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The Florida Vote: Supreme Court to Hear Arguments From Bush and Gore Teams; Florida Legislature Moving to Appoint Electors

Aired November 30, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN election 2000 special report.

They're already lining up to see history in the making as the presidential election goes before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Florida's most controversial ballots head for court, too as the state legislature moves closer to appointing its own electors.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it would be a terrible mistake for our country if the Florida legislature and Governor Bush went ahead and did what they said they're going to do.



GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I know that the Gore campaign would love for me to basically disown my family, but, look, I'm going to do what's right.


ANNOUNCER: The Democrats ponder their next step as some prominent Republicans ponder their next job.


RET. GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If that question should be posed to me, I think I should answer it to the governor directly at that time before answering to anyone else.


ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Election 2000 special report: THE FLORIDA VOTE. From New York, CNN's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Good evening. To our international viewers who may be finding this post-election American campaign season puzzling, confusing, baffling, let me offer the words my father said to me at my very first baseball game where 22 runs were scored and where four players were knocked unconscious by wild pitches. You know, my father said, it's not usually like this.

Well, it is certainly not supposed to feature lines outside the U.S. Supreme Court that looked like they're giving away tickets to a hot concert. Nor is fate of lawsuits and political maneuverings in the state of Florida, any one of which would could send an earthquake through this already battered political landscape. What we're going to try to do is make some sense of all of this from courtroom to state house to a ranch in Texas to Washington and we'll even throw in a space shuttle launch in just a minute.

But we begin at the Supreme Court, where tomorrow will bring one of the most extraordinary oral arguments in the court's history.

Here with a preview is CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Charles Bierbauer, who will be one of the very few people actually inside the courtroom tomorrow.


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.

BIERBAUER: Al Gore would not mind that. It would acknowledge things have changed and allow all legal actions in Florida to proceed.

(on camera): Each side, Bush and the Florida state secretary, Gore and Florida attorney general has 45 minutes to try to persuade the justices.

Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court



GREENFIELD: Let's return now to tonight's big story. Attorneys for the Bush campaign late this afternoon filed a motion to have ballots from three more counties -- Volusia, Pinellas and Broward -- delivered to the state capital. More than 650,000 ballots from Florida's Miami-Dade County will be sent to Tallahassee tomorrow while a circuit judge considers a Democratic request to hand count disputed ballots.

CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman has kept a watchful eye on today's transfer of ballots from Palm Beach County.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ordinary yellow rental truck with an extraordinary cargo: 462,000 ballots from Palm Beach County, Florida, under court order. For eight hours, the truck motored north surrounded by police, news media, vehicles, political observers, and helicopters.

It arrived in Tallahassee with great fanfare, like a presidential motorcade, rather appropriate considering this could influence the outcome of the presidential election. And then they were carefully unloaded: 166 boxes carrying about 2,800 ballots each for the trip to the vault.

DAVE LANG, LEON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT CLERK: We'll have round- the-clock security on that, wherever they are. They will be in a locked room or vault. And there will be a guard posted on that door at all times.

TUCHMAN: The ballots are here because of an order from Circuit Judge N. Sanders Sauls. The judge says he hasn't decided if he'll count them or not. He'll wait for testimony to begin on Saturday in the Al Gore challenge of the election before making that decision.

But with the Palm Beach ballots here and another 654,000 ballots in Miami-Dade scheduled to arrive Friday afternoon, a count can quickly take place if that decision is made. The Miami-Dade ballots, loaded up by election officials, will be brought on two trucks with a similar caravan surrounding them. Democrats had originally asked for just 14,000 disputed ballots from the two counties. Republicans said it was only fair if all 1.1 million came. Democrats suspect Republicans are trying to delay the process.

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I think the inevitable effect of what they have done is to make it more time-consuming and confusing, and I think anyone knows that.

TUCHMAN: Republicans say they don't know that.

BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We're going to move this case as rapidly as we can. If we can win it on Saturday, as I've said several times, we'll win it on Saturday. We're not going to do anything to delay it or to slow it down.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Late Thursday, Governor Bush's attorneys filed a request to have ballots sent from three additional counties -- Broward, Pinellas and Volusia. That request, which certainly won't quicken the pace, could be heard by the judge as soon as Friday.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Tallahassee, Florida.


GREENFIELD: And now, from the Florida courthouses to the Florida Statehouse and a potential category five political hurricane: A special legislative committee is recommending that the full Republican-controlled legislature call a special session to select Florida's 25 electors. This is a move the Bush campaign supports, but the Gore lawyers say will put the legislature on very shaky constitutional ground.

CNN national correspondent Mike Boettcher has more on the vote and the fallout.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As expected, the vote was along party lines, eight Republicans voting to recommend a special session, five Democrats voting against.




LISA CARLTON (R), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: Yes. By your vote, the motion offered by Senator Laurent is adopted.

BOETTCHER: The vote sets off what could be a historic chain of events: a state legislature inserting itself into a presidential contest and naming its own slate of presidential electors. During debate before the vote, Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to steal the election for Bush.

TOM ROSSIN (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: The suggestion by supposed constitutional experts that this legislative body has the power to overturn the will of the voters of Florida is ludicrous and bizarre. This is the Florida legislature, not the House of Lords.

BOETTCHER: But Republican legislators said they believed that Vice President Gore's challenge of Florida's vote count put in jeopardy this state's voice in the Electoral College. They contend the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to step in.

MARIO DIAZ BALART (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Obviously, the Florida Supreme Court changed the rules of the election after the election had taken place, again, putting the 6 million votes cast by the people of this state at risk.

BOETTCHER: Democrats in Florida's House and Senate conceded that they can do little to stop the Republican majority from naming the presidential electors, but they promised not to go down quietly.

LOIS FRANKEL (D), FLORIDA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I believe we will go down in history as the first, and I hope the last, legislature that would try this partisan power grab where a governor tries to elect his brother.

BOETTCHER: But Governor Jeb Bush offered no apologies.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I know that the Gore campaign would love for me to basically disown my family, but look, I'm going to do what's right.

BOETTCHER (on camera): And what Florida's Republican-dominated legislature believes is right is holding a special session, beginning Tuesday, and directing the state's 25 electoral votes to vote for their candidate, the already-certified winner in Florida, George W. Bush.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, Tallahassee.


GREENFIELD: And up next, we'll hear from two journalists well- versed in the workings of legislatures and the Supreme Court. Then to the candidates: Colin Powell visits the Bush ranch. Do you think he might have talked about working prospective Bush White House? And from the Gore camp, Joseph Lieberman takes a jab at Jeb.

And later, will we be the 100th television program to compare this convoy to that other convoy?


GREENFIELD: The U.S. Supreme Court, less than 12 hours before it is scheduled to begin hearing Governor Bush's appeal to overturn the extension of the Florida recount. This comes as the Florida legislature moves closer to involving itself in the standoff over the state's presidential electors.

Our next two guests, we hope, will help us better understand what we might expect from both of these major institutions.

Tim O'Brien covered the U.S. Supreme Court for ABC News for 22 years. He joins us from Washington. Brian Crowley is political editor of "The Palm Beach Post." He is in Tallahassee.

Welcome, Tim, an old colleague. Good to see you. TIM O'BRIEN, U.S. SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Nice to see you, Jeff.

GREENFIELD: For those folks who've gotten their legal education off "Perry Mason" and "Ally McBeal," if we -- when we listen, as we'll be able to do eventually, to this oral argument tomorrow, what might surprise us? What about it might be different from what we think of as a courtroom procedure?

O'BRIEN: Well, there's one that you know, Jeff: This has been an extraordinary and very exciting story since the November 7th. The arguments tomorrow will be on a slightly different level. It's going to be quite intellectual, very academic, technical in some points. Some people may even find it boring. But if you pay attention and try to listen to the questions carefully, I think many people find it very interesting and perhaps reassuring that this case is really getting the attention it deserves.

