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Inside Politics

Election 2000: Palm Beach Ballots Arrive in Tallahassee Court; Gore Camp Takes Aim at Florida Legislature; Bush Gets Boost From Colin Powell

Aired November 30, 2000 - 5:00 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: A truckload of ballots arrives in the Florida capital paving the way for another courtroom collision over who won the White House.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis which we are not in now by any stretch of the word.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The Gore camp takes aim at the Florida legislature's step toward intervening in the presidential tug- of-war.


GEN. COLIN POWELL, FMR. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thanks for having me and congratulations, Governor on your success in your election.


SHAW: Colin Powell is brought in to reinforce George W. Bush's claim of victory.

WOODRUFF: We'll help you follow the legal and political moves on both sides and the ways this election stalemate may end.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

WOODRUFF: Thank you for joining us.

Well, many people couldn't help but be reminded today of the infamous O.J. Simpson Bronco chase, as they watched hours of live television coverage of a single moving vehicle. This time, of course, it was a rented truck, which arrived in Tallahassee, Florida a little more than an hour ago packed with nearly a half million ballots from Palm Beach County.

Those ballots are pivotal in the presidential election impasse as we head into several new rounds of legal and political clashes. We'll have complete coverage of all the latest developments. We begin with the Gore campaign, its contest of the Florida vote count and its dispute with the Florida legislature.

Here is CNN's Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Emerging from a White House meeting with Vice President Gore, running mate Joe Lieberman waged the latest Gore campaign public relations offensive, this one aimed at Jeb Bush and the Republican-controlled Florida legislature.

LIEBERMAN: I am very disappointed and disturbed about the continuing movement by the Florida legislature, now encouraged by Governor Jeb Bush, to consider choosing their own slate of electors after almost six million people in Florida voted on Election Day.

KARL: As the Florida legislature takes steps to possibly bypassing the courts and appoint its own set of electors, Vice President Gore's team smells blood.

LIEBERMAN: This action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word.

KARL: Public indignation aside, the Gore team claims the legislature's action will present what one top aide called a tremendous opportunity to score points in the court of public opinion. As Jeb Bush publicly supports the steps taken by the Florida Legislature, the Gore team is in overdrive, portraying the move as what another aide called a brazen power play by the Bush brothers.

But as the Gore team aimed its public indignation at the Florida legislature, most of its legal might is aimed at getting a speedy recount of approximately 14,000 disputed ballots from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties. In a petition with the Florida Supreme Court, Gore's legal team asked for an immediate counting of the disputed ballots, arguing that they are almost out of time -- a point made by Gore's top lawyer in Florida.

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: One of the things that we are doing is we're getting close to the end, and we're trying to focus on those issues that we think can be resolved easily and quickly because we're going to run out of time.

KARL: Meanwhile, the quiet but deliberate work towards presidential transition continues. The vice president had his second meeting in two days with his transition-in-waiting team, including long-time friend and adviser Roy Neel; Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, mentioned by Gore aides as a top candidate for chief-of-staff; Leon Fuerth, considered the leading candidate for national security adviser; Charles Burson, Gore's current chief of staff; and Katie McGinty, a long-time adviser on environmental issues. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Behind the scenes, Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley has been busy working the phones on yet another front, placing calls to potentially nervous Democratic governors and members of Congress in an effort to keep the party unified in support of the vice president -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And Jonathan, is that effort successful and as you answer that, tell me about the symbolism of Joe Lieberman stepping out in front of the White House today?

KARL: No question, clearly an effort by the vice president's team here to show the vice president in a presidential setting, to have vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman come out and reinforce that message. As far as Bill Daley's effort to keep the party onboard, so far they are doing well, but they know that time is running out on that effort as well.

The most nervous Democrats right now have simply been encouraged by Secretary Daley to stay quiet about this, to not come out and criticize the vice president; and right now you see some of the most nervous democratic governors in the South, representing conservative states that were taken by a wide margin by George W. Bush, simply not commenting on the issue at all. And that's exactly where Vice President Gore's team wants those Democrats who may become wobbly on this to be -- to simply not be out there criticizing the vice president.

They know it will become very difficult, though, Judy, after this weekend as we really get into the home stretch here.

WOODRUFF: All right, Jon Karl, thanks very much -- Bernie.

SHAW: George W. Bush stepped up the profile of his transition operation today with the help of a would-be cabinet member known for his gravitas and star power.

CNN's Candy Crowley reports on Bush and his meeting with Colin Powell.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For all the effort to make this look normal, the whole transition scene is awkward. We know it, they know it.

POWELL: I look forward to our conversations this afternoon on matters of international affairs and foreign policy and also to discuss transition issues. And I'd like to add congratulations, governor, on your success in your election.


CROWLEY: One of the world's most open secrets is that Colin Powell may have any seat he wants at the Bush table; but he hasn't been asked.

POWELL: But I never expected that the governor would reach that point in his deliberations until after this matter had been resolved.

CROWLEY: "This matter" being the presidency to which they are transitioning.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH, (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the counting finally stops we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That's what we were elected to do. And as far as the legal hassling and wrangling and posturing in Florida, I would suggest you talk to our good team in Florida led by Jim Baker.

CROWLEY: Bush's role is to project certainty while his lawyers deal with questions -- to have the presidential look while the Florida legislature and the courts deal with chaos. A macromanager, Bush largely gives the thumbs up or down to his legal team while letting them wage the Florida ground war. As for efforts by Florida's legislature to begin the process of picking its own set of electors, the Bush camp wants as much distance as it can get.

QUESTION: In Florida, with the special session of the state legislature, are you concerned that this has the appearance of a partisan power play to short circuit the courts?

BUSH: You know, here's my view: I've won three counts and I think it's time to get some finality to the process.

CROWLEY: Bush strategists say they have made, quote, "no effort" to prod or otherwise influence the Florida legislature. It's their thing, insists the Bush camp.


CROWLEY: The problem, of course, is when the Florida legislature is dominated by Republicans who can basically have their way and your brother is the governor of the state, there is only so much distance you can get -- Bernie and Judy.

SHAW: Candy, any concerns by Governor Bush or staff members about the word going around that he's appearing to be too laid back?

