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Florida Supreme Court to Expedite Examination of Gore Appeal; Gore's Hopes for Presidency Begin to Fade

Aired December 5, 2000 - 4:10 p.m. ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: And this is a CNN special report on election 2000. Hello. Thanks for joining us. I'm Joie Chen.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello to you. Thanks for joining us as well. I'm Natalie Allen.

Well, four weeks after Americans went to the polls to pick a president, the election remains undecided and Al Gore vows to fight on, despite his latest legal setback in Florida. What's next for the Gore campaign?

CNN's John King joins us from Washington with some answers -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, what's next is an anxious wait for the Florida state Supreme Court. There's two issues, of course: one, the U.S. Supreme Court case that was sent back to the Florida state Supreme Court, but much more importantly, the vice president's appeal of the entire ruling by the circuit judge Sanders Sauls to the Florida Supreme Court. Legal briefs due in that case tomorrow, the oral arguments on Thursday, most expecting a ruling on Friday, Saturday at the latest. That could be the vice president's final appeal.

Democrats sending word today that their patience will run short after Florida's highest court once again renders its verdict. The vice president, meanwhile, took some time at the White House today to visit his official office, stepped outside and told reporters he looks at the legal challenge and he's feeling upbeat.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't feel anything other than optimistic. I really -- and the team down in Tallahassee feels that way also, so...

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, you said last week...

GORE: Yes.

QUESTION: ... you thought your chances were 50/50.

GORE: Yes, I'll stay with that. I'll stay with that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Fifty-fifty, the vice president saying he thinks his chances are. Meanwhile, to maintain Democratic support, you see his running mate there, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, he made the rounds on Capitol Hill today, speaking separately in private first to the House Democratic caucus, then to his colleagues in the Senate Democratic caucus -- the message coming back from those rank-and-file Democrats, many are supportive of the vice president to the end, but many elders from conservative areas, districts or states carried by Governor Bush saying they need an end to this quickly, that they will support the vice president's appeal to the Florida Supreme Court; but if he loses there, look for Democratic support to crumble.

Probably unnecessary, though -- sources deep in the Gore campaign telling us the vice president understands both his legal and political options running out now and that if he does not win at the Florida state Supreme Court, it will be time to concede the election. The entire ruling of the circuit judge appealed to the state Supreme Court, but Gore legal sources telling us they believe their best hope is Miami-Dade County. They hope the state Supreme Court there -- and they say it would be consistent with past state Supreme Court rulings -- will order Miami-Dade to go ahead with that hand review of the nearly 10,000 ballots that were run through the machines and registered no vote for president -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, John, the vice president certainly continues to put on a positive face in the midst of all this. Is anyone close to Al Gore saying whether he is as optimistic as he certainly appears?

KING: Well, he's being told by his lawyers they believe they have a strong case, especially on Miami-Dade. But we are also told by close advisers and friend of the vice president that he does understand that he is running out of options here, that if he loses again at the Florida Supreme Court there will be no place else to go, no other court to appeal to, and at that point he would have to bow out, and they say he's prepared to do that if it comes to that.

ALLEN: John King in Washington.

CHEN: Meantime, Governor Bush is moving ahead with his transition plans. Joining us from Austin, Texas, is CNN's Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, the Bush campaign optimistic today, but not crowing, not glowing, quite restrained and conciliatory as we enter what may be the final acts of this presidential drama. What they're doing they say is proceeding with what they call a herculean effort to prepare for the upcoming court battles and they're also getting on with the business of forming a government. Governor Bush was asked today if it's time for Al Gore to concede, this is what he had to say.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a very difficult decision for anybody to make. I understand that. I do believe I have won this election. I believe that I won it on the first count and on the second count and on the third count.

But I'm -- I'm -- the vice president is going to have to make the decisions that he thinks are necessary, and I know that he'll put the, the interests of the country will be important in his decision-making, just like it would be in mine.


MESERVE: Governor Bush is, of course, still a governor, and so some of his attention going to state business, but by and large much of his attention going to the matter of transition. He met this morning with Andy Card. He's his designee to be White House chief of staff if there is a Bush administration.

He was supposed to meet this afternoon with Condoleezza Rice. She is expected to be his pick to be national security adviser, but there were some problems with travel. She'll meet with him tomorrow.