GREENFIELD: Now, these judges -- justices, I should say -- they don't let the lawyers talk very long before they butt in, or inquire, I should say, do they?

O'BRIEN: Well, I think Larry Tribe's last time, or one of his recent times up there -- he's arguing tomorrow on behalf of the Gore administration. He was arguing on behalf of physician-assistant suicide. He had half an hour, and the justices interrupted him more than 50 times.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's reduced to sound bites, which is OK for television, but not good enough for the Supreme Court. .

The justices are going to control the arguments tomorrow.

GREENFIELD: Now, one more thing, Tim, before I turn to Brian, who is waiting patiently -- since this court's decision involves an action that was taken before certification, a lot of people are saying this contest is going to go on no matter what the Supreme Court says.

So apart from maybe giving Bush a couple hundred more votes, what's the big deal about this case?

O'BRIEN: Well, of course, it could be dismissed as improvidently granted or moot, because since the court accepted the case, George Bush has been certified the winner in Florida. However, if the Supreme Court were to say that George Bush is right, his lawyers are right, that votes turned in after November 14 should not be counted, that could pretty much be the end of it for Al Gore. It would make it very tough for him to continue on.

GREENFIELD: Now, Brian Crowley, to you, let me flip the -- that possibility.

If the U.S. Supreme Court says, you know, the Florida Supreme Court was right, the way we interpret these laws, it was -- it did what it was supposed to do, or it was allowed to do. And does that not make it tougher for the Florida legislature to step in against what it regards as judicial supremacy, since the U.S. Supreme Court has in effect said, no, the state courts were right. How do you think that's going to play if that happens?

BRIAN CROWLEY, "THE PALM BEACH POST": My hunch is -- I'm not going to pretend to be a legal scholar on this -- but knowing the politics of Florida at this moment, my hunch is that what we'll see is the Florida legislature will probably go ahead and try to appoint a slate of electors anyway.

GREENFIELD: So -- because they're just bound and determined to make --to do what they think is justice, to get George Bush those 25 electoral votes?

CROWLEY: Absolutely. I think that if they see any threat to George Bush getting the 25 electors, if they believe that a Supreme Court decision leaves it open for Gore to get the votes, he needs to take this state, the Republicans in the House and Senate are simply not going to let that happen, and that they would rather take the risk of sending up 25 electors from here.

GREENFIELD: So, Brian, one more thing, if the legislature is that determined and the contest part of this election process goes on and the courts ultimately say -- up to the state Supreme Court -- Al Gore got more votes than George Bush, he should have the electors, you believe then what? The legislature will go ahead, appoint Bush electors and we'll have two slates?

CROWLEY: I think there's very clearly that possibility. There is nothing that the Republicans have said in the last few days that gives any indication they're going to back away from this. I think it's important to note that their experts that they brought in told them in no uncertain terms that they have every right to appoint these electors. And in fact, one expert said to them that there was not even a need to have an election, that the election itself was solely up to the discretion of the legislature.

The hard-line Republicans in the House and the Senate are taking that very much to heart. I'm not suggesting that they could not under a certain set of circumstances be talked out of it. I'm just saying that as of today, it's my considered judgment that it's very likely that they're going to go full steam ahead, unless they get perhaps some direction from Jeb Bush that says, we're going too far.

GREENFIELD: Now, Tim, what this suggests at least is that if such a situation happens and appeals are taken from the state courts, this could be right back in the Supreme Court's lap in another, I don't know, two or three weeks with them actually determining what Florida could do.

That does not sound like something the U.S. Supreme Court would be overly thrilled to have dumped on its lap, does it?

O'BRIEN: No, they certainly would not want to have it dumped in their lap. It's a possibility, but I think it's a slim one. If that were to happen, it might go to Congress to decide. We heard Joe Lieberman say today this whole scenario is a constitutional -- or would be a constitutional crisis -- well, if it's not that, it is at the very least a constitutional test. But there are remedies in the Constitution for this. It's not a crisis, and ultimately, it may go to Congress.

