- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

Al Gore yesterday blanketed network newscasts to press the case for his court challenge as Democrats in Congress reported a flood of calls from constituents who want the vice president to concede to George W. Bush.
While Mr. Gore held transition meetings at the White House to project a presidential image, his advisers said privately yesterday he needs a court victory in the next 48 hours to prevent a fatal erosion of the public's support.
Publicly, Mr. Gore said he is more interested in protecting America's heritage than winning the presidency.
"I am not tortured over what-ifs at all," Mr. Gore said on NBC's "Today" show. "And, in fact, I believe we're going to win this election."
But Democrats in Congress, which returns from a recess Tuesday, are beginning to get edgy.
Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, offered words of warning yesterday.
"Unless there is a significant change, it's probably over," said Mr. Baucus.
"The clock is ticking. It's imperative that we have a resolution very soon."
Mr. Gore "is miserably losing the PR war," said Rep. Allen Boyd, Florida Democrat.
Other Democrats say calls, faxes and other messages to their district offices are running strongly in favor of Mr. Bush.
"They definitely would like for the vice president to just quit," said Rep. Marion Berry, Arkansas Democrat.
In Mr. Gore's home state of Tennessee, nine out of 10 calls to Republican Sen. Bill Frist's office are calling for Mr. Gore to concede.
In Texas, Mr. Bush's home state, Democratic congressmen are getting an earful.
"My district went 2-to-1 for George W. Bush, and the calls are running about 99-to-1 for Gore to concede and give up," said Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, Texas Democrat.
But he said there is still time.
"There will come a point where there will be a dramatic lack of support for carrying on, but we haven't reach that point yet," he said.
But while some said there is time, most agree it is limited. That is why Mr. Gore authorized a new legal appeal, asking Florida's Supreme Court to order an immediate hand recount of 13,000 disputed votes in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Also yesterday, a Mason-Dixon poll of people who voted in Florida's election shows a solid majority, including one-quarter of Gore voters, accept Mr. Bush as the Florida winner.
The poll of 803 voters conducted Monday and Tuesday, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, had 62 percent of voters overall saying they accepted Mr. Bush as "the official winner in Florida." That answer was given by 99 percent of those who voted for Mr. Bush and 24 percent of those who voted for Mr. Gore.
The poll also found that 57 percent of the voters thought Mr. Gore should concede, 56 percent thought the election was "fair," and that 55 percent thought the recount results were "accurate."
Mr. Gore escalated his public-relations offensive yesterday, granting five network television interviews.
On NBC, Mr. Gore said there is a "50-50 chance" he will prevail.
He told CNN the disputed ballots must be counted to assure Americans their next president won legitimately.
"The only way to avoid having a cloud over the next president is to count all the votes, because our country is based on the consent of the governed," said Mr. Gore.
He dismissed two polls this week that show a majority of Americans think he should concede.
"Well, I don't think that we're having an election about the election," Mr. Gore told NBC. "I think that we're having a test of our democratic principles."
Mr. Gore likened uncounted votes to groceries a supermarket computer fails to scan.
"They don't give you that item for free," Mr. Gore told ABC. "They count it by hand."
Mr. Gore also looked to extend the deadline, refusing to specify Dec. 12 the day Florida must certify its electors as the deadline to stop fighting.
"December 18 is the date when the Electoral College meets, and I'm just not going to get into the details."
Mr. Gore tried another tack yesterday. While he distanced himself from the Clinton White House during the presidential campaign, he took advantage of the presidential trappings yesterday.
The vice president attended White House meetings with transition director Roy Neel and with two potential Cabinet appointees President Clinton's labor secretary, Alexis M. Herman, and Kathleen McGinty, a former Clinton environmental aide who could lead the Environmental Protection Agency in a Gore administration.
Mr. Gore also stopped by the Oval Office for a brief private meeting with Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Gore's aides say he is both focused and frustrated in private.
"There's a decorum and judiciousness," said Carter Eskew, a longtime adviser in Mr. Gore's inner circle. Mr. Eskew conceded some frustration in the vice president's off-camera moments.
"He does believe he won the popular vote in Florida. He moreover believes if they would only follow the rules and count the votes he could prove that," said Mr. Eskew.
Campaign chairman William M. Daley, noting that he's spent "more time with Al Gore than I ever dreamed," said the vice president is not lamenting the future.
"I've not heard him once, in all the conversations in the last three weeks, talk about what if this doesn't happen, or 'What do I do?' or any sort of tone of forlornness or trying to figure out what's next in life," said Mr. Daley.
"He's very much in control of what's going on around him."
While some Democrats said the time to concede has arrived, others rallied to Mr. Gore's side, including Govs. Paul E. Patton of Kentucky, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tom Vilsack of Iowa.
"It's important and necessary for the next president of the United States to be able to have the support of all of the people of this country," said Mr. Vilsack.
Mr. Gore told CNN he is not worried that he will hurt his prospects for 2004 by fighting too long in 2000.
"Whatever concern that I might have about myself is not even on the radar screen compared to the obligation I feel to 50 million people who supported Joe Lieberman and me," said Mr. Gore.
The election has become "an incredible story," Mr. Gore told CNN. A presidential candidate prepares himself for victory or defeat, he said.
"You don't really prepare yourself for the possibility that you flip the coin in the air and it lands on its edge."
Donald Lambro and Audrey Hudson contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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