CROWLEY: Well, you know he, basically, every time we see him he gets asked that question. In that photo opportunity that you saw, Bush kind of laughed off the question, he's used to hearing that. Dick Cheney was asked that question when he gave a news conference at -- about transition yesterday and he said, look, you know, there are phones in Crawford. Sometimes, you know, he's criticized for being too aggressive in putting out, you know, cabinet potentials, at least in a picture. He's too aggressive in talking about transition, and then they say he's too laid back.

So from the Bush campaign point of view, he's sort of, you know, is, you-know-what if you do and you-know-what if he doesn't.

SHAW: Yes, we do know. Candy Crowley, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, more on the Florida legislature, and we'll be talking with two members of the Florida state Senate.

Plus, still ahead on INSIDE POLITICS: carrying a cargo central to the election standoff, the latest on moving two counties' worth of ballots to the state capital.


SHAW: Now, let's take a closer look to what Florida state lawmakers did today and why it is a flashpoint in this election dispute. A special committee recommend that the full GOP-controlled state legislature call a special session to pick Florida's 25 presidential electors.

CNN's Mike Boettcher joins us now with more -- Mike.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, as expected, the vote came along party lines: eight Republicans for the special session -- their recommendation of it -- five Democrats voting against.

Now, this is the procedure now. Probably tomorrow, late tomorrow or maybe even Saturday morning, the speaker of the House of Representatives here and the Senate president, will sign a document calling the legislature into session. That will happen probably on Tuesday. Legislators begin arriving here on Monday. And then they need several days of debate to go through what they call three readings of the bill.

Also, the other option is they have a joint resolution. Now, a joint resolution, which could assign the electors to Governor Bush, does not require a signature of Governor Jeb Bush -- although Governor Jeb Bush has said he is willing to sign a bill. Even though it's his brother, he would sign the bill naming the electors for his brother, he is willing to do that. Now that would take a period up to maybe five days -- maybe even longer.

And this whole process they want to have completed by December 12. That is what they're aiming for: 12:01 a.m. Now, the Republicans argue that they have the Constitution as their compass to lead them. They say that the Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that legislators can select electors in case of a case like this, they argue: that the outcome of the election is in doubt.

The Democrats argued -- and they filed papers before the U.S. Supreme Court today -- that Article 6 of the Constitution says that the legislators can't step in and do this once the electors have been decided by a vote of the people. So there are two competing arguments there. And that could have to be decided in court, although they have been told, in three days of testimony here by legal experts, that they can go ahead and do this. So, Bernie, expect to see this special session begin, probably on Tuesday.

SHAW: OK, we'll be watching. Thank you, Mike Boettcher -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: And we are joined now by two members of the Florida state Senate: Republican majority leader Jim King, and Democrat Senator Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Thank you both for being with us.

Let me begin with you, state Senator Jim King. Are you there?


WOODRUFF: Let me begin with you. As you know, the vice presidential nominee, Joe Lieberman, said today that for Republican members of the Florida legislature to put their own judgment in front of the judgment of Florida's six million voters is not only wrong, but it's going to lead to a constitutional crisis.

KING: Well, yes, I heard what he said in a tape earlier. And quite frankly, in all good respect to Senator Lieberman, if he needs to find out who is the obstructionist in this election process in Florida, all he need do is look in the mirror. We're sitting here -- four separate times now, one candidate, George Bush, has won in every vote that we've done so far.

And now, all of a sudden, after 20-some other lawsuits, we have another lawsuit that was filed today. If -- if Vice President Gore wishes to, he can end this right now. Step aside. Announce for reelection in 2004. And we will all go home. We would love to do just that.

WOODRUFF: Senator Debbie Wasserman Schultz, what about the argument of your Republican colleagues there? They simply want to make sure that Florida is represented when electors are chosen on December 18?

STATE SEN. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Judy, this is absolute runaway train by the Republicans in the Florida legislature. We have electors in Florida. They are throwing up this incredible smoke-screen, representing that we have no electors. On Sunday, Katherine Harris certified the election, giving those electors to George Bush.

Governor Bush sent those electors to the national archives in Washington. They have acknowledged that. So what they are trying to do is manufacture an insurance policy so that they can force the result that they want, which is to elect George Bush president. That's the bottom line here.

Let's just -- we can stop this. We can stop this. Senator King is right. We can stop it by counting the votes. That's all we're asking for. It's pretty simple.

WOODRUFF: What about that, Senator Jim King, that, you know, you have a law -- you have a federal law and a state law saying the electors are to be chosen by the people of the state, and that until there's an absence of electors -- which we don't have yet -- the legislature doesn't have a role here?

KING: Well, what we've got is two days' worth of testimony from some of the most expensively paid constitutional attorneys in America saying that not only do we have the right to do what we are intending to do, we have the constitutional obligation to do it. You know, I swore, when I first got elected, that I would uphold the constitution of the state and the United States.

And I think that the Constitution is abundantly clear. It says if, as of December 12, there are no electors, we have the obligation to make sure that there are or run the risk of not having any at all. We are fearful that if we don't act, that because of the posturing and because of the time level of the courts, it may come about that come December 18, we don't have electors. And that would be unconscionable. Six million people in Florida would have all of their votes disenfranchised.


WOODRUFF: But we just heard Senator Schultz say that there are electors chosen. Isn't what you are really concerned about that the electors might -- if the election results were different, that the electors might be for Vice President Gore?

KING: But the scenario that they're operating under is under the differentiation from the Supreme Court of Florida, who may disallow the fact that those electors were properly chosen. And Representative Wasserman Schultz said it correctly. She said it's like an insurance policy. You know, some of us wear belts and some of us wear suspenders. Why? Because I don't want to take a deep breath and lose my britches,

What I want to do is, I want to make sure that, come December the 18th, that we have electors in place.

WOODRUFF: Senator Schultz, what about the argument would? And you rather have Florida have no electors have them be committed to George W. Bush?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, my good friend, Jim King, is a good wordsmith. We have spent a lot of time jockeying for position for many years. And what we have her this week was a puppet show. We do have highly paid constitutional lawyers, extremely right-wing constitutional lawyers, who were trotted up to Tallahassee to tell the Republican legislature exactly what they wanted to hear.

That is so that they could vote to do what they did today, to call us into special session and ensure that George Bush is president, regardless of what the voters actually did on November 7. We need to make sure that the will of the people in Florida is actually what is expressed through the electors that are seated from the state of Florida. And that's not going to happen if we allow this special session too forward. And it's very sad. It really is.