Bush told us not again today not to expect any appointments. Those he will hold off until the situation in Florida becomes more clear.

Bush did receive today his first national security briefing. He'll be getting these on a regular basis. The one today lasted about 45 minutes. He can get them every day except Sunday, if he wants to, as he's brought up to speed on security matters.

But not everything has to do with politics and legalities. The governor had something else on his mind today. His father, the former president, underwent hip replacement surgery today at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. We were told this afternoon that he's gotten a good report, that everything looked like it went well.

Joie, back to you.

CHEN: Jeanne, before you go here, let's talk a minute again about the idea of transition and names that might float up into a Bush administration. Is the thinking now still for sort of a "big tent" approach to the players in that administration, maybe with even some high-profile moderates or Democrats onboard?

MESERVE: Well, the Bush campaign insists that it is floating absolutely no names. Of course, the governor has had some meetings, which could certainly be tell-tale signs. He met with governor Colin Powell last week. As I mentioned, Condoleezza Rice scheduled now to come in here tomorrow.

But they insist all of these names that you hear floating around are coming from outside the campaign, some of them from ambitious people themselves undoubtedly. They have made it clear, however, they are casting a very broad net. They're open to the idea of Democrats. They want to see diversity politically as well as ethnically -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Jeanne Meserve for us in Austin -- Natalie. ALLEN: Well, there's concern among Democrats, as we learned from John King, that Gore may lose support as he keeps up his fight over the Florida ballots. We turn now to CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider for his opinion on that issue.

Hello there, Bill.


ALLEN: Well, we heard Al Gore say he's optimistic. How optimistic can he be if he continues to lose Democratic support?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I wouldn't say the Democrats are hemorrhaging support from Al Gore. They'll hold on, but they'll hold on maybe one more week, until the December 12th deadline, one week from today. After that, I think all hope will be lost, because that's the one week in which Gore has got to get the Supreme Court of Florida to say, start counting the votes, start the count by hand in Miami-Dade or anywhere else, because once the vote count is started, it's going to be very hard to stop. It will be a little outrageous if they start counting the votes, and someone says, sorry, time's up, you have to stop counting.

Once it starts it can't be stopped. He has one week to get it started.

ALLEN: Well, if that's allowed for this vote tallying to start again, that could give him a psychological boost, could it not?

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. Just because once they start counting, it's just hard to stop them from counting and say the deadline has passed. The deadline is meaningful only in the sense that it's a deadline to start the vote count.

The only hope that Gore has left is the Florida Supreme Court, and he indicated today -- and that's why it was significant -- that he's not going to go beyond the Florida Supreme Court, and I think in a way he was sending a message to the Gore campaign that if the Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of Gore and allows the count to start, he doesn't want the Bush campaign to start going to a higher authority and taking this up to a federal court.

So he said he'll abide by the Florida Supreme Court. It was an invitation for the Bush campaign to say they will, too, though they haven't said that yet.

ALLEN: Today, when he came out and spoke with reporters, some of the reporters trying to get something out of him, any doubts he might be having, for him to express that. He certainly would not. He really has to keep an optimistic face, doesn't he, through all of this?

SCHNEIDER: Absolutely. He has to in order to keep his base intact, to keep those Democrats, who have just returned today to the lame-duck session of Congress, he's got to keep them in line, because if they start abandoning him, then, of course, his political support has crumbled and it's hard to see how he can go on.

What Democrats are doing right now is trying to gauge is this going to hurt them. Are voters getting angry? They're certainly beginning to get impatient. But are Democrats likely to pay a price if Gore is seen as a sore loser? And they're very, very sensitive to that.

My guess is that as the days go on, toward next Tuesday, you're going to begin to see a few Democrats peeling off from supporting Al Gore, and that's most likely to happen in what I call the red states, those states that went for George W. Bush on the map, probably starting with Texas, Bush's home state. That's where Democrats are likely to begin to say, well, we're not going to stick with Al Gore. And then it's going to spread out to some other Southern and mountain states. That's where you're going to see it happen.

The diehard supporters of Bush are the urban liberals, the minority supporters. They're the ones who come from the districts that Gore carried overwhelmingly. They're the ones who are fearful of a George Bush presidency, and their constituents want Gore to stay in there.

ALLEN: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks for your input.


ALLEN: We will continue on here in a moment.

