Beliefnet
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10--Texas Gov. George W. Bush planned Friday for a new White House administration as he sought to turn up the pressure on Vice President Al Gore to concede the election.

But the Florida voting dispute still left the nation without a new leader three days days after the presidential election.

Bush's campaign employed sharper rhetoric Friday, accusing Gore of mounting "endless challenges" and calling on the Democrat to concede if an official recount also shows he lost in Florida, the key to Electoral College victory.

However, Gore's top campaign aide refused to rule out a legal challenge to the Florida vote and charged the Republicans were trying to declare a winner before the results were clear.

A county-by-county survey of all 67 of Florida's counties by The Associated Press showing that the statewide recount left Bush with a lead of 327 votes, prompting Bush's campaign sought to insist the contest had been decided.

But with allegations of irregularities swirling and ballots from overseas Florida residents still to be counted, it appeared the dispute over the outcome would continue through Tuesday at least.

The state issued an updated tally at midday Friday showing Bush with a 960-vote lead out of nearly 6 million cast, with only two counties remaining to be recounted. That was a reduction from the 1,784 margin reported in the first hours after polls closed Tuesday.

Florida officials said that their recount, which was mandated by state law given the narrowness of the margin, did not include Hernando and Palm Beach counties in the tally, accounting for the discrepancy with the AP toll.

Bush, meeting with reporters at the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, for the first time since Wednesday, had little to say about the situation in Florida.

"We've had two vote counts already and I'm pleased with the results of those counts," he said, deferring other questions about the recounts to James Baker III, the former secretary of state who is acting as his proxy in the Sunshine State.

But during a break from a meeting with running mate Dick Cheney and aides who would hold key posts in a Republican administration, he also signaled the impatience that Baker and other campaign officials communicated in stronger terms.

"The quicker this gets resolved the better off it is for the nation," he said.

Gore also appeared in public for the first time in two days, allowing TV crews to film him playing touch football with friends and neighbors at his home in Nashville, Tenn.

Gore offered a few comments on the game, but did not respond to attempts to ask him about Florida.

On Tuesday, Bush appeared to win Florida - and therefore the presidency. The recount was triggered by Florida state law because Bush led Gore by less than one-half of 1 percent.

Baker said Friday the recount had "confirmed" the Texas governor's victory over Gore. He called on the Gore campaign to drop threats of legal action and demands for further recounts, which he characterized as "efforts to keep recounting over and over until (the campaign) likes the results."

The Gore campaign responded that "the election is not over," saying Florida's vote - and the state's 25 electoral votes, which apparently will decide whether Gore or Bush becomes the nation's 43rd president - required further scrutiny to ensure that the tally accurately reflects "the true and accurate will of the people."

Bush had meetings Thursday with his likely choice for national security adviser, the man who will oversee his transition and the state official in line to succeed him as Texas governor.

He spent met with senior staff and with Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, who will succeed Bush if he becomes president-elect. Bush spoke with Perry about terms of Perry's succession, according to the Bush campaign.

Bush communications director Karen Hughes said those meetings were about ``state business and how all this affects the state of Texas.''

She said that while Bush is involved in ``preliminary discussions'' about a transition, the subject wasn't occupying all of his time. In fact, Bush exercised for about an hour in a separate building on the grounds of the governor's mansion.

Florida elections officials said it could take at least until Tuesday to certify the recount's results - and at least until Nov. 17 to tabulate absentee ballots from Floridians overseas.

Florida's closely watched vote count isn't the only one still in question during this year's unusual presidential election. Four more states may see their presidential votes end with recounts.

  • In New Mexico, early voting tallies released Friday by the clerk in the state's largest county narrowed the gap between Bush and Gore to 164, with Gore in the lead. That's a change from a previous unofficial Gore lead of 6,825 votes.
  • Bernalillo County workers still were trying to reconcile a 252-vote discrepancy between the number of votes counted and the votes cast within some 37,000 ballots in Tuesday's general election. The overall tally does not include an additional estimated 1,600 ballots that were damaged in some way and were being counted by hand.

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