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Election 2000: Gore Calls Off Further Recount Efforts in Florida, Thanks Senior Staff

Aired December 13, 2000 - 10:29 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to CNN MORNING NEWS. In light of last night's U.S. Supreme Court decision, we're receiving word, here at CNN, that Vice President Al Gore has called his election committees in the state of Florida and told them to call off any further efforts for vote recounts in that state, the vice president also expected to address the nation later today, perhaps tonight.

With more on the story, let's bring in my colleague, John King, and Frank Sesno.

John, first to you: Any word on when the vice president might speak?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Daryn, the exact time we still don't know, conversations ongoing among the vice president's senior staff and with the vice president about that. We should also make clear that as of this moment, the vice president has instructed aides to suspend -- not completely end, yet -- but suspend any...


... to any Gore presidency. There are still some in the Gore camp, however, and some in the Democratic party, who think he should go back to the Florida Supreme Court and fight for the principle of a recount. We are told among his most influential advisers, the campaign chairman, Bill Daley, is among those telling the vice president we don't see a way you can win, and also warning him, passing on the advice that the longer the vice president waits to say something definitive about this, the more likely fellow Democrats will be to come out and criticize him -- in essence show him the door. That the reason the vice president has scheduled this address to the American poeople tongiht and sent word to Capitol Hill, asking people to be patient, step back, give him a chance to explain himself -- aides, though, also sending clear word that the vice president, as frustrated and as dissapointed as he is, understands the reality of the Supreme Court decision -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, John, even among those aides who think that the vice president should still be fighting on at this point, don't they see that, eventually, alpl roads l;ead back to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has, at least, five justoces thatdo not look like the're ever goung to rule in favor of anykind of recount?. KING: That is certainly why they are of the opinion that Al Gore will not be the next president of the United States. That does not necessarily mean that some do not want to fight, and therein lies the great political dilemma -- another political dilemmma -- as part of this remarkable debate: Many Democrats would like to push on and count those votes.

Now, the Republicans say they have already been counted, at least in the way they should be counted, but many Democrats would like to push on, even after a Bush inaugural, and keep counting those votes -- in a way, according to some Democrats, to prove for the record -- not for the history books, but for the record -- that Al Gore won the election in thier view. And many Democrats see this as a way to delegitimize, if you will, a Bush presidency.

Many other Democrats warning, though, of the consequences of that to the country: that you would have a divided nation after a divided election, after a period in which the courts are divided, too. And also a very personal decision here for the vice president: As he decides to proceed, he, himself, could still decide that he wanted to run again in the year 2004. He, himself, is a man in his mid-50s, a prominent Democrat, a prominent politician, the curretn sitting vice president of the United States. How handles himself, here, in the next several hours will have a long way in saying how he is remembered at the end of this most remarkable saga.

KAGAN: And as we continue our discussion, we have up pictures, of course, of the vice president's residence in Washington, D.C.

Also in Washington, with John, is Frank Sesno, our Washington bureau chief -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn, I think I want to pick up on somethig that John said juast a moment ago, and that is the question of how Al Gore is framing this. First of all, a couple of points.

The Democrats have been to this moment before. Last week, before the Florida state Supreme Court took everybody's breath in this town and beyond and said let the recount begin, we were at almost the same point. Democrats anticipated, at that moment, that it was the last stop along the way for Al Gore. The Democratic leadership in the House was at the same place; they are had prepared a statement and were ready to go with a statement, that said the decision needs to be Al Gore's, he needs to be out first and let's listen to what he has to say.

So that sort of strtegy is being put back to together: to him be the one first to inform Democrat leaders, and then to inform the American people where he's going.

BUt beyond that, this notion of Al Gore's own future is something that, we've been told, Bill Daley has talked about repeatedly in the past. That he's been referred to, inside the Gore camp, as one of the pragmatists, looking at the political consequeences for the party, for the country, and for Gore, because whether he's a viable candidate in 2004, whether this remarkable period of time where he's stood and fought and stood for principle in the view of many of his -- of his most aggressive allies on this point, says a lot about whether he's going to be this viable candidate moving forward.

So the stakes go beyond just the moment, but they spin very much and very forcefully into the future.

KAGAN: Very good -- well, looking at the future, it's not just Al Gore's future, but the party in general. The next -- the next round up would be 2002.

We can bring John back in for this. Is there a point -- and maybe it is today -- when party leaders say OK, we'e given Al Gore everything we have to give, and now it's time to focus on Congress and trying to get that that back?