CHEN: Yes, the legal tussling continues as it does in Tallahassee. We'll be down there in just a few minutes. Stay tuned.


ALLEN: Ground zero in this postelection battle still, of course, in Tallahassee.

And joining us from the Florida capitol: Martin Savidge with the latest legal goings-on -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, all eyes, once again, focused on the Florida state Supreme Court in the background, here. It is believed by many, now, that this particular court could have the final say as to who is going to be the next president of the United States -- underlining the word "could" have the final say.

There are two matters that are before this court pertaining to the election, and there was movement on both matters today. First, as John King alluded, there is a little bit of a homework assignment -- that was assigned to the seven justices here by the U.S. Supreme Court. They are to, basically, clarify their decision of November 21, extending the deadline here in the state of Florida by which votes could be counted and recounted.

To that end, the justices today invited the attorneys involved in that case to submit legal briefs, legal arguments further extending the case and then they will read over those briefs and they will clarify their decision and pass that on back up to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. That is not considered to be the pressing matter of the moment.

Instead, what is considered to be the top of the agenda -- and that is the appeal by Vice President Al Gore to yesterday's devastating defeat that he suffered in Leon County Circuit Court. There Judge N. Sanders Sauls basically said that there was some 14,000 votes that the Gore campaign had been hoping would be recounted. Instead the judge, basically, decided in all ways against the Gore campaign -- saying that he saw no reason for those ballots to be recounted.

Immediately after hearing that decision, then, the people from the Gore campaign ran and filed an appeal, and that appeal, now, has come once again back before the state Supreme Court. Now, what they have decided is that there will be oral arguments on Thursday, but they have not specifically said that they are going to take the case at this particular point.

Now, as all of that goes on, there are other court actions taking place in other courts here in the state capitol that could have a direct bearing on the outcome of the final vote tally. Specifically, these are challenges by Democrats of absentee ballots -- specifically, absentee ballot applications. We're talking about thousands of potential votes here, and it could alter the outcome as to who is going to be president. That court battle is ongoing.

But let's get back to the matter of hand, that is the state Supreme Court and the activity and the agenda they face.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is standing by there to fill us in with more -- Susan.


Vice President Gore's lawyers asked for a quick review by the Florida Supreme Court and this court has, indeed, responded quickly. By lunchtime today all seven justices here unanimously agreeing to set oral arguments for 10:00 in the morning on Thursday. Each side will get a half an hour to present its case; and the hearing, the oral arguments, will be televised.

Now, technically, the court is asking all parties to argue and to plead before this court as to whether this court should exercise the authority that it has to even hear this case.

Now, before any of that happens, both sides must file oral arguments -- must file written briefs -- rather, written arguments -- by noontime tomorrow. And while all arguments take place, the court will be hearing about the issues in this legal contest.

Now, Vice President Gore's lawyers will be arguing the merits of their case. They will argue that the judge in the lower court, Judge Sanders Sauls, misread the law when he ruled against them. Naturally, Governor Bush's attorneys will argue otherwise. Now, about an hour ago, there were more filings that had no direct bearing on the Gore appeal. At the invitation of the Florida Supreme Court, about a half- dozen parties responded to an invitation from this court to weigh, in as it were, as to whether the Florida Supreme Court used the proper standards when it extended the recount deadline back on November 27.

That was, again, at the invite of the Florida Supreme Court before it responds to the U.S. Supreme Court. And so, Martin, it appears that a resolution of this election contest is indeed getting closer. If the Florida Supreme Court should, for some reason, agree that ballots need to be recounted, that, of course would have to be done by December 12, next week, when the Florida electors must be chosen -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Susan Candiotti.

About a quarter-of-a-mile away from the state Supreme Court is the location of the Leon County Circuit Court. And there is the battle that is ongoing for the absentee ballots.

Bill Delaney joins us with more on how things are shaping up there -- Bill.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, thanks very much, Marty.

You know, this is very much the wild card in all this. To hear Republicans tell it, this is pretty frivolous stuff here over at the Leon County courthouse. To hear Democrats tell us, there's nothing less at stake here than enough votes to turn the state of Florida over to Vice President Al Gore, and indeed the presidency over to Vice President Al Gore.