WOODRUFF: But Senator Schultz, you are not suggesting that Democrats in the Legislature can do anything to stop it, are you? WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, let me tell you. I am going to be able to go home after this special session and look my constituents in the eye and tell them I fought for them, and tell them I stood up for their right to have their vote counted. And that, to me, is what I was elected to do when I was elected on November 7 of this year.

WOODRUFF: Senator Jim King, let me just finally ask you: We did know -- we did hear Governor Jeb Bush say that, if the U.S. Supreme Court were to ultimately rule for Vice President Gore that, that would trump the Florida legislature. Do you go along with that?

KING: Well, I'd have to hear what other people say about that. That's a scenario that we've never had to deal with, because quite frankly, in every vote count so far, George Bush has been ahead. You know, your stipulation here is, what if Gore were declared the winner? Well, if Gore were to be declared the winner, we'd have to rethink the position, but we don't think that's going to be the case. We -- he's won every time.

All we want to do is make sure that when we all go home to our constituents we can say we acted responsibly. Electors are going to cast Florida's ballots. If you want to correct things in the future, fine, let's do it, but let's not make it retroactive, let's get on with what we've done.

SCHULTZ: So now what we'd be doing...

WOODRUFF: All right, state senate -- I'm sorry, we're going to have to leave it there. I'm sorry.


WOODRUFF: State Senate Majority Leader Jim King and State Senator Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you both. We really appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.


SHAW: Whatever the outcome of the legal motions before the Florida Supreme Court and the Leon County Circuit Court, by late tomorrow, more than a million ballots from Palm Beach County and Miami-Dade County will be in Tallahassee. The Palm Beach ballots were delivered by truck earlier this afternoon.

Joining us now with the latest, Gary Tuchman, who is in Tallahassee, and Frank Buckley in Miami, where they are preparing those ballots for the transfer.

Gary, first to you.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, for eight hours today, a yellow Ryder truck snaked its way from semi-tropical south Florida to the more temperate north Florida. Much of the way it was broadcast live, because that truck was part of history.

Aboard the truck, 462,000 ballots from Palm Beach County ordered to this court, and as we speak, those ballots are being put in a vault on the first floor of the Leon County Circuit Courtroom. About 30 minutes ago, they started getting unloaded, there are between 162 and 168 boxes of ballots aboard, each dolly carries 16 boxes, they wheeled the dolly in and they're putting it in the vault, and they'll do the same thing tomorrow when ballots for Miami-Dade County come here to Tallahassee.

The judge originally said he would accept 14,000 disputed ballots from the two counties that the Democrats wanted sent here and eventually counted. Republicans came back the next day and said, we want all the ballots if you are only going to have some of the ballots, we think that's more fair. So that's why a total of 1.1 million ballots are coming here.

It was around 3:45 this afternoon in Tallahassee when the motorcade of ballots came down Calhoun Street, right next to the Leon County Circuit Court. Leading the way, two motorcycle police officers, also along with them, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, who went along for the entire ride.

And it was a surreal scene here, if you didn't know anything about this, you would think that someone is moving furniture into the courthouse. You would not know that history was being made, the first time ever that ballots from another county, hundreds of thousands of ballots were arriving because a judge was ordering that to happen. Will these ballots be counted? We don't know. Will they be used as evidence in the contest trial which starts this Saturday? We don't know. But the judge has ordered they be here, in case he wants to count them, in case he wants to use them as evidence.

Bernie, back to you.

SHAW: OK, thank you, Gary. That's the picture in Tallahassee.

Frank Buckley, to you in Miami.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, here in Miami, elections department workers are just getting close to finishing up the job, we're told they'll be done by 6:00, of preparing the ballots for transportation tomorrow. On the 19th floor throughout the day, elections department workers have been placing the ballots into cardboard boxes, that's how they'll be transporting them from here, placing them into cardboard boxes.

Then tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m., will be loaded onto two 14- foot white-paneled trucks, those trucks will be part of a convoy, a convoy led by a police car as the lead car, then they'll have the two trucks with the ballots aboard, then another police car, and following that convoy of those four vehicles will then be two cars that will have observers from the parties, Republicans in one car and Democrats in another car.

Earlier today, there was some talk that they were going to be all in one car, the Republicans and the Democrats, for the entire nine- hour drive. They worked it out during the day and thought it might be best if they were separated into two cars, so that's how they'll be traveling. They are expecting to start loading at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow, have everything loaded up by 6:00 a.m., and they expect to get on the road soon after 6:00 a.m. tomorrow -- Bernie.

SHAW: OK, Frank Buckley with the latest from Miami, thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, much more ahead on this extended edition of INSIDE POLITICS.

Still to come: Less than 17 hours until the nation's highest court steps into the battle for the nation's highest elected office, we'll preview the arguments and the procedures.



CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The undecided presidential contest has put Congress on hold. All eyes are focused on the building across the street.


WOODRUFF: Chris Black on the Hill, as lawmaking takes a backseat to legal issues.

And later, the ultimate test of strategy and timing, but who will master the game of political chess?


SHAW: This extraordinary battle for the White House took yet another turn today. Here now are the latest developments: Nearly a half million Palm Beach County ballots packed in this rental truck arrived in Tallahassee. Miami-Dade County's ballots are being packed for scheduled shipment to the state capital tomorrow. A Florida judge may order them to be recounted.

Lawyers for Al Gore asked the Florida Supreme Court to order state Judge Sanders Sauls to count the Palm Beach/Miami-Dade ballots immediately. Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney and retired General Colin Powell met with George W. Bush at his Texas ranch. They discussed Bush's transition plans. And a committee of the Republican-dominated Florida legislature voted to have lawmakers meet in special session to name their own slate of presidential electors in support of Governor Bush.

WOODRUFF: Attorneys for both Gore and Bush addressed the role of the Florida legislature in briefs filed today with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Bush team argued that the legislature has the constitutional authority to appoint its own set of electors. The Gore team argued the legislature would be on shaky constitutional ground. The moves come on the eve of a showdown session in the high court over a ruling by Florida's Supreme Court regarding the recount of ballots.

Our senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer sets the scene for tomorrow's oral arguments.


CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A line for the few available public seats began forming a day before the Supreme Court arguments. The final Bush and Gore legal briefs restated their positions in accusatory terms. Bush: "The partisan struggle in Florida today is precisely the kind of chaotic situation that would have been avoided by adherence to the statutory deadline."

