Tags: Presidential | Contest | Unresolved | One | Closest | History

Presidential Contest Unresolved, One of Closest in History

Wednesday, 08 November 2000 12:00 AM

In Florida, Attorney General Bob Butterworth said officials would work as quickly as possible to count an estimated 30,000 overseas and military absentee ballots and to recount ballots statewide – even as national returns showed Gore with a slight lead over Bush in the popular vote.

"I believe we owe it to the country to do it as absolutely quickly as possible," Butterworth said.

With 98 percent of the vote counted nationally, Gore led Bush by 49 percent to 48 percent – 47,957,329 to 47,709,369. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader had 3 percent of the vote at 2,609,325 and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had less than 1 percent at 436,473 in tabulations provided by Voter News Service.

Early Wednesday CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC and NBC projected Bush as the victor, and Gore's campaign said the vice president called Bush around 1:45 a.m. EST to concede and offer congratulations. Gore started moving toward a Nashville plaza where he was to speak to supporters, but along the way campaign aides learned the Florida margin was small and shrinking. Gore called Bush about 2:30 a.m. to say he wasn't going to concede until results in Florida were clear, spokesman Doug Hattaway said.

About that time the secretary of state's office in Florida announced that the margin between Bush and Gore in the Sunshine State was in the range of about 1,300 votes, with some 30,000 military absentee ballots remaining to be counted.

Butterworth, who also is chairman of the Gore campaign in Florida, said state law required a recount if the margin of victory was smaller than one-half of 1 percent. He said the recount was expected Wednesday morning.

In Nashville, Tenn., Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley said: "I've been in politics for a long time. But there's never been a night like this one."

He went on to say: "As everyone in America knows, this race has come down to the state of Florida. And without being certain of the results in Florida, we simply cannot be certain of the results of this national election. I want to add that Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman are fully prepared to concede and support Gov. George W. Bush if and when he is officially elected president. But this race is still too close to call – and until the recount is concluded and the results in Florida become official, our campaign continues."

In a statement outside the Texas governor's mansion about 4:30 a.m., Bush campaign chairman Don Evans said: "We hope and believe we have elected the next president of the United States. The latest count in the state of Florida shows Governor Bush winning that state by more than 1,200 votes, and they're still counting. I'm confident when it's all said and done we will prevail."

Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, speaking from his Hollywood, Fla., home, said he hoped the state would be able to conduct a recount Wednesday.

"Most of the ballots are counted through electronic means, so it does not take that long. There will be watchers from both sides," Butterworth said. The recount, however, may not be definitive because military personnel are required only to have their ballots postmarked by Election Day, which means some of them could still be coming in late in the week or even next week.

The race was the closest since 1968, when Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey 43.4 percent to 42.7 percent (with George Wallace receiving 13.5 percent), and potentially the closest since 1960, when Democrat John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon by 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent of the vote.

The close race confounded polling in at least one key battleground state – Florida, where Voter News Service initially projected Gore as the victor but then pulled back, citing problems with some county totals and saying the race was too close to call.

In congressional elections, returns showed Republicans would maintain their razor-thin majority in the House during the 107th Congress. In the Senate, it looked like Democrats could have up to 50 seats – but the chamber would remain in GOP control. That's because a Democratic victory in the presidential race would make Joseph Lieberman vice president, leaving his Senate seat in Connecticut open for an appointment by a Republican governor. A GOP presidential win would make Dick Cheney vice president and he would cast tie-breaking votes in a Senate with 50 senators from each party.

In projected electoral votes, CNN said Gore held an advantage of 260 electoral votes to 246 for Gore, with Florida not yet decided.

In the tabulated vote, Bush was leading in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Gore was leading in California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Polls leading up to Tuesday's elections showed the closest presidential races in decades – virtually a dead heat between Bush, 54, son of President George Bush, and Gore, 52, a former U.S. senator and the son of the late U.S. Sen. Al Gore Sr.

Voter turnout was reported heavy throughout most of the country.

Tuesday's election was the climax of a campaign that was the most expensive in U.S. history, with an estimated $3 billion spent on the presidential and congressional campaigns.

Besides the presidential race, voters were deciding all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate, and 11 of the 50 governorships.

Gore and Bush battled for a majority – at least 270 – of the 538 votes of the Electoral College, which actually elects the president and vice president. Each state's electoral vote is based on the number of representatives and senators the state has in Washington.

The popular vote in each state and the District of Columbia determines which slates of electors vote in the Electoral College. In Maine and Nebraska the electoral vote is divided according to the results in each congressional district, but elsewhere it's winner take all.

Electors meet in their state capitals on Dec. 18 to cast their ballots, which are to be read before Congress Jan. 6. If no presidential candidate gains a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives selects the president. If there is no Electoral College majority for a vice presidential candidate, the Senate makes the selection.

The newly elected president and vice president will be inaugurated Jan. 20.

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In Florida, Attorney General Bob Butterworth said officials would work as quickly as possible to count an estimated 30,000 overseas and military absentee ballots and to recount ballots statewide – even as national returns showed Gore with a slight lead over Bush in the...
Wednesday, 08 November 2000 12:00 AM
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