Now, in courtroom 3D, above me hear, Judge Nikki Clark in the pre-trial hearing of all this -- the trial to take place tomorrow. And she, at the moment, Marty, is entertaining a motion -- three motions to dismiss by Republicans. Now, this is Republican lawyer Barry Richard here. Let's pause for a moment and hear what Mr. Richard is saying.

BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: ... of the case -- which is in headnotes three and four -- unless the absentee-voting laws which have been violated in the casting of the vote expressly declared that the particular act is essential to the validity of the ballot, or that its omission will cause the ballot not to be counted, the statute should be treated as directory, not mandatory, provided such irregularity is not calculated to affect the integrity of the ballot or election.

Section 101.667 Sub 3, for example, declares that the absentee ballot should be counted only where the application for absentee electors ballot is properly executed and placed in envelope separate from the absentee ballot. So what the Supreme Court told us in Boardman (ph) is that we are to treat all requirements for absentee ballots as directory, the violation of which will not invalidate the ballot unless the legislature has specifically stated that failure to comply will invalidate the ballot.

Excuse me, your honor. The First District Court of Appeal...

DELANEY: Now, what Barry Richard is arguing to dismiss here is the case brought by a Democratic lawyer in Seminole County, who said ballot applications -- Republicans sent in there -- were improperly filled out and were given over to Republican operatives who finished filling them out correctly. About 2,000 ballots in all, I.D. numbers were put on them by Republican operatives.

The corrected applications then made it possible for these Republican voters to get their ballots. And they voted as absentee voters -- no one claiming here that the absentee ballots themselves were a problem, only that it is against the law for someone other than very specific persons -- and they don't include Republican operatives, to finish filling out a ballot application. What that Democratic lawyer in Seminole County wants is for all 15,000 Republican absentee ballots in Seminole County to be thrown out. A similar situation in Martin County, where 10,000 ballots are at stake.

Democrats say they didn't have the same chance to fix their ballot applications. Republicans respond to that, well, there was nothing wrong with your ballot applications, so you didn't need as much help.

Back to you, Marty.

SAVIDGE: Bill Delaney, thanks very much. Now, as all of the legal wrangling goes on, the clock continues to count down. As Susan Candiotti alluded, there's just one week now left until this state of Florida has to basically have its slate of electors in place in order for its 25 electoral votes to be counted.

Everyone knows here that time is not just a factor; it is the factor -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Martin Savidge for us in Tallahassee. The other place that's on our legal radar at this moment is the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here in Atlanta. There, two separate but related hearings were held today before the court's 12 judges.

Bush supporters want the federal court to throw out any presidential election results that include manual recounts. The plaintiffs argue that selective hand recounts violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by giving more weight to some precincts tallies.

Now, this claim was struck down at the U.S. District court level, and if the appeals court agrees with the lower court, the Bush camp could appeal that to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is no word on when the federal appeals court in Atlanta might reach a decision. Stand by and wait for that.

ALLEN: Well, when we come back, orientation day for a soon-to-be former first lady and 10 others.

CHEN: The nation's 11 freshmen senators go to Capitol Hill to get the lay of the land. Stay tuned.


ALLEN: Another look at today's top story. Al Gore says he remains upbeat and optimistic as this roller-coaster battle over the presidency continues.

A short time ago in Washington, Gore commented on the latest developments in the case.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't feel anything other than optimistic. I really -- and the team down in Tallahassee feels that way also. So...

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

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


ALLEN: Gore says he believes all of the controversies involved in the battle will end up being resolved by the Florida Supreme Court.

CHEN: Meantime in Austin, Texas, George W. Bush says he remains confident that he will emerge the winner of the presidential race when all is said and done. And he says he's moving ahead with his transition plans.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been taking the transition very seriously. I've been in constant contact with people on my team who are in Washington, D.C. And I think it's going to be important to show some -- I think that it's going to be important to show some, once the election is over, to show the American people that this administration will be ready to seize the moment.


CHEN: Bush says he is encouraged by the latest developments in the battle, and he's hoping that the issue will be resolved soon.

Are you lost? Are you confused? Who wouldn't be, considering the legal twists and turns this legal tug-of-war has taken. So, that's why we have CNN election law analyst David Cardwell. He's here to tie it all together for us, at least to try.

David joins us now from Tallahassee.


CHEN: Well, we'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that, David. Now looking just in the last...

CARDWELL: We'll give it a try.