Bush's lawyers are asking the justices here to overturn the Florida Supreme Court's extension of the time for recounting votes.

VIET DIHN, GEORGETOWN LAW CENTER: The court can give the Bush campaign a very narrow victory by simply saying that they are now resetting the clock back to November 14th, and the contest procedures that Al Gore and George Bush are currently going through in Florida can relate back to that point.

BIERBAUER: Gore's final brief says: "Bush seeks not just to run out the clock, but extraordinarily, to have the court turn back the clock so that he can declare the game over.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We've explained that the decision of the Florida Supreme Court is precisely within the bounds of what that court is supposed to do. It's about Florida law. It interprets Florida law and is the final arbiter of what Florida law is.

BIERBAUER: Gore's attorneys also say the possibility of direct legislative appointment of electors by the Florida legislature raises a host of constitutional issues, but they've asked this court not to address the matter of the Florida legislature. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court does not have to make any decision.

DIHN: They're still the final word as the interpretation of the law but they may not have the final word as to who is president. And so in that case, they may dismiss this case as improvidently granted.


WOODRUFF: That from our correspondent Charles Bierbauer. And just a word, CNN's coverage of tomorrow's oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court begins 9:00 Eastern -- Bernie.

SHAW: Joining us now with his reporter's notebook: Bob Novak of "The Chicago Sun-Times."

Bob, the Gore camp, are they nervous about the U.S. Supreme Court getting involved in this election?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Very. The realist -- political realists inside the camp were just devastated with the court took the case because didn't think they were going to take it to rule in favor of the Florida Supreme Court, and in fact the people whose judgment I trust on the Supreme Court really do see not only a 5-4 decision, but maybe a 7-2 decision against the Florida Supreme Court.

Risky, though, it is to forecast the Supreme Court. How far they'll go? It's hard to tell. They'll probably knock out the Broward County ballots that were counted on the recount. There's other parts of the Gore case they won't knock out, but it's a very nervous proposition for the Gore camp.

SHAW: Moving to that Seminole County where the Democrats want 15,000 absentee ballots thrown out. What's the concern among Republicans?

NOVAK: The Bush lawyers are more concerned about that than anything even though they think that is the weakest case against them, but they are very worried about the judge, Nikki Ann Clark, who was denied an appellate seat by Governor Jeb Bush just a couple of weeks and ago. They thought that she should recuse herself. She wouldn't do it. They think she is very prejudice against him and they are -- that is a very dangerous case and they're worried about reversing it in the Florida Supreme Court which has not been too friendly to the Bush cause.

SHAW: Al Gore, if he loses this election to George Bush, in 2004, will he be a player?

NOVAK: I think he may be history. You know, in the first days after the election, the Democratic politicians I talked to said, boy, he came so close. He deserves another chance, even if he loses the recount. But in sober second thought, what I hear from Democrats, they feel he run a very poor campaign and they asked, why in the world do you think he's going to run a better campaign in 2004? So this may be Al Gore's last chance because there's a lot of people lining up to go against him in 2004.

SHAW: Now, this last area, I'm really curious about your information you're going share with us. Tell us, what this is this about lobbying among presidential electors out in states across the country to try to get them to change their electoral vote?

NOVAK: There is scattered evidence so far, Bernie, but some Bush electors, including some that are very close to Governor Bush which indicates it's a very wide net, are being sent letters -- we're not just talking Bob Beckel now, by Democratic activists around the country. No connection with the Gore camp is indicated saying that, gee, Vice President Gore won the popular vote.

He won the pop. He's probably won the Florida vote. Change your vote, and in fact, one Texas elector said he was approached by an AFL- CIO lobbyist asking him to change his vote. I'm trying to work on the details of this information, but I think there's a lot of activity pressing -- you know, they've only got to get two electors to change. That's all they need. And you know, the flesh sometimes is weak -- Bernie.

SHAW: Bob Novak. Thank you very much.

And coming here up on INSIDE POLITICS: Democrats on the Hill ponder their options while waiting on the key ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.


WOODRUFF: Almost to a man and woman, Democrats on Capitol Hill have been steadfast in their support of Al Gore in his fight to win Florida's vote, and with it the White House. But how long it stays that way very likely will be determined by a decision by the nation's high court.

Congressional correspondent Chris Black reports.


BLACK (voice-over): The undecided presidential race has put Congress on hold. All eyes are focused on the building across the street: the Supreme Court.

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: I think that after those Supreme Court decisions are completed and are definitive, that would be an appropriate time for this to be concluded.

BLACK: There is a growing sense of fatalism among Democrats on Capitol Hill, even Vice President Al Gore's allies say the highest court in the land will have a huge impact.

Many Democrats are maintaining a grim silence rather than publicly admit they are pessimistic about Gore's chances of moving into the White House. Those who are talking say the fight cannot go on forever.

BREAUX: If there's a drop-dead date, I would say it's December the 12th, when the electors have to be appointed. I think that you're not going to be able to -- I think -- drag this out with political support, public support past that date.

BLACK: Most Democrats say they will support Gore as he contests this election, but privately, some admit they are frustrated Gore is playing defense, and complain the Democratic message has been muddled.

Said one rueful Democratic senator from the Northeast: "Republicans have done a better job than we have."

Top Gore advisers say the vice president is thinking about coming to the Hill next week to speak to the Democratic members. In the event Congress has to decide the presidential contest, legislative aides are writing research memos trying to figure out how Congress deals with it.

BLACK: Democrats dread the prospect.

BREAUX: It would make impeachment look like a piece of cake.

BLACK: The chairman of the Senate judiciary committee doubts Congress will get involved.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I don't think it's going to come to the hill. I really don't think even Al Gore will let it go that long.


BLACK: Senators Orrin Hatch, a Republican, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, have made a date to walk together across the street tomorrow to listen to the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in a rare display of congressional bipartisanship -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Chris Black, we're going to ask you to stay with us for just a moment because I want to bring in now our Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno.

Frank, on the subject of the Supreme Court, you've been talking to some people about the clock and the court, tell us about that.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Right, they're connected -- the clock and the court. And all across town, as Chris Black was reporting, people are warily looking across the street, figuratively or literally, at the Supreme Court.

