- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

PANAMA CITY, Fla. President Bush yesterday visited Florida for the first time since his inauguration, noting that while "some of the Democrats here want to keep revoting the election," the rest of America wants to move on.
Thousands of Floridians turned out to cheer the president, but fewer than a dozen protesters gathered outside the Panama City building where Mr. Bush touted his $1.6 trillion tax-cut plan. The demonstrators were outnumbered by journalists who scrambled to interview them about whether Mr. Bush "stole the election."
Mr. Bush chose Panama City as the site of his first presidential visit to Florida because it is in the Central time zone, where thousands of voters were dissuaded by the TV networks' premature and erroneous declaration that Al Gore had won Florida. Surveys by Democrats, Republicans and independents showed that the networks' early call cost Mr. Bush a net loss of about 10,000 votes.
"What a great, great honor it is to introduce President George Bush to northwest Florida in the Central time zone," Rep. Joe Scarborough, Florida Republican, told a joint meeting of the Panama City Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. "You know, we're not only the land that time forgot; we're the land that the TV networks forgot."
The audience roared as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took the lectern and introduced "my great older brother, the president of the United States that sounds pretty good George W. Bush." President Bush, responding to his brother's introduction, said: "The key to our success is pretty simple, we listen to our mother. And she is still telling us what to do. I'm listening about half the time."
Mr. Bush made no reference during his speech to the post-election debacle that paralyzed the nation's political system for 36 days. But earlier, while touring military housing in the area, he was asked about a Democratic advertising campaign critical of the Bush brothers.
"Some of the Democrats here want to keep revoting the election, but if they would listen to America, they would find Americans want to move forward," Mr. Bush said.
The $20,000 advertising blitz airs this week on TV stations in Panama City and Tallahassee.
"Jeb Bush delivers Florida to his brother George and now we're going to pay the price," the ad says. "Jeb Bush didn't stand up to count Florida's vote right and George Bush's budget undermines prosperity."
"Bush fuzzy math," the ad concludes, "doesn't add up."
The TV campaign is being promoted by Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe, who encouraged his neighbor, millionaire Harry Jacobs, to file a lawsuit seeking the disqualification of some 20,000 absentee ballots in Seminole County. Mr. Gore, whose post-election mantra was "count every vote," nonetheless endorsed the lawsuit by Mr. Jacobs, who had given the vice president $50,000 and spent at least that much on a TV ad attacking Mr. Bush's running mate, Richard B. Cheney.
As Mr. Bush was delivering his speech in Panama City, the White House press corps joked about how few protesters had gathered outside. Most placards brought by the organizer, Robert P. Kunst, lay unused on the grass. Several of the protesters said they believed Mr. Bush had been legitimately elected in Florida, but they disagreed with his sweeping tax-cut proposal.
"I don't have as much a problem with the election results as I do his policies," said alarm technician Lee Maiolo, a New York resident who was vacationing in Florida. "I'm here specifically to protest the tax cut. I think it's way too much. I think it's targeted toward the rich. There's a lot of social programs that that money could go for."
Gloria Pipkin, a former teacher in Florida's public schools, insisted Mr. Bush stole the election, even though he won the first count and numerous recounts.
"We were robbed, plain and simple," she said. "And we won't ever get over it or ever forget it."
Mr. Kunst agreed.
"The election was stolen by Bush," he said. "Gore won the state. We have a phony, illegitimate president. We're never letting this guy off the hook."
Mr. Kunst said Mr. Gore would have won if the all-Democratic Palm Beach County Canvassing Board had adopted a more liberal standard in hand recounting the county's ballots. He cited a recent report by the Palm Beach Post, which tallied a portion of the ballots with the more liberal standard and concluded that Mr. Gore would have won.
However, seven justices of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that hand recounts in selected Democratic counties were unconstitutional. The high court ruled that hand counting of ballots in some counties, but not others, violates the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" guarantee.
Since new votes are invariably discovered in hand recounts, citizens who live in recounted counties are more likely to have their votes count than their neighbors in counties where ballots are not recounted, the high court concluded.
In an effort to solve this problem, several media consortia have taken it upon themselves to hand recount all 6 million ballots in all 67 counties of Florida. But Republicans argue that these statewide recounts, which are nearing completion, still violate the 14th Amendment, because they dilute the impact of votes in states where manual recounts were not conducted.


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