Verdict may be ‘end of the road’ for Gore

By RON FOURNIER

Associated Press

On the eve of U.S. Supreme Court arguments, Al Gore’s attorney said Sunday the vice president urgently needs a legal victory to recount Florida’s votes or "that’s the end of the road" for his dogged drive to the presidency. A chorus of jittery Democrats agreed.

As both sides previewed their cases in legal filings, George W. Bush’s lawyers asked the high court to overturn a Florida Supreme Court recount plan they said would "incite controversy, suspicion and lack of confidence" in the first American presidential election of the 21st century. Democratic attorneys defended the Florida court.

Though confident, Gore’s attorneys conceded publicly and privately that the odds are stacked against them.

As deeply divided as the country, the high court justices voted 5-4 on Saturday to temporarily halt manual recounts in Florida and consider the landmark Bush vs. Gore case. When the counting stopped Saturday, an unofficial Associated Press survey put Bush’s lead over Gore at 177 votes.

The state’s 25 electoral votes would put either man in the White House.

A CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll conducted Sunday found a nearly even split over whether the court should allow the recount to continue: 47 percent for a recount and 49 percent against, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Neither Bush nor Gore committed to giving up if the Supreme Court issues an adverse decision, but even Gore’s advisers conceded he has fewer options than Bush beyond the high court.

"If no votes are counted, then I think that’s the end of the road," said David Boies, who will argue the case for Gore. But the lawyer stopped short of saying his client would bow out.

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, a steadfast Gore supporter, told ABC, "I believe he will" concede if the court rules against him, and Bush should do the same if the tables are turned.

Bush’s point man in Florida, former secretary of state James A. Baker III, refused to say Bush would concede if the Supreme Court ruled against him.

Meanwhile, determined to send a slate of Bush electors to Washington, majority Republicans in the Florida Legislature will oversee testimony Mtoday from legal experts and public witnesses on lawmakers’ authority in presidential elections. GOP Senate leaders suggested Sunday they may delay a decision on selecting electors until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules.

The state House could vote as early as Tuesday on a presidential slate. The Senate isn’t expected to take action before Wednesday.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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