And they're not just hearing it from members of Congress, but inside the Gore campaign itself, people are saying, look, as one person put it, everybody realizes enough dominoes need to fall in place right now for this to succeed. It's not pessimism, this official said, it's reality. Another person said that every day that goes by, effectively, is a victory for the Bush campaign.

So on the hill, within the Gore campaign and Democrats at large, the clock is factoring in in a larger way -- the tick-tock is louder everyday.

WOODRUFF: Chris, when you say a number of members of the Senate and House are silent on this -- I mean, are we talking mostly from the South? Different parts of the country? What?

BLACK: Yes, I think that's fair to say, Judy, that most of them are from the South or from states that went pretty overwhelmingly for George Bush. It's not in their interest, really to stir up their constituents, who are Bush supporters at this time.

But on the other hand, they are with Gore. I mean, they're standing pretty firmly with him. But, of course, that can't happen indefinitely; and there's a very strong sense up here by people who know Al Gore quite well, that the vice president knows there's a drop- dead date. If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against him, most people think -- and not just Orrin Hatch, but even Democrats think -- that Al Gore will understand that the gig is up. John Breaux, in fact, has advised him to that effect.

WOODRUFF: Frank, this is speculation, but have you talked to people about what is means if the high court ruling is more ambiguous -- if they give a little bit to the vice president, a little bit to the Governor Bush? SESNO: Yes, then it becomes a little bit more ambiguous; but most people feel -- at least that I'm talking to and hearing from, Judy, that Al Gore really needs a discernible victory. He needs to be able to hold up a newspaper or hold up a quote or hold up a document that says the high court or the Supreme Court in Florida or somewhere else has green-lighted this next effort, has said it's legitimate and that there are votes yet to be counted so that the political and public case that the candidate is making is mirrored by an authoritative legal authority.

WOODRUFF: All right; the courts first and counting later, if it ever comes to that.

Frank Sesno, Chris Black, thanks very much to both of you -- Bernie.

SHAW: Just ahead on INSIDE POLITICS, examining the moves in the battle for the White House with our own Bill Schneider.


SHAW: You know, each day it seems that we're brought new legal and political moves in this presidential stand-off with all the lawsuits and partisan spin, the details can be hard to follow.

But our Bill Schneider says it's a lot like a game many of us are familiar with.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What we have here is an elaborate chess games, with each player making moves and counter-moves; but it's a strange chess game because no one is sure what the rules are.

Player No. 1: Vice President Al Gore. His objective? Get enough votes to win Florida by the deadline. His first problem: how many votes are enough? That's what the United States Supreme Court has to decide. Does Bush lead Florida by 930 votes? That's the initial margin announced by Secretary of State Katherine Harris on November 14; or does Bush lead by 537 votes, the total certified on November 26? Remember, this is the U.S. Supreme Court we're talking about. It can issue a ruling with much more wide-ranging implications if it chooses.

Gore's second problem: Where will the votes come from? He hopes to get them from three counties where he is contesting the results in circuit court. In Miami-Dade County, Gore wants the court to order a hand count of approximately 10,500 under-voted ballots where the machine count did not register any presidential vote. In Nassau County, Gore wants the court to use the machine recount, not the original count that the local canvassing board decided to certify. The machine recount would give Gore 51 more votes. In Palm Beach County, Gore wants a recount of approximately 3,300 under-votes using more lenient rules to judge voter intent. Gore's third problem: What's the real deadline? A federal statute says that if a final determination of any contest about the presidential election is made by December 12, six days before presidential electors meet in the state capitol to cast their ballots, it shall be considered conclusive. But the ballots are not counted by Congress until January 6, which may be changed to January 5 next year because January 6 is a Saturday.

So it may be possible to keep counting ballots past December 12, right up until the time Congress counts the electoral votes. In 1960, Hawaii did not complete its recount until December 28. Only one date is unchangeable: January 20, when a new president must be inaugurated. That's the only date in the federal Constitution.

What about player No. 2: Governor George W. Bush? He's been certified the winner in Florida. Bush's objective is simply to block Gore's moves. How can Bush do that? He can try to shut down Gore's recount requests in the two counties. He can slow the process down and try to run out the clock, so there's not enough time to recount the votes in those two counties. He can demand a statewide recount of all the ballots -- not just in democratic-leaning counties. That's almost impossible to do in a little over five weeks.

There are also a couple of counter-moves Bush can make. If Florida's electors are not chosen by December 12, federal law allows the state legislature to name the electors. Republicans control the Florida legislature. Bush's last resort: Congress. Congress can refuse to count votes from electors if it feels that the vote was not, quote, "regularly given." That requires a majority vote in each chamber. Republicans still have a majority in the new House of Representatives, but it looks like the new Senate may be split 50-50.

This game is being played in one state with a lot of kibitzers. The rest of the country, and the world, has a profound stake in the outcome. The game has changeable rules, written over 100 years ago and nobody alive has ever played it before.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Well, joining us now from New York, our senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, this whole thing is unprecedented in the American political and governmental history. How closely though, do we think that the American people are following all of this?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, if our ratings and those of our competitors are assigned, there are a lot more people following it than followed the election. But I think the question is, if you don't mind me rephrasing it, are they following it with a sense that they have a stake in it. I think it's caused a lot of interest. It's caused some fascination. I think in some people it's caused some impatience -- the all right, already, group. But the question is are people looking at this election as though it is affecting them and I keep coming back to this point because I think if Al Gore hopes to make a real fight about that, he needs to convince the people who supported him that they need to stay with him. That what Florida may be doing with the appointment of the legislature and not counting the right votes is somehow an insult to them, and I don't think we're seeing that sign just yet that there's a sense on the Gore side of things of indignation and anger the way there is among some Republican partisans.

So, I think that's a real question that the next week's going to tell us.

WOODRUFF: Why do you think there's not?

GREENFIELD: For the same reason that we've been talking about all year the sense that this election didn't connect with people. I think that one of the things that this startling post-election season has done is to have blinded us to the reality that was true, I think, all year long. That for most people, there didn't seem a lot at stake in this election.

There were no what the cliche artists would call front burner issues. There was no sense of international or economic crisis. That's one of the reasons why even with this enormously close election and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent in turnout, the turnout was barrel over 1 percent of what it was fours year ago.

And I think that same indifference is around today. There's fascination because as Bill told us, unless you're like 118 years old, you don't remember an election like this, but I'm not sure whether people really feel my life will change because of it.

