- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The U.S. Supreme Court wounded Al Gore's bid to overturn the presidential election and a Florida Circuit Court judge all but killed it yesterday, spurring calls for the vice president to abandon his bitter fight and concede.
"The courts have spoken and the fat lady has sung all on the same day. It's over for Gore," said independent pollster John Zogby.
"I think the Supreme Court gave him a left jab and the Florida Circuit Court judge dealt him an uppercut and knocked him out," said election law attorney Jan Baran.
The back-to-back court rulings, delivered within hours of each other, dealt Mr. Gore a devastating, double-barreled legal and political defeat yesterday in his effort to overturn George W. Bush's certified victory in Florida through a partial recount of the ballots in selective, heavily Democratic counties.
They also left Democrats, weary of a month of political and courtroom warfare over the presidential election, questioning how much longer they can stick with Mr. Gore without hurting their party.
"He's got one last shot an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court," said Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. "He'll probably lose it, and then it's over."
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, agreed. "The probability is that would be an end point," he said.
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, California Democrat, said that yesterday's defeats mean that even a possible reversal from the Florida justices would not leave time for the recounts Mr. Gore needs.
"It's clear that in order to count all the votes in Florida, there is perhaps not a long enough runway to do that," she said.
Some other Democrats held out hope, but suggested it would take a miracle for Mr. Gore to win.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said the state court's ruling was "obviously very disappointing for the Gore camp and Democrats in general because this was the last best hope for getting a full count."
"If you want to keep your money on Gore, you would probably want to take some points," he said.
Asked what Gore running mate Joseph I. Lieberman, who is scheduled to speak to Democrats at the Capitol today, could say to make him more optimistic, Mr. Moran replied, "He's a rabbi, not a miracle maker."
But with the polls showing that 57 percent of Americans want Mr. Gore to concede, elections analysts said yesterday that the real question now for Democrats is whether his refusal to throw in the towel is damaging his party.
"It's no longer just about Al, its about the collective fate of a party that is in danger of being tarnished by a candidate who does not know when it to call it quits," said Marshall Wittmann, congressional and elections analyst at the Hudson Institute.
Yesterday's judicial rulings mean that barring a reversal on appeal the Gore camp will find it increasingly difficult to hold on to Democratic support for a last-ditch fight in the courts.
That support has held firm over the past 28 days of lawsuits against Mr. Bush's election, but Democrats have privately said in recent days that if his recount request failed in court, it would be time for him to end his court challenge.
Nevertheless, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said last night that they had no intention of abandoning Mr. Gore, urging him to fight on.
"Given the decision of the Circuit Court, against a manual recount of thousands of ballots in Florida, we are united in our support of the decision to appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court," they said in a statement.
"We believe this appeal is in keeping with Florida law and American democracy. We also believe Democrats in the House and Senate share our view. While the courts go about their important work, we remain committed to a full, fair, and accurate count in Florida," the two leaders said.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, urged his party to remain united until the Florida justices make a final ruling.
"I think the Florida Supreme Court will examine the issues with perhaps a little more care than has been afforded so far," said Mr. Conyers, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
Asked if the numerous court battles are wearing thin on public patience, Mr. Conyers said such concerns are "largely mythical."
"I think perceptionwise it's been difficult and a real negative day," added Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, a centrist under consideration for a post in the presumptive Bush Cabinet. "But legally, it's not."
Although Richard B. Cheney, Mr. Bush's vice-presidential running mate, called on Mr. Gore on Sunday to concede, Mr. Bush refused to join him yesterday.
"That's a very difficult decision for anybody to make, and I understand that," Mr. Bush told reporters in Austin. "But the vice president's going to have to make the decisions that he thinks are necessary. And I know … the interests of the country will be important in his decision-making, just like it would be in mine."
He declined, however, to criticize Mr. Cheney, saying "the vice president is entitled to his view."
Meantime, political strategists said yesterday that they expected Democratic leaders to begin calling on the vice president to definitively step aside.
"I wouldn't be surprised if you did not see Democratic leaders making that famous walk across town similar to one that Pennsylvania Senator Hugh Scott and Arizona's Barry Goldwater made in the Watergate scandal when they went down to the White House and told Richard Nixon that it was time to step down," Mr. Zogby said.
"The problem for Gore right now is that he may be turning tragedy into a farce," Mr. Wittmann said. "If he doesn't realize this, the party elders are certainly coming to that conclusion. At this stage, he begins trying their patience and there is going to be internal overtures if not public overtures."
Democratic state chairmen and other party officials at the grass roots have stood behind Mr. Gore throughout the Florida election dispute. But some have acknowledged that the public's patience is wearing thin.
"I've gotten some calls from Democrats saying that enough is enough," said Democratic Rep. Charles W. Stenholm of Texas.
One Democrat, who already had announced his intention to break from his party on the key speaker vote, publicly broke ranks.
"Enough is enough. The division and stratification must stop," said Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., Ohio Democrat, who said last night it was time to declare Mr. Bush the winner of the 2000 election.
Mr. Gore was hit by the proverbial one-two punch yesterday, first from the U.S. Supreme Court, which vacated his Florida Supreme Court ruling that gave him an extended period of time to conduct hand recounts, the only major court victory he has had thus far.
A few hours later, Florida Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls delivered a ruling that denied Mr. Gore the further recounts he sought in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
David Boies, Mr. Gore's chief attorney, yesterday appealed Judge Sauls' ruling to the state Supreme Court, but election lawyers doubt the appeal will succeed.
The Florida Supreme Court "has been thus far been very supportive of trial judges. That deference, combined with the findings of fact, look like very good news for the Bush team at this point," Mr. Baran said. "Gore's not going to get the vote count unless the Supreme Court reverses Judge Sauls, and that seems unlikely."
Republicans reacted with sheer jubilation and more calls on Mr. Gore to call it quits.
"How many defeats are enough?" said Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the House Republican Conference chairman. "The time has come for the vice president to admit defeat, concede gracefully and allow our nation to move forward with the transition of power."
Confronted by a reporter at the Capitol last night, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, said, "I've been listening to the singing. Have you heard it? That fat lady, singing. The party's over."
Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican, said "This really puts an end to the situation."
Dave Boyer, Audrey Hudson, John Godfrey and Sean Scully contributed to this report.

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