CHEN: OK. We looked in the last few minutes at Tallahassee and all the different things under way in Tallahassee in the different courts now. In your view and to our viewers, which is the most important thing? Which could have the biggest play on what happens in the next day or so?

CARDWELL: Well, if we were going to try to come up with a ranking of the legal actions that are pending right now, I'd say that, No. 1, it's going to be the appeal of the election contest to the Florida Supreme Court, because that's where the issues really are joined and it goes right to the heart of the question: Who received the most votes on election day? Or some would say after election day. And those are issues are going to be squarely presented to the Florida Supreme Court, with briefs due tomorrow and oral argument on Thursday.

We could have a decision by the Supreme Court Thursday night, Friday, or perhaps over the weekend.

But time is running out, because the Gore lawyers have asked for a manual recount. But as -- because of that, we're also looking closely at that 11th Circuit Court of Appeals case that's pending in Atlanta, because that court has been asked to find that the manual recounts are unconstitutional and unlawful, and that could affect the Florida Supreme Court decision.

And then we still have these absentee ballots cases coming up from Seminole and Martin counties, which will be tried tomorrow, where the remedy is going to be the real issue there.

So we've got a lot of cases to watch over the next couple of days.

CHEN: I guess this is still theoretical at this point, but looking at it from the layman's point of view, I can't figure out if one of the parties does decide to just go ahead and concede at any point. Do all these legal actions come to a stop or do the courts hear it any way just to see if anything might be precedent-setting in case, heaven forbid, we would ever encounter a situation like this again?

CARDWELL: Well, since we've got so many lawyers involved here, I'll give you a lawyer's answer. It depends.

Should one of the parties to the main contest action -- that would be either Gore or Bush -- in essence concedes the election, then their lawyers would be directed to take a dismissal of the case or to drop the appeal. But remember, there were some interveners who came in who were not candidates, some citizens who were allowed into the lawsuit. They may be able to keep the action going even if the candidate drops out.

And then the Martin County and the Seminole County cases have been brought by citizens and not the candidates. So there, those suits definitely could go forward, even if should Vice President Gore, for example, concede. They could still go ahead and try to pursue those cases.

CHEN: Now, on that Seminole County contest there, we have heard from some of the legal experts on this that this might actually turn out to be the sleeper for Al Gore, that if anything might still come into play to work in his favor, it would be that Seminole County case. Why isn't the Gore legal team involved in that?

CARDWELL: Well, I think they're not involved not so much for a legal reason as it is perhaps for a political or public relations reason. And that is that they are taking the position in their election contest that every should be counted. We've heard that over and over again from David Boies, the lead counsel for the Gore campaign.

In the Seminole and Martin County cases, the relief or the final action that the plaintiffs there are seeking from the court is to throw out ballots, to not count ballots, several thousands of ballots in each of those counties. So it would be inconsistent for the Gore campaign to say, count every ballot in their contest action, then go over and jump into the Seminole County action and say, yes, but count every ballot except for these.

CHEN: Let's go back to that state Supreme Court action once again. I mean, this is -- this is something that the U.S. high court vacated, returned to them for another look at it. Is it as though the state Supreme Court is hearing this all anew when they say they're going to hear oral arguments on Thursday morning? Are they starting fresh as though this had never happened before, or is this additional information?

CARDWELL: Well, the case that was sent back by the U.S. Supreme Court was the question of whether the Florida Supreme Court could extend the deadline for filing those recount numbers with the secretary of state and have them included in the certification. That really does not go to the contest. Really, what's all at issue there is the matter of how many votes margin is there between Bush and Gore, and then this sort of the legal sort of loose end that needs to be cleaned up.

It's the election contest that's going to be an important one, and when it comes to that proceeding, the Florida Supreme Court has not heard anything yet. They will be hearing arguments for the first time on the election contest when they hear those Thursday morning and when they read the briefs.

CHEN: David, you clearly pass the test, you've got all those things covered.

David Cardwell is our CNN election law analyst. Thanks for being with us from Tallahassee -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, the next president may face an unexpected problem: the economy, of all things. Is the longest boom in U.S. history about to come to an end? We'll take a close look when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN: Right now in the Florida Legislature, there's a conference going on involving members of the Republican House. That's Tom Feeney, the Republican leader. They are talking about the special session that we expect to take place. And Mike Boettcher is covering this side of the story for us.