KING: Well, as Frank mentioned, Daryn, for some time, most Democrats have been of the opinion that this was a very hard road for Al Gore, that it was most unlikely that he would win this in the courts. They were willing to stand by him, though, as long as he had viable legal options in front of him, and the consensus, this morning, is that he has run out of those options.

Now, stewp back for a miniute, step aside from that, and many Democrats, from a strategic, calculated view, would tell you they believe the party could, ultimately, benefit of this.

Now, ther's sympathy for the vice president. Many, a raw sense of anger -- some will say that he was robbed here. BUt if step back from all that, sure, history in this country says the party in power loses seats in the midterm elections. Well, guess what -- if GOvernor Bush is inaugurated president, the Republicans will be in power in 2002, the Senate is divided evenly 50/50: I believe a nine-seat Republican margin in the House of Representatives. So history sould tell you that the Democrats have a fairly good chance of retaking the Congress in the midterm elections if Bush is the next president.

At the same time, another footnote: History doesn't know how to account for what we've gone through in the past 30-something days. So hard to know, for any certainty...

KAGAN: John, just going to interrupt you, interrupt that thought for a second.

We're showing you a live picture right now. That is Dick Cheney, getting into his car. As we reported earlier today, he is headed up to Capitol Hill to meet with moderate Republicans, a small intellect group, especially there in the Senate. We talked with Senator usan Colins of Maine earlir on MORNING NEWS, and she said that she, along swome other senators would be having lunch witht he vice president today.

Let's look at that end of the ticket: Vice President -- could-be Vice President-elect Cheney and, also, Governor George W. Bush. What is their first step here?

KING: Well, certainly, in the next several hours, their first step must be caution, as well. We are in a very sensitive political environment. Democrats will be looking, A, to see if Republicans kick the vice president at this moment. Dmemocrts would be aupset if they do. And as the Bush-Cheney ticket now apears to be moving toward an inauguration, and toward governing, in a difficult environment, Democrats are looking for outreach. The secretary's meeting -- Secretary Cheney's meetings today with moderate Republicans -- you mentioned Susan Collins of Maine's a key senator. There are a number of Deoctrats alreadtr meeting wihtthose very republicans: Senator John Breaux (ph) of Lousianna among them -- Democrats who say the country has something to prove after this: The country has to prove that the system works, and despite the anger, the despite the frustration, and despite the partisanship, that then you can get on with the business of governing.

Those people meeting. It will be critical to see, first, in terms of style, what they say and how they say it to the Democrats - and then in terms of substance, what does a Bush-Cheney administation, if we get there -- still an if -- but what does a Bush-Cheney ticket -- administration say -- out of the box, what are the first two or three policy moves, are they conciliatory?

President-elect Bush, if he is that bythe end of the day -- and it apears he might be -- has said he will reach out. But look, he will face pressure from the right as well. They want him to push to sign that bill banning late-term abortions, they want him to overturn the Clinton administration regulations allowing fetal tissue research. they want him to stand by that big, across-the-board tax cut even though novbody in Washington believes it has a prayer of getting through an evenly divided Congress.

So if this political saga is, indeed, coming to a close, the next chaptser will be quite interesting quite quickly.

KAGAN: All right, John and Frank, stand by just a second -- also want to talk about the fuuture of Joe Lieberman. We'll do that in just a second.

First let's go back to Eileen O'Connor outside the Gore residence with more news.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, I've spoken with some of the staff of the recount committee, and they say they are moving people home, and that it was a very emotional moment. There was a call to senior staff that they were thanked warmly for all of their efforts -- this a message clearly from the vice president. They say that they are proud of what they did, that they're proud of the fact that they were working for the principle of one person, one vote, and those votes should be counted. They also say they are very much united behind the vice president and that they are very proud of the vice president, that despite a lot of pressure throughout this, that he stood firm and wanted to continue this fight. They also say they're very interested, obviously, in hearing what he's giong to say this evening. They say that address will be any time betwen 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. this evening.

They said it was a very emotional moment when they were told to call off their activities. They saiud despite the fact that they were very warmly thanked, that, look, you know, we worked our hearts out, BUt we can hold on to the fact that we're really proud of the fact that we fought this, they say, on principle, and they believe that they took the high road -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Eileen O'Connor, in Washington, D.C., thank you very much.

And more information, backing up our story thjat we've been reporting for the last few minutes: Vice President Al Gore suspending his recount efforts in the state of Florida -- and another little bit of news, there, that Eileen had: The address to the nation coming tonight between 8:00, and 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

We'll have more on this, also reaction from the Bush camp from Austin, Texas, just ahead. Right now, we'll take a quick break.



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