By RON FOURNIER
Judge N. Sanders Sauls — the circuit judge who presided over a nearly 13-hour hearing Sunday about chads, voting machines and the vice president’s pleas for a recount and listened to closing arguments into the night — said he would deliver his ruling this morning on Gore’s historic election protest.
Meanwhile, GOP running mate Dick Cheney said it’s time for Gore to concede. Gore said he knows America is weary of the long election ordeal but counseled the country: "It won’t last forever."
The vice president braced for the next round of legal action and attended church, where he heard a sermon titled, "A Time for Waiting."
It was an apt metaphor for the longest, closest presidential contest in 124 years. Gore, testing Americans’ willingness to wait as he exhausts his legal options, conducted an interview with CBS’s "60 Minutes" as part of a public relations blitz.
"At the end of the day, when all processes have taken place, if George Bush is sworn in as president he’ll be my president. He’ll be America’s president," Gore said in the interview.
He also said: "It won’t last forever. I’m expecting it will be over within the next two weeks."
Nearly a month after Election Day, Cheney led a herd of Bush and Gore allies to the Sunday news shows. "I do think that it’s time for him to concede," he told NBC. "So far, he’s chosen not to do that — to pursue other avenues — and clearly that’s his prerogative. But I think … history would regard him in a better light if he were to bring this to a close."
Gore allies said he won’t consider quitting before Sauls rules on his request for hand recounts in two counties, and the Florida Supreme Court settles the appeal that will undoubtedly be lodged by the losing side. The vice president has one other lifeline: the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case in a separate appeal filed by Bush.
Gore lieutenant Warren Christopher also mentioned a Democratic lawsuit in Seminole County, where GOP officials were allowed to add information to thousands of absentee ballot applications already submitted to election officials. Their options running low, Gore aides are pinning more of their hopes on the case in east Florida.
Democratic lawyers said privately they expected Sauls to rule against them, and were preparing an appeal to the state Supreme Court. Gore predicted whichever side loses would appeal.
Bush laid low at his Crawford, Texas, ranch one day after meeting with GOP congressional leaders in a presidential-style summit.
Gore won the national popular vote by more than 300,000 votes, but without Florida he falls short of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. The state’s 25 electoral votes would put Bush over the top by a margin of one.
Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Bush ally, certified his minuscule lead Nov. 26, forcing Gore to take the unprecedented step of contesting a presidential election result or quit the race.
That led Gore to Sauls’ court, where lawyers plowed through hours of dry testimony from GOP witnesses.
Delivering a boost to Gore’s case, one Bush witness — voting machine expert John Ahmann of Napa, Calif. — testified under cross-examination that hand recounts are advisable "in very close elections." He said that was the only way to identify valid votes that resulted in so-called hanging chads — disturbed ballots pierced by tiny holes or dimples.
Another GOP witness, police officer William Rohloff of Fort Lauderdale, said he did not intend to vote for president but may have dimpled the top of his ballot by accident.
"I don’t believe that, especially on my ballot, that anyone can interpret my intent," Rohloff said, countering Gore’s central claim that thousands of ballots with no presidential votes should be examined for any indentation that might hint at the voters’ intent.
Meanwhile, Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney said the GOP-dominated Legislature is on the brink of a special session that could lead to a separate slate of Bush electors. "I’m convinced we have a duty to act unless the U.S. Supreme Court resolves this matter," Feeney said, though Senate leaders say no decision has been made. "We are not trying to steal any election."
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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