GREENFIELD: I must say, Tim O'Brien and Brian Crowley, you guys have front-row seats at what must be the most astonishing political story any of us could ever have imagined living through, and I appreciate very much you joining us at this hour.

Thank you, Tim, and thank you, Brian.

And up next on this special report, the Gore camp takes aim at the brothers Bush, while the Texas governor goes for the brass.


POWELL: Thanks for having me, and congratulations, Governor, on your success in your election.



GREENFIELD: Coming up, the courting of retired General Colin Powell.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might not vote because of what's going on. They can't get anything correct down there, and it should have been a one-shot deal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In America, this is our sacred right to vote, and every person does matter now more than ever.


GREENFIELD: Now to the continuing comings and goings of the men who would be president. Governor Bush has scheduled a Saturday meeting with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, presumably to discuss his agenda and how it will play with the almost evenly-divided 107th Congress. But today, his attention was focused on the man widely rumored as his pick for secretary of state: retired General Colin Powell.

Here's CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR 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, so thanks for having me, and congratulations, Governor, on your success in your election. BUSH: Thanks.


C. 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.

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

BUSH: 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.

C. 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.

C. 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.

(on camera): The problem is when the legislature is dominated by Republicans who can basically have their way and your brother is governor of the state of Florida, there is only so much distance George Bush can get.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Austin.


GREENFIELD: For his part, Vice President Al Gore was silent about the latest political play. He chose to spend the day planning for his possible presidency, but his running mate and his team leaders were a lot more vocal.

CNN's Jonathan Karl now with reaction from the Gore camp.


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.

(on camera): 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.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Washington.


GREENFIELD: Up next, a conversation with two seasoned if not spicy Washington observers, and an emerging political pundit with a silver screen resume. They are our next guests on this CNN special report on the Florida vote showdown.


GREENFIELD: Now, we're going to take a deep breath, take these jigsaw puzzles -- pieces, rather -- and see if we can put together a coherent picture.

Tamala Edwards of "TIME" magazine joins us from Washington, D.C., as does David Broder of "The Washington Post," and here in New York, writer/director/novelist Andrew Bergman, one of our regular unconventional guests, who, I point out, on the night before the election predicted a tie. So listen up.

But David Broder, to you first, the notion of the Florida legislature coming in has in many minds suggested that at this point this battle ratchets up to something like nuclear war, the missiles leaving the silo. Is it really a major step in the direction of confrontation if the legislature steps in and appoints the electors?

DAVID BRODER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Jeff, I've been listening to you for the last three weeks of this story, and I think you've felt, as I have for a long time, that this is headed eventually right back here to Washington and perhaps at the doorstep of Congress. And there's nothing that will get this thing into the congressional battleground faster than the decision by the Florida legislature, which we assume will be now be carried through, to send their own slate of delegates to Washington if they need to do so.

GREENFIELD: We were told a few moments ago by a Florida journalist, Brian Crowley, that the legislature's just bound and determined to do this, even if the U.S. Supreme Court says to the state courts, you're OK, you didn't overstate your authority.

At that point, David, do you think that Republicans in Washington might be getting some cold feet about this prospect and might be sending signals to Florida saying, you might want to think about this really carefully?

BRODER: Jeff, the only thing that I can see that would stop that is not the reaction of Republicans here in Washington but a decision quickly announced by the U.S. Supreme Court that the Florida court was wrong, that this election was over on the night that the secretary of state in Florida originally wanted to certify it.

At that point, I think the challenges from Gore's side probably end.

Other than that, I would guess that the Republicans will want to take out an extra insurance policy on the apparent Bush victory by letting the legislature in Florida pick their own slate of electors.

I think I called them delegates a moment ago.

GREENFIELD: That's because we haven't seen anything like this since I think 1876. I think we're all a little, you know, puzzled about what to call this.