Mike, what can you tell us about this?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the Republican conference. It includes old members and new members, who have been here all week being briefed on the new session and the rules of the House. The Republican conference chose the legislative chambers to have their final meeting to hear Speaker Tom Feeney, who is speaking right now, about this whole prospect of calling the special session.

Let's listen to him for a minute. He is talking about the prospect of a special session.

STATE REP. TOM FEENEY (R), FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKER: When the question was asked: Well, what if the Supreme Court does something to, you know, resolve all these issues? And I was quoted in my inimitable strait forward way as saying: Well, potentially, we may have to ignore the Florida Supreme Court.

And that's the crux of the issue that I am here today to explain, because it has not been well articulated in the mass media. And unless you have really followed the details of the briefs at the United States Supreme Court, it really wasn't dealt with by the Florida Supreme Court for the first time. We had a chance, thanks to Dudley Goodlette and Johnnie Byrd and to Gaston to Mario and three brilliant law professors that we enlisted the help of in the House, and one in the Senate -- the first time those arguments were made in the United States Supreme Court.

And I am going to be delighted in a few minutes to report to you the result of an opinion I encourage all of you to read and read very carefully. But having said that, suddenly the spotlight started to shine on whether or not the Florida legislature may decide to "intervene," is the way it was put in most of the mainstream media, as though we were electing to thrust ourselves into a situation that was already muddled and confused enough.

That was sort of the way I think a lot of observers probably dealt with it. But I want you to read very carefully Article II of the United States Constitution. The provisions are not permissive. The provisions don't suggest that maybe we consider doing something. What the state -- what the Constitution requires of us, in our view -- and again, these are not just my views, but they have been asserted by professors Elhauge, Professors Freed (ph) from Harvard Law School, who are our lawyers -- also Professor Yoo from the University of Stanford Law School, Professor Magnuson (ph) and others -- it says that each state shall -- not may, but shall -- appoint in such manner as the legislative thereof may direct -- and then our electors.

That is an absolute duty and it tells...

BOETTCHER: You have been listening to Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney, a Republican, who is speaking to a caucus of House Republicans in the House chambers.

It's significant where they are holding this. They could have held it in a conference room or somewhere else. But they came here. And this is the initial step towards calling a special session. Don't expect that to occur today. But tomorrow or the next day, there will be some sort of formal declaration by the Senate president and Speaker Feeney -- who you are seeing right now -- to call this special session, which could convene as early as Friday, at which time the Florida legislature, Republican-dominated, would pick and select the electors for the Florida electors to the presidential Electoral College.

So this was a very hastily called caucus this afternoon. And we'll be monitoring it, Natalie, to make sure that they don't pull any surprises out today.

ALLEN: All right, Mike. And do we expect them to move ahead probably with the special session, regardless of the action before the Florida Supreme Court later this week?

BOETTCHER: Well, they feel the action to the Supreme Court is the reason they have to be here. There is some question in the minds of some of these legislators whether there is a Florida certification, whether the U. S. Supreme Court, by its vacating of the previous Florida Supreme Court order means that there are no electors in Florida at the present time.

Now, the secretary of state's office argues that she put an asterisk at the bottom of the ascertainment that was sent to Congress and sent to Washington by Governor Jeb Bush, in which, if it was a court action, the new certification would be the higher figure certified on November 14. That is 930 votes for George Bush.

So they think, because of all of these court rulings and discussions and everything going on now, that there is uncertainty about whether they have actual certification. And it could threaten Florida's electors to the Electoral College. So that's why they are going to go ahead and proceed with this later this week.

ALLEN: All right, Mike Boettcher, who will continue to watch this for us -- thank you, Mike.

Now over to Joie.

CHEN: It is a day of fresh faces and at least one very familiar one on Capitol Hill today: New senators who will be sworn in next month are undergoing three days of orientation beginning today. Among the members of the Senate's freshman class is first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

CNN's Eileen O'Connor joins us from Capitol Hill now, where it's awfully cold, awfully windy. Eileen, I wonder if this a sign for things to come for the freshman class.


She's been braved the elements before -- the political elements at least. And that's what some of her fellow freshman and the Democrats -- at least up here -- are counting on: that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a political pro. And while she wanted to have a very low- key entrance -- although she did come, of course, with her own Secret Service detail -- she was trying to avoid the press.

