Everybody continues to lead with the Florida vote squabble. Thursday's main developments were that the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Gore campaign's request that Miami-Dade County be ordered to resume the manual recount it had abandoned Wednesday, and lawyers for Gore announced that after the state certifies its vote tally on Sunday or Monday, the campaign "fully expects" to go to court to press for a full and accurate vote count in Miami-Dade County and perhaps elsewhere as well. All the headlines reflect this latest reality well, but as is often the case USA Today nails it: "GORE TO CONTEST ELECTION."
The New York Times says the unanimous Florida high court decision, which all the papers say was quickly reached by holiday-scattered judges via conference calls and faxes, was a "serious setback" for Gore. USAT says that with the Florida court decision, Gore's odds "got longer." Everybody has the Bush campaign's no-comment on the Florida court ruling, but only the NYT wryly observes that only the day before, when the Florida Supreme Court permitted manual recounts, the Bush campaign had castigated it "as an instrument of the Democratic Party."
The coverage also shows the emotional mercury rising. Almost everybody quotes the descriptions in the turned-down Gore brief to the Florida Supreme Court of noisy and assaultive demonstrators attacking the Miami-Dade canvassing board and its staff. And almost everybody has the tumult in the Broward County canvassing room yesterday reaching the point where cops surrounded a Republican lawyer and were on the verge of removing him before things calmed down.
The papers make the point that between now and certification Gore's hopes rest on the Broward and Palm Beach recounts. Although the NYT off-lead says that Gore campaign and Democratic Party officials are "increasingly doubtful" about his prospects, here and there the papers suggest the numbers are not insuperable. The Los Angeles Times says that the latest state tally including recounted ballots has Gore behind George W. Bush by 719 votes. The Wall Street Journal election front-pager says that if Broward's recount continues increasing Gore's total at the current rate, he could net 600 more votes there, which the paper says would mean needing some 300 from the Palm Beach recount to overtake Bush. The LAT breaks out a separate recount front-pager that comes up with similar math. But the WSJ says that the Bush push for numerous counties to reinstate rejected military absentee votes could net at least 200 more votes for him.
Everybody covers Dick Cheney in the wake of his Wednesday heart attack. The hardnosed effort by the NYT's physician reporter, Lawrence K. Altman, illustrates his long-held insistence on more candidate health disclosure by criticizing Cheney's doctors and the Bush campaign for "misinformation." Altman says that at the time of their first press conference Wednesday, Cheney's doctors already knew but did not say that their patient had had a heart attack. He adds that at times the officials at the hospital where Cheney was recuperating "sounded more like marketing and public relations people than doctors and educators." Altman points out that although Cheney has previously refused to answer health questions from the NYT and other news organizations and has kept his doctors from answering them, his cardiologist revealed Wednesday that Cheney has been "moderately impaired" for a number of years. The LAT Cheney story says that doctors say Cheney has "serious coronary disease."
USAT's front section "cover story" by Susan Page collects together a number of Indecision 2000 what-ifs that could be great fun to kick around during the presidential election off-season, if there ever is one. Page's list: What if ... 1) Nader hadn't run; 2) Bush had disclosed his DUI earlier; 3) Gore had campaigned more in Tennessee; 4) Clinton had campaigned more in Arkansas; 5) Bush had put Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge on the ticket; 6) Elián had never left Cuba; 7) Bush had demanded recounts in GOP counties; 8) Buchanan had done better; and 9) Palm Beach hadn't used a butterfly ballot.
The Washington Post editorializes that the nationally televised Florida Supreme Court hearing made a good case for federal courts and the Supreme Court doing the same. "How many," wonders the Post, "federal judges who oppose sunshine in their own courtrooms were nonetheless glued to their televisions, watching the arguments in Florida?"
The NYT runs an editorial seeing some sense in giving the Federal Election Commission $10 million to study how to modernize voting, and liking the idea of ATM-style voting machines. A letter to the Times makes a more practical suggestion: How about those lottery machines used by millions of Americans every week that reject improper entries on the spot?
With all that's going on, the papers can't be expected to explain everything, but Today's Papers really could have used some help with this from the WP: "Aides to GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush said they expect that Cheney will be able to resume his duties soon."