Tamala, as far as the Democrats are concerned, there was some talk a few days ago that they feel the clock is running out, they feel that this is inexorable.


GREENFIELD: But would the appointment of electors by the Florida legislature, do you think, ratchet the passion among Democrats up to the level that we've seen earlier on the part of the Republicans? Would this be the move that you think you may say to Democrats, OK, now we're really in for a battle?

EDWARDS: Yes, absolutely. You know, what's interesting to me about this is every time you think the clock is about to run out on Al Gore it's not the Democrats who seem to give him sustenance but the Republicans.

A week ago, a lot of people were saying Gore's time was running short, and it wasn't the Democrats necessarily who came to his aid, but it was the imagine of those mobs in Miami-Dade that fired up a lot of Republican -- of Democratic lawmakers and said, wait a minute. And I think if they do this with the -- I'm sorry -- seating their own slate of electors, I think it will be seen as one step too many.

They can say that they've got these different counts that are on their side, but the tide, until we get some more court decisions, seems to be with them. To do this move, I think, will focus attention in a way that they just don't need it.

GREENFIELD: Is such a move, should it happen in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that doesn't, as David said, end it, underline the Democratic argument about who won the national popular vote? I mean, does that sort of go back in their -- in their quiver and say, look, you're appointing electors to decide the election and look who won nationally or is that you think basically off the table at this point?

EDWARDS: Well, I think it's to a degree off the table. It's a point that they like come back to, to remind people that nationally Al Gore won this election. That it's Florida that's really where the contest is left but as long as Electoral College is in play -- you know, that's a great point and it sort of bolsters his argument but it still does nothing for December 18th which is the date in which the electors vote and move on their way to picking a president.

GREENFIELD: Now, Mr. Bergman as you can imagine, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Broder, fellow obsesses cannot get away from that story but in the world that you inhabit, is this post-election election whatever we call, roiling the country, do you think? Are there passions abroad in the land once you get past the media and the political world.

ANDREW BERGMAN, WRITER/DIRECTOR: I don't get a sense of their passions. I mean, I think there are passions, you know, at the fringes, certainly the Republican fringes. I think it's sort of like the end of a basketball team when one team is sort of run off the court and somebody got a shot in with less than -- with one second remaining and one team goes into the locker room and some guy's still on the court screaming, saying, wait a minute. The game's not over. We're out of here. It's over.

But I think people figure it's going to play itself out. I think if this elector thing starts with two sets of electors it could get pretty juicy. There's something kind of 19th century about it and you figure guys with canes, you know, whacking each other over the head in Congress could be interesting.

GREENFIELD: That actually might be quicker to settle it than we're going through now.

BERGMAN: A duel. I thought a duel might be a good idea from the get-go.

EDWARDS: If only New Mexico's laws, which says, you know, you do a game of chance. You play a game, you play some dice -- too bad we can't make that a federal law.

BERGMAN: A world championship of poker ending would be fantastic.

GREENFIELD: Broder, take that up for a second. That's one I haven't heard before. You're known as man who has covered politics more wisely than about anybody else. Who wins a poker showdown between G.W. Bush and Al Gore?

BRODER: I think Bush has played a lot more poker hands than Gore has so I think that's where I'd put my money.

GREENFIELD: So I guess maybe depending on the choice of weapons Al Gore may choose a different game like, I don't know, chess.

BRODER: I'd take Gore in chess and Bush in poker.

EDWARDS: You have remember the women's vote. They probably would play a game of jacks.

GREENFIELD: OK. Andrew, the reason why I asked that question was all during the election we were talking about the fact that we haven't thought the election this connected, that there was not that much at stake. And I talked to one of Al Gore's top advisers today who said, you know, among the Gore camp there's still some amazement that the public hasn't seized more on the fact that Al Gore won the national popular vote. Assuming it's right that they haven't, why haven't they?

