Vice President Al Gore ceded the spotlight to his running mate yesterday, having kept most Democrats in check with seven TV appearances in three days.
Mr. Gore now hopes for a quick, favorable ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court or from Florida’s Supreme Court to bolster his plea for more recounts before Congress returns Tuesday.
Many Democratic state chairmen still side with the vice president, but as the clock ticks there are signs of skittishness among Democrats in Congress.
“We started getting calls this Monday,” said Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, Texas Democrat. “There are a few Democrats calling to say that enough is enough.”
Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, says time is growing short.
“I’ve made it pretty clear myself that both candidates should put the country before their own ambitions and get this done very quickly,” Mr. Torricelli told the Bergen County Record.
In a Zogby poll conducted Tuesday, 57 percent of respondents said Mr. Gore should concede the election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. But only 42 percent said the vice president should concede in a poll published yesterday by the New York Times.
Mr. Gore abandoned his hard sell yesterday and quietly convened another White House meeting with his own transition team.
As Mr. Bush paused for photos in Texas with Gen. Colin Powell, Mr. Gore contemplated his own potential appointees.
Mr. Gore met with his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, transition director Roy Neel, foreign policy adviser Leon Fuerth, Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis M. Herman and environmental adviser Kathleen McGinty.
Mr. Gore let Mr. Lieberman do the talking following the meeting.
The Connecticut senator stood in the White House driveway and decried a special session of the Florida Legislature as an “end run” around the state’s voters.
“I do think this action by the Florida Legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida,” Mr. Lieberman said.
It threatens “a constitutional crisis,” he said.
In Florida, Mr. Gore’s lawyers reflected a sense of urgency. A reporter asked Gore attorney David Boies when he wants a count of disputed ballots from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties to start.
“Now,” Mr. Boies said.
But Mr. Boies said Mr. Gore will fight on even if the Florida court refuses to order an immediate count.
“Are we going to give up on Sunday or Monday? Of course not,” Mr. Boies said. Democratic state officials are sticking with Mr. Gore’s determined bid to overturn Mr. Bush’s election in the courts. But some say party members want a deadline for Mr. Gore to call it quits.
Some chairmen want the vice president to go further and demand a third statewide recount.
But a few worry about the prospect of courts counting the votes and judges picking the next president.
Some say they are hearing from a growing number of Democrats troubled by Mr. Gore’s zeal to fight to the bitter end in court.
“Yeah, I’m hearing that,” said W. Anthony Park, Idaho’s Democratic chairman.
“Most are saying give Gore his recount, but if a judge rules against him on the recount, that’s it, he ought to concede and get it over with.”
For now, Democratic state officials appear in no mood to short-circuit the legal process.
“There will come a point where there will be a dramatic lack of support for carrying on but we haven’t reached that point yet,” said John Willard, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party.
“It’s going to end. This weekend with the Supreme Court hearing will be one bookend, and December 12, when the electors must be certified, will be the other bookend and it’s going to be over.”
While the party’s state chairmen staunchly backed Mr. Gore, some of his supporters, such as Arkansas Chairman Vaughn McQuary, say they are uncomfortable with the role of the courts in the election process.
“I would like to see it just proceed by a recount by the canvassing board. I’d really hate to see this whole thing handled through the courts, but the court has to set the direction,” he said.
“Should the courts count the ballots? No. I don’t think that is the role of the courts,” Mr. McQuary said.
However, for the party’s state chairmen, this was a time to stand together.
Gwethalyn Phillips, the Democratic chairman in Maine, said Mr. Gore “has laid out a reasonable and expeditious plan for the courts and it’s eventually going to have to work itself out.”
Still, Mrs. Phillips believes that the end game should be Dec. 12 when the electors must be certified.
“That’s the end of it. It can’t go on forever,” she said.
Brad Martin, the Montana Democratic Party’s executive director, said the pressure is not on Mr. Gore to complete his legal proceeding in time; it is on Mr. Bush.
“The burden is on Bush to withdraw his objections to a full and fair count in Florida,” Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Lieberman told CNN Wednesday night that he and Mr. Gore are not yet ready to give up.
“If we come to that moment we will know it,” he said.