Court Decisions Likely to Spark Scorched Earth Campaign by Bush

WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 13—Even with the victory in federal district court this morning, Democrat Al Gore may face an uphill situation in Florida. A judge nixed a George W. Bush request to bar manual recounts in the Sunshine State, but the Republicans have promised to appeal court rulings up through the Supreme Court.

To many observers, a recount by hand seems only fair. But others point out that Gore is asking for a second tally in a county he already carried by 140,000 votes. So what he's arguing is the necessity of a recount based on alleged inaccuracy of less than 1 percent. If successful, such a claim would surely be the first in U.S. history.

Faced with this morning's adverse court ruling, the Republicans are likely to unleash a "scorched earth" policy of challenging vote counts around the nation. Since there are 17 states where the election was decided by a vote of 5 percent or less, and 14 states where it was decided by less than 4 percent, the door is open for recounts running far into the future.

A scorched earth attack gets going if the Republicans lose Florida's 25 electoral votes, putting Gore over the 270 mark needed to win the White House. The strategy entails demanding recounts in Wisconsin, with 11 electoral votes, and Iowa—maybe even Oregon—with 7 each. If the Texas governor can somehow end up winning Wisconsin, Oregon, and Iowa, he'd have 271 votes. Or as some pundits are suggesting, he can try to cobble together victories in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and either Oregon or Iowa, plus one vote from a breakaway elector in Maine. That would also put him over the top.

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The Bush camp has sent operatives into the field in Wisconsin to figure out whether it's worth challenging Gore's 6099 vote victory, from a total 2.5 million votes. This could be an intriquing case, since Milwaukee's district attorney is investigating charges by Republicans that Democrats were buying homeless votes by handing out cigarettes.

In Iowa, where there were 1.3 million votes cast, Gore won by 5069 votes. Republican agents there are looking into votes in 99 counties to see whether a recount is in order.

In New Mexico, Bush's lead is down to 17 votes with 600,000 ballots counted. Republicans have asked state election officials to impound all ballots that hairbreadth election. Denise Lamb, state Bureau of Elections director, told the Associated Press that it's not unusual for local candidates to ask that ballots in a few precincts be impounded, "but not at the magnitude being proposed" by the Republican Party.

In Oregon, Gore is ahead by 5756 votes, with 40,000 absentees votes now being counted. Oregon election law stipulates there must be a recount if the difference falls below 2800 votes.

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