Dismayed Dems Could Aid Dubya
If Legislators Go Ape . . .
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Countdown Breakdown
Grace Land

Dismayed Dems Could Aid Dubya
Gore Loserman

In the end, George Bush's best bet for gaining the presidency lies not with blustering state legislatures or Tom DeLay's threats to derail the electoral college, or even court decisions, but with Democrats who see a protracted fight by Gore as damaging to the party's chances in the 2002 election.

New Jersey's Senator Robert Torricelli is the most public of these politicians; others are talking anonymously to the media.

"There's an enormous burden on Al Gore to establish that this fight should go on," Torricelli says. "My personal view is that it is increasingly likely the public is going to want this election brought to a close." But the list of important Democratic personages weighing in, albeit subtly, for Gore to call it quits now includes two former White House counsels during the Clinton era: the venerable and still extremely influential Lloyd Cutler and Abner Mikva, a highly respected federal judge. Cutler tells The Washington Post that Gore's chances of winning are "pretty dim," and Mikva said that "it's not going to be easy" for the Veep to pull it off. Leon Panetta, Clinton's former chief of staff, has also suggested that Gore "has an uphill battle, and the question is if he can continue to hold onto the patience of the American people."

Both Mikva and Panetta are former members of the House, and Cutler has been an important adviser to presidents and an influential lobbyist. Vermont's Democratic senator Patrick Leahy cautioned that Gore can't win without an accurate count in Florida. And while House minority leader Dick Gephardt is standing firm behind Gore—flying to Florida to boost Gore's PR efforts—he strongly argues for calling it quits before the election reaches the House.

"First of all the House should not be entering into this whole morass," Gephardt said on Face the Nation Sunday. "Let's use the rule of law. . . . It should not go to the House of Representatives and I sure hope Tom DeLay or Dick Armey or others in the House are not thinking of trying to assert the House's authority to throw out electors, something we have never done and shouldn't do." He added, "The House shouldn't be sticking its nose into this in that way." Gephardt, of course, still hopes to become Speaker if the Dems can get it together for 2002.

The reasons for Democrats to drop Gore aren't hard to find. With Bush in the White House, and the nation facing—at best—a most uncertain economic future, the Democrats already are chomping at the bit to get the campaign going so they can retake control of both chambers of Congress. The Senate now is evenly split with the Republicans holding a one-vote margin in the House.

If Legislators Go Ape . . .
King Cong

In the unlikely scenario that the election goes into Congress, there are several possibilities. In the past, Congress has placidly received the votes of the electoral college in ritualistic ceremony. But this year there is discussion of wild-sounding scenarios that could send things into chaos. The most obvious:

• The electors, who are supposed to follow the popular vote and support one candidate, are often not bound by law, and they might switch their votes.

• Congress can refuse to accept the Florida vote as counted.

• It might substitute a Florida slate of electors chosen by the state legislature.

• Congress can ditch the Florida vote for good, leaving the state out of the final tally. While recently the rule has been that a candidate must have 270 electoral votes, the Constitution actually says "a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed." As things stand, without Florida (25 votes), New Mexico (5), and Oregon (7), Gore has 255 electoral votes to Bush's 246.

Both chambers must agree to reject electoral votes. As noted above, Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, and the Senate is evenly split. If the Senate vote should end up as a tie, then the supposedly lame-duck vice president can cast the deciding vote that would give him the presidency.

Footnote: As for the wild speculation that this election could degenerate into some sort of civil war, or end up with a coup d'état, neither scenario fits the times. Neither of the two major parties has any real base; both are made up of lobbyists and squabbling lawyers. The base of both parties is a few wealthy individuals and corporations, which provide their financing. In that sense we've already had a coup. Consider the real powers. Top five contributors to Bush: MBNA America Bank (credit cards); Vinson & Elkins (lawyers); Anderson Worldwide (accountants); AXA Financial (investments); and Ernst & Young (accountants). For Gore: Ernst & Young (accountants); Citigroup (banks and investments); Viacom (telecommunications); Goldman Sachs (investments); the U.S. Department of Agriculture (contributions by individual employees). As is the case with Ernst & Young, many big companies contribute to both parties. They want the election mess resolved so they can get on with business as usual.

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