The "Florida situation" changes hour to hour, so it would be a big mistake to try to predict the final outcome of this historic fight for several thousand votes that may determine who will serve as U.S. president for the next four years.
When it appears either Vice President Al Gore or Gov. George W. Bush has won a significant legal victory, the other side almost immediately files some kind of counter legal action. When this will stop or if it has stopped by the time this column appears is anyone's guess. No one seems to know how long Gore or Bush supporters will push the issue or whether any truly final resolution of the matter may be a matter of days or weeks away.
And it is possible, even after the Florida matter is settled, there may be efforts by one camp or the other to encourage electors to challenge the rule or procedure that calls for them to vote in the same manner as their state's voters in the presidential election. In those states where members of the Electoral College are not bound to reflect the popular vote of their state, will pressure be placed on the electors to change their votes?
It's still a big question who will be sworn in as the next American president.
And, unless Gore is scheduled to take the oath of office, it is apparent he and his followers will continue to use every possible means to win the election.
Gore is quoted in the latest issue of Newsweek magazine as telling an aide in 1999, just as the campaign was starting to heat up, "I'm not like George Bush. If he wins or loses, life goes on. I'll do anything to win."
At this time, the public has reason to wonder what Gore means by "anything." How far will he and his aides pursue the matter if it appears Bush might win the Florida popular vote? Will "anything" include efforts to pressure those casting the electoral votes to disregard their states' popular vote totals and cast their votes for Gore? Is there anything that the Gore people won't try to do to wrestle this election away from Bush? Would he tolerate, or perhaps even encourage, corrupt acts, false rumors and abuse of the legal system?
Only two counties in Kansas Douglas and Wyandotte favored Gore over Bush. Based on the mail received by this writer, some area Gore supporters are terribly bitter about the Florida situation and accuse Bush of every imaginable crime and personal misconduct.
This raises the question of what the public reaction is likely to be if Bush is declared the winner, based on the Florida vote. Maybe public reaction is not the key, but rather the reaction of Gore supporters.
Given the Gore win in Douglas County, it is probable a majority of readers will not agree, but it is this writer's belief that Gore is far more divisive than Bush. During his campaign, Gore and his aides were quick to use fear as a means of trying to win votes. He claimed that if Bush were elected, Social Security payments would be in jeopardy and that health care would be reduced with significant cost increases for the elderly.
Trying to frighten citizens was an important part of both Clinton presidential campaigns, and it paid dividends. Obviously this is why Gore used the same tactics.
Many of his fellow senators, both Democratic and Republican, have no hesitation in saying Gore cannot be trusted. He sees nothing wrong in exaggeration and lying.
Gore is a "divider," while Bush has made much of his record as a "healer."
Given the razor-thin margin of victory and the likelihood Gore will win the national popular vote, there is every reason to believe that, if Bush should win, the pent-up bitterness, anger and bile of Gore's supporters will spill out and perhaps propel the country into a long period of recrimination. It would not be healthy.
On the flip side, if Gore eventually is declared the winner, Republicans are sure to point to the Florida Supreme Court whose seven members all were appointed by Democratic governors. Until Friday the court had ruled unanimously in favor of Gore attorneys on each issue it heard, without any dissenting opinions. Is this court merely part of the Gore campaign effort? Democrats also were in control of most of the ballot-canvassing locations in Florida.
Nevertheless, this writer believes there would be a significant difference in the way Gore and Bush would accept news they had lost and a vast difference in how their supporters would react.
Bush is far more likely to be gracious in any concession statement and would urge his supporters to accept the loss with as much grace as possible. On the other hand, Gore could be expected to try to put on a good front, but would be crestfallen, perhaps unable to hide his bitterness. Certainly his close supporters could be expected to inject anger and vicious charges.
At a time when the country needs to step back, take a deep breath and start a healing process, Bush would seem far more likely to handle the post-election fallout in a calm, healthy manner for the good of the country.