WOODRUFF: But, Jeff, what if we did have, in Joe Lieberman's words, a constitutional crisis where you had a set of electors chosen by the state legislature, another set of the electors supported or chosen by the courts.

GREENFIELD: Well, I have a feeling that you and I would feel absolutely this must be the time when the country would be engaged because, you'd think, well, the Gore people here must feel that the state legislature is in effect is electing the electors, which hasn't supposed to have happened in America since we had the popular vote.

But you know what? Think back to impeachment. Weren't we all sure that this was going to be a matter of great emotional intensity and I think people looked it and thought of it as a vaguely interesting, slightly smutty show. I think the disconnection between citizens and politics maybe because things seem to be going OK is still around.

And I'll tell you something, I think the numbers we always run at the bottom of the screen, with those Dow numbers and the Nasdaq numbers, that may be a situation where people are going to get much more engaged if those numbers keep tumbling and there's a recession in a few months than all of this constitutional battle. I'm not saying it's the right thing that people should be thinking about. This is important stuff. But I've got to be honest with you and tell you I don't think that there is this outrage or this fascination in a personal way out there. Not yet.

WOODRUFF: And this on a day when those numbers did go down, both the Dow and the Nasdaq. All right, Jeff Greenfield. Thanks very much. We'll see you soon.

In the next half hour, the latest from Florida. Plus, checking the facts on so-called undervotes and poll numbers. There's much more ahead as this extended edition of INSIDE POLITICS continues.





WOODRUFF: Unloading on day 23 of the presidential standoff as disputed ballots are delivered to the Florida capital.

The Bush and Gore camps fire new legal and political shots at one another.



BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No wonder reporters call them the Supremes, and if they want to play big time, they surely can.


SHAW: Bruce Morton looks at the high court's biggest moments. Will another one play out tomorrow?

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw.

SHAW: And welcome back to this extended edition of INSIDE POLITICS and our coverage of this extended presidential election. Metal boxes containing nearly a half million ballots now are under the control of a Florida court after a day-long journey from Palm Beach County to Tallahassee. Miami-Dade County will deliver all of its ballots tomorrow before a Saturday hearing on whether any of those punch cards should be counted again.

Al Gore's campaign is blasting a committee of Florida lawmakers who today recommended the full legislature intervene in the presidential stand-off and appoints its own slate of electors for George W. Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LIEBERMAN: And I just want to appeal to Governor Jeb Bush and the members of the Florida legislature to reconsider this action.


SHAW: At the Unite States Supreme Court, both the Gore and Bush camps filed dueling briefs about the Florida legislature's possible intervention before the high court hears arguments in the election dispute tomorrow morning.

Meantime, George W. Bush discussed his presidential transition effort with retired general Colin Powell, widely believed to be Bush's choice for secretary of state.


BUSH: When the counting finally stops, we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That's what we were elected to do.


SHAW: Several Republican sources are telling CNN that Colin Powell is among those urging Governor Bush to consider Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge as defense secretary in a Bush administration.

WOODRUFF: There was also action today at the Florida Supreme Court where the Gore camp launched another attempt to speed up the legal wrangling.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is covering that story in Tallahassee -- Susan.


Before the Florida Supreme Court even opened its doors this day, Mr. Gore's campaign was at the doorstep filing yet a new pleading, urging the court to intercede and order a recount to begin immediately. Now, the Gore campaign is not asking for all 1 million ballots coming here from Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade and Nassau counties, but at the very least of at least 13,000 or so contested ballots.

Now, Mr. Gore's lawyers say they want this to happen, in their words, "before it's too late." They argue that they are not trying to interfere with the lower court, which is holding a hearing on Saturday to decide whether there will be a recount at all. But they say that they are very worried that any more of a delay could, in their words, "undermine the will of the Florida voters," if this recount is not conducted and finished by December the 12th, which is when the Florida electors will be chosen.

Now, this is not the only matter before the Florida Supreme Court, it also has a couple of pleadings before it, appeals from two groups of voters in Palm Beach County urging the court to schedule a revote just in Palm Beach County, because of that so-called "butterfly ballot," the one that some voters say confused them into voting for the wrong candidate.

So far this day, the Florida Supreme Court has been very silent indeed, we've heard nothing at all from the court, and some analysts suggest that this court might very well be waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide something before this court says anything else.

That's it so far from here, Judy, back to you.

WOODRUFF: Susan, this may be unanswerable, but is there any sense of how long it will be before we start hearing rulings, decisions, from the Florida Supreme Court?

CANDIOTTI: Not at all, Judy. We speak with the court spokesman several times during the day, in fact, we are waiting for word from him at any time now to see whether the business is done for the day. Usually, Mr. Craig Waters will step outside and make that announcement at some point this evening -- last night it was 7:30 before we heard anything.

WOODRUFF: All right, Susan Candiotti in Tallahassee, thanks very much.

Well, Al Gore's lawyers today used some old-fashioned charts to make their case that machines cannot read many valid votes. The Bush camp takes a starkly different view.

So our Brooks Jackson checked out their conflicting claims in the battle over ballots.


BROOKS JACKSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dispute is boiling down to the undervote, ballots where machines tallied no vote for president. Gore lawyers say humans should count them.

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: These are real votes. They just haven't been counted because of the limitations of the punch-card ballot system.

JACKSON: But Bush lawyers say they're probably not votes at all, just voters consciously saying none of the above.

IRV TERRELL, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: In fact, those are nonvotes. And indeed, it is not unusual for people not to vote fully in every election on a ballot.

JACKSON (on camera): So who's right here? Both sides cite statistics. So, we took our own look.

(voice-over): In fact, the Bush team's own calculations turned up only four states with higher rates of nonvoting for president than Florida. Nonvoting includes both undervotes and spoiled ballots. But even that calculation is wrong, Bush aides neglected to include write- in votes. In Wyoming, for example, Bush aides calculate that nearly 3.6 percent of voters failed to cast a valid presidential vote. But checking with state officials, we calculate the correct percentage is 1.5 percent, much lower than Florida's.

Gore lawyers point to a different statistic, a big disparity in undervotes in counties using punch-card ballots compared to those using ballots read by optical scanners.

BOIES: Now, optical ballots, because you color in or shade in with a no. 2 pencil a little hole, don't have the problems of whether you've indented a chad, or dislodged a chad, or partially dislodged a chad.

