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Eileen O'Connor: Gore prepares for toughest speech of his life

Eileen O'Connor
Eileen O'Connor  

CNN Correspondent Eileen O'Connor is in Washington covering the presidential campaign of Vice President Al Gore.

Q: When was the decision made to suspend the recount efforts?

O'CONNOR: We have been e-mailing back and forth all day with Gore aides who have been in a conference call huddled with the vice president. It was decided to suspend the recount efforts, and a call was made to the recount committee by senior staffers. They basically thanked everyone on the recount committee very warmly for all of their efforts.

It's a very emotional time. When I called the Gore camp in Florida, the only thing you could hear in the background was the television. Everyone was listening to CNN and to our reporting of a statement that we got via a wireless e-mail pager. In that e-mail, we were told by Bill Daley, 'The vice president has directed the recount committee to suspend activities. He will address the nation this evening.'

The way it worked this morning, aides said, is that they got up, had this conference call and they were looking for any option in which they could get a legal recount. They clearly could have gone back to the Florida Supreme Court, but the U.S. Supreme Court had already said ... basically it's too late.

The Gore aides looked at this with their lawyers and the vice president. The aides told me they weren't going to stand on principle, that they would have to get a practical way for a recount. After looking at that, obviously when they came away from this conference call and issued the statement, that means the vice president saw no practical way to get a recount.

Therefore, they are now preparing a concession speech.

In terms of what it was like, they said it was tremendously emotional. One aide said, 'Look, we worked our hearts out for the campaign. We worked our hearts out for the recount. Obviously, it was an emotional time. We were thanked for our work. We were all thanked very warmly for our efforts. We are proud of the vice president and we're proud of what we've done. We stood on principle of one-man, one-vote and that we believe every vote should be counted. We believe we took the high road.'

They're now waiting and looking to the vice president. But they've basically started the concession process. They said we're moving people home.

Q: How did aides react to Democrats who came out publicly and urged Gore to concede?

O'CONNOR: There were some senior Democrats saying Tuesday night it is time to concede, that there is nowhere left for Gore to go, let's move on.

Gore aides said that was disappointing to hear.

Whatever Gore (says), the Gore team has to consider how they are going to play it very carefully.

This is a very important speech. Number one, they still have the case to make that even the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with them that some kind of recount would have been nice. So, they're going to try to take what they can from the U.S. Supreme Court decision that was in essence justification and rationalization for the fight they put up all these weeks, his aides say.

Q: Has the back-stabbing begun within the Gore camp?

O'CONNOR: The back-stabbing and recriminations as to how the campaign should have been run was going on in the middle of all this. Why we were here in Florida was already under discussion: Why the vice president didn't run on the record more until the end? Why the vice president didn't rely more on President Clinton? There's a lot of criticism about that.

There's also criticism about why the Gore team strategically didn't come out from the beginning and say we want a full recount of the entire state of Florida. That is now being seen as a major mistake.

Yes, he came out a few days into it and said that. But some Democrats say that was a fatal blow by not coming out and demanding a full recount from Day One. They say it gave George W. Bush the ability to say, "They're fishing for votes. They're only going to strong Democratic counties."

The Gore team says the reason they did that was because they were looking at where the biggest amounts of aberrations were. But the problem is that the message was diluted. The message from the beginning, according to some Democrats, should have been "count every vote in the state." It would have been hard to argue with that, many Democrats say.

At the same time that we're hearing recriminations, we're also hearing, "You know what, Gore won the popular vote. If he did indeed lose Florida, he lost by about 100 votes." The other thing we're hearing is, "The election was a virtual tie." They keep pointing to the fact the vice president won the popular vote. That is vindication for them for having put up this fight in Florida.


Wednesday, December 13, 2000



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