- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Democratic support for Al Gore's legal challenges began to crumble last night as the party's general chairman called on the vice president to concede.
Senior Gore advisers, one of whom CNN identified as campaign chairman William M. Daley, said several members of the vice president's staff believe he has to drop out of the race. But aides said they do not know whether Mr. Gore will concede.
Other key supporters, including Laurence H. Tribe, the lawyer who argued Mr. Gore's first Supreme Court appeal, also signaled that the election was over.
The first blow came from Ed Rendell, the Democratic National Committee's general chairman, who called on Mr. Gore to concede.
"Checkmate," added Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. "It's over."
Mr. Moran said the decision leaves Mr. Gore with "nowhere else to turn" and that Mr. Gore will likely concede the race today to Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Mr. Bush "now needs to be gracious" to heal the nation's wounds, he said.
Joe Andrew, who runs the DNC's day-to-day operations, stressed that Mr. Rendell spoke for himself and called his statement "outrageous." But a senior Senate Democratic aide said Mr. Rendell's reported pronouncement left him "reeling."
The vice president conferred with his lawyers, looking for hope from last night's U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the Florida Supreme Court's manual-recount order.
Mr. Bush's spokesman in Florida, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, said the Texas governor and his running mate, Richard B. Cheney, were "of course very pleased and gratified that seven justices of the United States Supreme Court agreed that there were constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court."
Mr. Baker did not declare victory in the brief statement and appeared to purposely leave Mr. Gore room to step aside.
Mr. Daley said in a statement that the vice president will speak today, but the statement stopped short of saying the vice president will concede.
"Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are now reviewing the decision issued tonight by the United States Supreme Court," Mr. Daley said.
"The decision is both complex and lengthy. It will take time to completely analyze this opinion," he said, adding that the campaign "will address the court's decision in full detail" today.
Aides said Mr. Bush did not plan to make a statement before Mr. Gore's planned reaction today. If Mr. Gore concedes, Mr. Bush planned a unifying speech that would be low-key and gracious in tone, aides said.
Sen. Robert Torricelli, New Jersey Democrat, sounded fatalistic.
"It appears to me that the last vote has been counted in Florida," he told CNN.
That prompted a bitter rebuke from Gore spokesman Mark Fabiani, who said the vice president deserves time to study the ruling.
"In every party there are people who would rather get on TV than be fair and reasonable," he said.
The decision by a deeply divided Supreme Court five weeks after an inconclusive Election Night appeared to make a new recount all but logistically impossible before Dec. 18, when the Electoral College meets.
"It's a … mess. I don't understand it," Gore lawyer Dexter Douglass told CBS.
"It's looks like tonight it's almost over for us," he said.
Mr. Tribe, who argued an earlier case for Mr. Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court, said the decision signaled a conclusive defeat for Mr. Gore.
"I think that the gracious thing is to accept even if one disagrees with the decision of the Supreme Court," Mr. Tribe said in an interview broadcast on NBC and MSNBC.
"I'm sure that Vice President Gore has the kind of reverence for the Supreme Court as an institution that he will really not undertake to be less than complete and gracious in his acceptance of this result," Mr. Tribe said.
At Bush campaign headquarters in Austin last night, staff members broke into cheers as the meaning of the ruling became clear on television around 10 p.m. Washington time.
Mr. Cheney was at his home in McLean when he learned of the ruling on television, said transition spokesman Juleanna Glover Weiss. She said after hearing the good news, Mr. Cheney spoke to Mr. Bush, campaign spokesman Karen Hughes and White House chief of staff designee Andrew Card.
"I think we're very happy," Mrs. Glover Weiss said.
But the multifaceted ruling baffled even Mr. Bush's top advisers at first glance. Contacted about 30 minutes after the decision was released, Bush political strategist Karl Rove responded, "I'm just watching the news, trying to figure it out."
Mr. Gore had kept his coalition together for five weeks by promising to bail out when he ran out of options. Moments after the ruling, his support began to crumble.
"Tonight is the end of the campaign. We have a president-elect," said John Czwartacki, former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
"The legs have come out from under [the Democrats]," said Mr. Czwartacki, now a partner with Greener and Hook, a communication consulting firm.
"Mathematically there may still be some questions, politically it has to be over."
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Maryland Republican, said the court "has said in legal terms what most people said was a matter of common sense. You cannot have entirely different standards apply across the counties of Florida."
Even with rumors that Mr. Rendell had called on Mr. Gore to concede, Mr. Ehrlich said the race is not over.
"When Daley says it," then it will be over, said Mr. Ehrlich.
Congressional aides spoke reluctantly last night as legal analysts on national television struggled to understand the dueling and dissenting opinions.
"The beat goes on," said Michelle Davis, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican.
She said her boss would not comment until he fully understood the decision and that, given its complexity, would probably not be until today.
Generally speaking, though, Miss Davis said, Mr. Armey had hoped for a decisive result rather than the delaying one the Supreme Court took.
"We've been waiting for a knockout punch for a month, but we've gotten used to the idea that it's not going to happen," Miss Davis said.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court last night reversed the Florida Supreme Court's order for a limited recount. The high court ruled that any recount requires a vote-counting standard that meets requirements of due process and equal protection.
The ruling appeared to pose a crushing logistical burden for the Gore legal team. Mr. Gore and his legal team spoke on a conference call and tried to determine how it could meet the burden.
Dave Boyer, with Mr. Bush, reported from Austin, Texas.

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