JACKSON: Gore lawyers figure Florida counties using optical scanners had an undervote of only 0.4 percent, while punch-card counties, including the big Democratic counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach had an undervote three-and-a-half times as large. The difference they suggest is machine error.

(on camera): We did our own calculations here, too. And on this, our numbers are a close match to Gore's.

(voice-over): Thirty-six Florida counties that use optical scanners recorded an average undervote of just over 0.3 percent, by our figures, while 18 counties using punch-card systems reported an undercount of more than 1.5 percent. There is a big disparity.

But not all punch-card counties are Gore country. Bush lawyers point to Duval County, where Gore got less than 37 percent of the vote and did not ask for a recount.

TERRELL: Why don't they want to check Duval County ballots? Is it because of the military issue that they seem to be afraid of? I don't know. But we say that you have to check them all if you check them.

JACKSON: Bush lawyers may have a point here, there were nearly 5,000 undervotes in Duval County, 1.7 percent of the total. By our figures, that's higher than the statewide average, and higher than Miami-Dade or Broward, though not as high as Palm Beach.

But there's another factor, too. Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a Democrat, calculates that 1,400 of those Duval County undervotes came from four African-American precincts, overwhelmingly Gore supporters. That's more than 28 percent of the Duval County undervote. So, counting all those votes might not favor Bush after all.

(on camera): Another pro-Bush argument that some are making is that exit polling on Election Day shows that 1.5-2 percent of voters in Miami-Dade actually said they had not voted for anybody for president. If true, that would explain the entire official undervote there, 1.6 percent. But the Voter News Service, which conducts that polling, says it's not true. KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: VNS is telling us that the number of people who purposely didn't vote for president is probably less than 1 percent.

JACKSON (voice-over): There's no question Florida has a large undervote, more than 62,000 ballots statewide, according to county officials contacted by CNN and the Associated Press; enough to fill a football stadium, and just perhaps change the outcome of the long count for president.

Brooks Jackson, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: We're joined now by Bill Press of CNN's "CROSSFIRE" and Kate O'Beirne of CNN's "CAPITAL GANG."

In your view, which court might determine who will be the next president: the highest court here in Washington, the high court in Tallahassee, or for that matter, Judge Sauls' court in Leon County?

KATE O'BEIRNE, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, in my view, no court ought to be deciding, playing this kind of a role in who's president. The founders of the Constitution in long standing -- in fact, a law clearly gave the responsibility in the face of a dispute or otherwise to the most representative branches of government, the most democratic branches of government. So the least representative shouldn't have a role, but here we are unfortunately.

It's up to the Supreme Court, Bernie. Should the Supreme Court issue a decisive ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court, that has the affect of putting the parties in Florida back to the situation they would have been in November 14, with a Bush lead of 930 before the Florida Supreme Court interfered. It's not over, because I think Al Gore will dream up some way to challenge that 930-vote lead, but it certainly will knock the Florida courts out of the picture.

SHAW: Bill?

BILL PRESS, "CROSSFIRE" CO-HOST: Well, I'm old-fashioned. I believe the people should decide, and the court should only get involved if the people's votes are not counted, which happens to be the case today in Florida. And therefore, where that decision is going to be made is in Judge Sanders Sauls' courts. If he agrees this weekend with the Gore lawyers that there are disputed ballots in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties that should be counted, and if those ballots are counted, I believe Al Gore wins Florida and he wins the election. If he blocks it, I don't know where Al Gore goes after that.

Tomorrow's court -- Supreme Court hearing here in Washington, I believe, Bernie, is basically meaningless, because they're looking at the fact as whether or not the Florida Supreme Court overstepped its bounds when it extended the deadline. But that deadline has come and gone, they're not considering the legitimate process under Florida law of contesting a vote, which is what the Gore people are now doing in Sanders Sauls' courts, Judge Sauls' court, so that will continue no matter what the Supreme Court does tomorrow.

O'BEIRNE: Though, if the Supreme Court were to say that the electors chosen under the new system imposed by the Florida Supreme Court are not conclusive under the Constitution and federal law because they weren't decided pursuant to rules in place before the election, I think that would be narrow and would throw it back where it belongs, to the Florida legislature.

SHAW: Speaking of the Florida legislature, the Republicans making a move toward fielding, seating their own slate of electors December 12.

Is that good?

O'BEIRNE: Well, they have -- given everybody mettling in this election, canvassing boards and the Florida court system, they have a far better claim under the Constitution for choosing electors than anybody else does. And based on the polling in Florida, 52 percent of Floridians think it's perfectly appropriate including -- I was surprised to see -- 38 percent of Gore voters. It's where it belongs. These people are accountable to Florida voters, like judges are not.

PRESS: Let me tell you, Bernie, this is a pure, partisan, political power play. Appreciate the alliteration.

SHAW: In Florida?

PRESS: In Florida, on this -- on the part of this legislature.

And what George W. is saying, if my daddy's court doesn't give me this election, then my baby brother's legislature will, it is outrageous and it's probably unconstitutional. But what this legislature is saying is, we don't care what the will of the people is, we're going to decide. Now, right now, so far as we know, the people have voted for George Bush, that's been certified. But if they vote -- if the recount shows that, in fact, they voted for Al Gore, then that's a way it ought to be. The legislature ought to keep its cotton-picking hands out of that vote.

SHAW: Can you imagine if the state of Florida set two different slates of electors here to the well of the House of Representatives?

O'BEIRNE: Well, they have a Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court might give us some guidance. One slate might be considered conclusive and deserves conclusive treatment at the hands of the House of Representatives, and the other doesn't. And, according to the Constitution, the one would be the one selected under the rules in effect.

Look, the Florida legislature represents 6 million Florida voters. That is the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives as opposed to...

PRESS: That is outrageous! That is outrageous -- we have been there. In 1913 we changed -- I'm sorry, in 1813 we changed the United States Constitution so the state legislators never longer elected United States senators, and we shouldn't go back to when state legislators are going to elect the president of the United States.

It's the people, Kate. We do not elect those people in the state legislature to decide elections. We don't elect them to vote, the people vote.

O'BEIRNE: Bill, old laws are still our laws; and the Constitution and longstanding federal laws give the responsibility and the authority to the legislature. And as I said, unlike judges, they're accountable to 6 million voters who seem, based on the polls, to see their role as legitimate here.

