WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (AP) -- In the presidential campaign that won't die, representatives for George W. Bush and Al Gore clashed over a Tuesday deadline aimed at shutting down all vote counting in Florida except for overseas ballots. Heavily Democratic Palm Beach County delayed its recount while the legal battle played out.

Representing Gore, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher charged the chief elections official in Florida - a Bush activist - took an apparent ``move in the direction of partisan politics'' by sticking with a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday for certifying the county-by-county results.

Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes shot back: ``The vice president essentially said we should ignore the law so that he can overturn the results of this election.''

The Gore campaign won a federal court ruling Monday that permitted hand recounts to continue in a few Democratic parts of the state. But officials in Palm Beach County, a Democratic bastion, said they cannot finish their hand count in time to meet the deadline, and they opted Tuesday to delay action until they see whether they have the authority to proceed.

A hand count was proceeding in Volusia County while officials in Miami-Dade County were deciding Tuesday whether to take the same step.

Even as Bush representatives intensified their efforts to get the counting wrapped up quickly, except for overseas ballots that must be received by midnight Friday night, Christopher said he wouldn't rule out the idea of broadening the hand recount to cover the entire state if that suggestion were put in play.

``It's certainly something we'd want to look at,'' he said Tuesday on ABC's ``Good Morning America.'' ``Anything that would bring this to a fair result is one that I think we would have to look at very carefully.''

But both Christopher and William Daley, Gore's campaign chief, said no such deal had been discussed with Bush's officials.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that some officials in both campaigns are intrigued by the idea of a statewide recount to break the deadlock, but the two sides have not discussed it with each other yet.

Gore went briefly before cameras outside the White House on Monday and attempted to strike a statesmanlike tone. ``I would not want to win the presidency by a few votes cast in error or misinterpreted or not counted, and I don't think Governor Bush wants that either,'' he said, before declining to field questions.

One week after the nation voted, neither contender has an electoral college majority, and both need the 25 electoral votes offered by Florida to fashion one.

Bush holds a 388-vote lead in an unofficial statewide recount tally maintained by The Associated Press, not including the unknown number of overseas absentee ballots.

The contested election played out in far-flung portions of the state on Monday.

  • County workers sifted through thousands of ballots in Volusia County, where a complete Gore-requested hand recount was in progress.
  • In the area around Fort Lauderdale, a check of a few precincts turned up only a few changes, and local officials voted 2-1 against a recount of all of Broward County that Gore had sought. The partial recount, covering 3,892 votes in three precincts, turned up four additional votes for Gore. Democrats promptly planned an appeal.

  • Officials in Miami-Dade County were considering whether to yield to a Gore campaign request and conduct a manual recount in their area.
  • Officials in Palm Beach County said workers would not be able to finish counting more than 400,000 ballots until Sunday, well past Secretary of State Katherine Harris' deadline. Separately, a hearing was set in state court in Palm Beach County on several citizen lawsuits seeking a new county vote - a position the Gore campaign once floated.
  • Meanwhile, new polls suggest Americans are intensely interested in the struggle to settle the presidential election, but a majority say they are not extremely worried about it.

    Two-thirds of Americans in an ABC News-Washington Post poll said the current struggle is ``just the kind of thing that can happen in a very close election.''

    U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks rejected a pleading from Bush's legal team to stop the hand counting. ``A federal court has a very limited role and should not intervene,'' he ruled after hearing arguments.

    In an observation that underscored the historic nature of the case, he added, ``I am not under an illusion I am the last word on this, and I am rather grateful for that.'' By nightfall, Republicans had not yet disclosed their next step, possibly to the circuit court of appeals in Atlanta, possibly directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    In a separate, state courtroom in Tallahassee, Judge Terry Lewis heard arguments on a suit from officials in two counties that attempted to stop Harris from enforcing her 5 p.m. deadline for certification of vote totals.

    Lewis expressed doubts about the deadline, noting counties can continue counting absentee votes through the end of the week. ``What's the good of doing a certification ahead of time?'' the judge asked.

    He heard both sides' arguments after Harris, the Florida secretary of state, refused to extend the deadline.

    ``The process of counting and recounting the votes cast on Election Day must end,'' she said in a written statement that followed a brief meeting with top aides to both presidential contenders.

    Everyone agreed on that - just as surely as they disagreed on the terms.

    Christopher said the secretary of state's position ``looks like a move in the direction of partisan politics, and away from a nonpartisan administration of the election laws.''

    An hour or so later, Hughes stepped before cameras in Texas with a rebuttal.

    ``It's becoming increasingly clear that Vice President Gore's campaign simply wants to keep counting votes until they like the results,'' she said.

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