She is going to come out, we think, in a few minutes, from a speech of from Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia that all of the freshman go to -- the Democratic freshman go to -- because he does have the longest institutional knowledge. She went to a lunch here. You see her going through with some of her fellow freshman. But she did try to avoid walking quickly past the cameras. She said she wanted to be treated like all the other freshman.

But, of course, that can't really be. She is the first, first lady to be elected to the Senate. And her fellow women in the Senate are very hopeful that her star power will help them. You know, there is only 13 women in the Senate, Joie. And basically, they believe that she can help them, you know, advance their issues in this elite men's club. And those issues, as she has articulated herself this morning in a caucus group, would be children's health, health care reform, prescription-drug benefits -- also, safety in schools and a better quality education.

So the women, at least, are certainly welcoming her with open arms. There are now 13 women, up from nine in the Senate -- Joie.

CHEN: Eileen, before you go here, though, you say that Mrs. Clinton would like to remain sort of the part of the group. But on the other hand, to best represent the people of New York, don't you think that it would be in her best interests to stand out of the crowd and make the most of whatever fame you have?

O'CONNOR: Well, yes and no. There was already a shot across her bow by the majority leader, Trent Lott, even before the elections. He said: Look, she is not going to be treated any differently. And so most strategists believe that the best way for her to proceed is to just keep her head down at the moment, pick the committee assignments that most interest her, and work hard and seriously.

They say that, you know, that she is still going to have to earn the respect of her Senate colleagues, and that she is just one among this hundred and basically that, that is the way that she will best proceed. Not by being brass or not by being too forceful. And will so that's the way, at least the Republicans too, believe that she will be the most effective -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Eileen O'Connor in the cold and wind on Capitol Hill today. Thanks, Eileen.

O'CONNOR: Thanks.

ALLEN: Well, what did Alan Greenspan say that caused the markets to rally.

CHEN: He may be the more important figure than whatever is happening in the presidential transition.

ALLEN: That's true.

CHEN: We'll hear about that after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can go to the Florida legislature. It could come to the U.S. Congress or U.S. Senate. It's all confusing where it will end up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really feel that, you know, the campaign should be over with. Bush is going to win regardless. Let's get this nation back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand the logistics of moving between the courts, but I don't understand the grounds on which they are taking the case to court.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frankly, to tell you the truth, I'm trying to ignore it now because it's been going on for so long, you just start to, you know, have to get on with life.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these uncounted votes which should have never happened. Why, of all of the states, all of a sudden Florida. I just can't figure it out.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going from one court to another court and appealing this and appealing that. So, it's like what are they appealing? What happened the first time?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just tired of watching. I just want it to be over.



CHEN: OK, the guy who's really important to the nation's economy, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, gave the financial markets a shot in the arm today. Stocks rallied on Wall Street after Greenspan signaled that he may be willing to consider interest rate cuts before too long, anyway. Such cuts would be part of an effort to prevent the current economic slowdown from turning into a recession. Greenspan says the Fed is keeping a close watch on the economy as it cools down a bit.


ALAN GREENSPAN, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: In an economy that already has lost some momentum, one must remain alert to the possibility that greater caution and weakening asset values in financial markets could signal or precipitate an excessive softening in household and business spending.


CHEN: Greenspan made his comments at a bankers meeting in New York and the markets heard quite quickly. The Dow ended the day up 338, the Nasdaq 274. That, by the way, is the biggest single day gain on the Nasdaq ever, up more than 10 percent -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Former President Bush will not be strapping on any parachutes for a while. Instead, he'll be taking it easy following hip replacement surgery this morning. Doctors at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic say the operation went well, and the former president is doing fine. Hip replacement surgery is a common procedure. The 76-year-old is said to be resting comfortably in his hospital room and is expected to remain at the Mayo Clinic about five days. Experts say full recovery from such an operation usually takes from three to six months, and apparently he does plan to parachute again on has 80th birthday.

CHEN: He has said that he wants to do that again. I guess that he had such a good time in the last one.

ALLEN: Poor Barbara. Well, that wraps up this special report on Election 2000. I'm Natalie Allen.

CHEN: And I'm Joie Chen. Thanks for being with us. INSIDE POLITICS is up next.



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