PRESS: Well I would suggest -- and I'm not a constitutional lawyer -- but not all lawyers agree on that point; and if you talk to one very good one, Bruce Ackerman (ph) from Yale, he'll tell you that the legislature has no role here whatsoever because the election has been certified. If it had not been certified, they have a window, according to the Constitution, but it's been certified. Their role is out; whatever they do will be unconstitutional.

SHAW: And my role is to say, we're out of time.


O'BEIRNE: Very constitutional, Bernie.

SHAW: Thank you.

And coming up on INSIDE POLITICS, the different voices of the polls: Bill Schneider on what the American people are saying about the contested election.



RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): We knew, going into the WTO meetings, that there were going to be a lot of protesters, but we had heard that they would be peaceful.

(voice-over): Few could have anticipated so much anger towards such an obscure organization. Labor groups, environmentalists and farmers formed unlikely coalitions, fearing the WTO could upset their world.

(on camera): They had declared they were going to shut down the WTO meetings when they opened, and that's exactly what they did.

(voice-over): On the very first day, a tense moment and a hint of things to come. Blocked at every turn, this WTO delegate couldn't get through the human chain of protesters. By Tuesday afternoon things started to get ugly. That's when you had these groups of anarchists roaming the streets and crashing through the windows through downtown Seattle, causing millions of dollars worth of damage.

Before noon Wednesday, nearly four times as many people were arrested as during the violence the night before. Hundreds of protesters who violated the no-protest zone area near the WTO meetings were dragged, carried or otherwise escorted into police custody. Police fired tear gas and rubber and wooden pellets to disperse demonstrators.

(on camera): I think a lot of the protesters were the people who came there for a reason and had planned very peaceful demonstrations were very upset that they had their agenda overshadowed by all the violence that occurred.



WOODRUFF: We haven't heard enough about the polls lately, so joining us now with a look at what the latest public opinion polls are telling us about this presidential election, our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider -- Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Judy -- well, as usual, the polls speaketh not with one voice. We have had five -- that's right, five -- polls taken since the Florida certification Sunday night. Now, three of them asked a fairly straightforward question: Do you think Al Gore should concede or press on? And they got pretty much the same answer: yes, concede. Between 56 and 60 percent said yes; 35 to 38 percent, no. Now that Reuters-Zogby poll was taken on Tuesday, after Gore went on television to make his case, and that doesn't seem to have made really very much difference.

WOODRUFF: But you have seen some difference in some of these polls, though, right?

SCHNEIDER: Different questions, somewhat different answers. "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll asked whether Gore should concede or wait for decisions from the cases now pending in court. Now given that choice, people split down the middle. Half said concede now, half said no, wait for the courts to rule. I find it interesting that half the public isn't even willing to wait for the courts to rule. They want it over now.

"The New York Times"/CBS News poll put the choice this way: Should one of the candidates concede now and, if so, which one? Or is it too soon for a concession? This time, 42 percent said Gore should concede. There's almost no pressure on Bush to concede, but 48 percent said wait, it's too soon.

The hard-core pressure on Gore to concede comes almost entirely from Bush supporters. They're that 42 percent of the total population. Given a reasonable alternative, like waiting for the court cases to be resolved, most other voters are willing to wait. But you've got to make the case for patience with those other voters, which is exactly what Gore has been trying to do on TV every day.

WOODRUFF: And has Gore been able to hold the line with his supporters?

SCHNEIDER: Well, most Gore supporters are standing by their man. They do not want Gore to concede at this point. But between 1/4 and 1/3 of Gore's supporters are ready to give up if you just ask them straight out: Should Gore concede? Bush's base is a lot more solid. They insist, with virtually one voice: it's over. As long as Gore holds his base, he can probably keep going. But a major setback like, say, an adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, and it could all fall apart.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

And when we return, Bruce Morton considers the Supreme Court's 200-year record as the justices prepare to take on the constitutional issues of election 2000. INSIDE POLITICS will be right back.


SHAW: As we've mentioned, tomorrow attorneys for George W. Bush and Al Gore will go before the justices in this majestic building, the United States Supreme Court. How the Court ruling will affect the presidential deadlock remains to be seen, but the high court has a long history of landmark decisions.

On the eve of the Supreme Court hearing, our Bruce Morton takes a closer look at the legal battles of the past.


MORTON (voice-over): No wonder reporters call them "The Supremes." It started back in 1803, when the court ruled it couldn't give an appointee of outgoing president John Adams a job, but added, in John Marshall's words, that it had the "duty to say what the law is."

In great national debates, that made the justices players big time. Look at your history book. Dred Scott, 1857: Congress could not ban slavery in U.S. Territories and slaves could not be citizens probably hastened the Civil War. 1896, Plessy versus Ferguson: Separate but equal was OK, and so southern states could legally segregate everyday life.

1954, Brown versus Board of Education: No, "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," and little black kids went to white schools in places like Little Rock, Arkansas, protected by soldiers with guns. 1973, Roe versus Wade, legalizing abortion. 1974, Watergate, ruling 8-0 that President Nixon's secret White House tapes had to be handed over to the special prosecutor, a decision which led to Nixon's resignation.

Carl Bernstein covered, and uncovered, big parts of that story.

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST: We were talking about criminal actions by the president of the United States, and that's what the Watergate tapes decision was about.

MORTON: This election fight is very different, but may be as big? REV. ROBERT DRINAN, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: It's possible that this will emerge as a central question, the supervision of the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court over this very sacred process that we call an election. If the Supreme Court does not intervene, that would mean for all time, there's no really ultimate correction of a voting situation that would be corrupt or careless or really wrong.

BERNSTEIN: There is great hope that many people have that the justices will speak as one and come forth with a decision that will give some legitimacy to the next presidency that it might not otherwise have.

MORTON: Will it be a broad decision, or a narrow one? Strong, nearly unanimous, or divided, with quarreling opinions? We don't know. But they are the Supreme Court, and if they want to play big time, they surely can. Just look at the record.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


SHAW: What a day.

That's all for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS, but, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's

WOODRUFF: Jeff Greenfield will be here at 10:00 Eastern with a one-hour Election 2000 special report on the Florida stand-off. And stay with CNN tomorrow for complete coverage of the hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Our live coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: And I'm Bernard Shaw. "THE MONEYLINE NEWS HOUR" is next.



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