BERGMAN: Because nobody cares. I mean, the election still hasn't taken hold. It never did. I think I said at one point the election would be even a year from now. I think everybody's on fast forward. They're waiting for the next election. I mean, neither of these guys caught anybody's imagination and a dead heat was sort of the perfect ending to the contest. It's like nobody won and nobody ever will win. Whoever's in there lost and whoever lost won.


EDWARDS: Can I jump in on that one?

GREENFIELD: Yes, please, Tamela.

EDWARDS: I think absolutely. I mean, it'd be one thing if there was one guy overwhelming in some weird way in the popular vote and yet lost Electoral College but I think the idea of them being so close for every person that would stand up say I want Al Gore they're sort of neutralized by someone who'd stand up and say I want George Bush. So, I think that overwhelms the idea that there were 300,000 more people who said I want Al Gore.

GREENFIELD: David Broder, you often remind us when go off-track that there are serious things at stake in various elections and decisions but the argument's been heard that whoever wins, the worst fears of the other side are not going fulfilled. Al Gore is not going not launch big government programs. George W.'s not going to have a massive tax cut and appoint fire breathers to the court. So, what is at stake depending on which of these two guys wins.

BRODER: Well, ironically one of things that's at stake is the same Supreme Court that will be hearing this case tomorrow because it's very likely that whoever is the next president will be naming two, maybe more, justices to a Supreme Court which itself is very closely divided. Now, with a close split in the Senate, perhaps an even split in the Senate you're not likely to get a radical ideologue named by either man. But it will still make a huge difference as to who's picking judges in this country.

GREENFIELD: OK, David Broder and Tamala Edwards and Andrew Bergman I thank you very for joining us. Andrew, you can go back to your life. Tamala, David and I will have contest see which one passes out first as we head into I suppose the new year not perhaps knowing -- well, folks we're talking about the Congress. That's January 6th. Good luck to anybody with significant others in this arrangement. But still ahead on this CNN special report, the undervote. What is it exactly, and why is it so important to Al Gore? We'll get a look at that after the break.


GREENFIELD: I'm Jeff Greenfield. Welcome back to this CNN special report on -- what else -- the Florida vote. While attorneys for Al Gore want the Florida Supreme Court to order a quick recount of all so-called undervotes from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, Bush attorneys argue there is no legal basis to recount only selected ballots.

CNN's Brooks Jackson now looks at the battle over the undervote. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.


GREENFIELD: And still ahead, trucking to Tallahassee: from the land of OJ to another O.J.: some moving thoughts about what TV news simply cannot resist.


GREENFIELD: Finally, many of you no doubt saw the convoy of those ballots on their way to Tallahassee, and if there was any report that did not match these pictures to these pictures that you're about to see, the pictures of -- of -- oh, heck, you know what it's a picture of -- we didn't see it.

By the way, for his part, O.J. Simpson pronounced the moving ballot video boring. Duly noted.

Actually, the pictures today reminded me more of these images, the copies of the Starr report being delivered to Capitol Hill back in 1998. Why? Because there is a kind of innocence to such pictures.

Remember, absolutely nothing of real significance is happening at such moments. The real significance lies in the decisions that men and women will make later: a jury, a Congress, a court. But we can't take pictures of what goes on inside the minds of these men and women, so we fall back on the oldest TV news rule of all: If it moves, shoot it.

And that's it for this special report on "Election 2000: The Florida Vote." I'm Jeff Greenfield in New York. And this programming note: CNN's extensive coverage of tomorrow's Supreme Court hearing begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

And by the way, I will be back here tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

But next up, "THE SPIN ROOM" is ready to roll. Here are Bill Press and Tucker Carlson in Washington with a preview -- folks.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": Thanks, Jeff. It sure is strains of O.J. today, the Supreme Court tomorrow, we'll talk about it tonight.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": Yes, we'll be spinning about all of that: Tucker Carlson, Bill Press and you coming up in two minutes in "THE SPIN ROOM," right here on CNN.



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