking about the ballots here on the basis of applications problems, when, in the same instance -- in fact, during this brief press opportunity we just had -- you hear the vice president talking about the need for every single vote to be counted?

They think there is a very basic and fundamental contradiction here. They don't think the American public will buy that all these ballots should be tossed. And, as I said, they really feel that the law is going to be on their side on this one -- Natalie. ALLEN: All right, Jeanne Meserve.

And we will provide live coverage of that hearing -- the Seminole County cases -- tomorrow here on CNN.

Let's go to CNN's Jonathan Karl, who's been covering the Gore campaign there in Washington.

Some rumblings from Democrats around Al Gore that they're not as confident as they have been -- but Al Gore surely presenting an optimistic face today, Jonathan.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. In fact, the direct quote, I believe was: "I don't feel anything but optimistic." That is what the vice president is saying down there, striking a far more defiant tone than we heard even from his running mate on Capitol Hill, Joe Lieberman, who has had meetings on both the House and Senate side with Democrats, reassuring them that this case is almost over, asking them to stand with the vice president as he makes his final appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

But the vice president expressing not only interest in his case before the Florida Supreme Court, but in cases that he is not party to -- as he mentioned, talking about the Seminole County and Martin County, involving absentee ballots, the vice president making the point that those cases involve more than enough ballots to sway the election.

He reminded reporters there that he is not a party to those lawsuits, but he surely showed a command of the facts of those lawsuits and a great deal of interest in them, and did nothing to distance himself from those lawsuits -- also talking about the reports of the disenfranchisements of African-American voters in Florida, again something of which he has not taken a party to in any lawsuits.

But he said of those allegations -- quote -- "The entire country ought to take seriously those allegations" -- so the vice president certainly not sounding like somebody ready to concede, striking an optimistic pose, and also a slightly defiant one, saying he is ready to pursue his legal options.

ALLEN: Jonathan Karl in Washington. Thank you, Jonathan.



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