Yesterday's arguments before the Florida Supreme Court on the status of manual recounts lead all around. The papers are so focused on the latest election news that none puts above the fold yesterday's bombing of an Israeli school bus and Israel's response of hitting Palestinian Authority offices with anti-tank missiles.
Perhaps the New York Times front-page court color piece gives the most elegant statement of the crux issue exercising the judges and lawyers yesterday: Florida election law permits manual recounts but does not provide enough time to get them done. And the leads make it clear that time emerged as the judges' main concern. As the Washington Post lead's first paragraph puts it, in their questions to the lawyers on both sides, the judges "displayed a keen sense of the Electoral College calendar." Indeed, the Post then goes high with a suggestion by Gore lawyer David Boies that manual recounts should be included as long as they do "not impair the full certification in time to permit the selection of electors by Dec. 12," which, as the NYT lead explains, is the federal deadline for states to name their Electoral College slates. The Wall Street Journalmain story on the hearing runs this Boies approach much lower but says that the court seemed favorably inclined to something like it. The Los Angeles Times lead adds to the sense that the court may well allow recounts that don't interfere with Florida's Electoral College participation when it reports that the court "repeatedly raised the prospect of allowing the recounts to go on for several more weeks." The paper drives the point home by noting that the chief justice at one point asked "when--not whether" amended vote totals must be added to the state's certification to meet the Electoral College deadline.
The NYT lead editorial expresses the impression that the court will rule that Florida's secretary of state will have to wait for the results of the hand recounts before certifying the official result. USA Today reports that both sides in the election dispute interpreted the judges' questions as "signaling sympathy toward hand recounts." The paper adds that the court hearing left Bush aides "dispirited" and the Gore side "cautiously optimistic." That NYT front-page color piece says that when the chief justice was bearing down on the Gore lawyers, James Baker, who was in the courtroom, grinned, but that "his smile was soon to diminish."
None of the leads detects any adverse effect caused by televising these proceedings.
The papers report that the Florida attorney general, a Democrat, has told the state's election officials to review their previous decision to reject some 1,400 overseas absentee ballots, many of them from active-duty military voters, because the ballots lacked a postmark. The WSJ says the advisory isn't likely to have much effect. The WP says it "carried no force of law." The LAT describes the attorney general as "following cues from the Gore campaign." The WP lead says that Gore campaign officials said "privately" (in a sense of that word that includes telling the WP) that the Bush campaign had "scored politically" in attacking the Gore camp for preventing service members from voting.
The coverage agrees that Al Gore has not picked up a lot of votes in the ongoing recounts. The papers' consensus is that the pace of his increase is not enough to overtake George W. Bush unless dimpled or one-corner chad are counted as valid votes, an issue the Florida Supreme Court may well rule on if they allow the recounts to go on. Everybody also has a Palm Beach judge ruling that despite butterfly ballot confusion, he can't order a county revote.
The LAT, which yesterday (along with the WSJ) documented some faltering among Gore supporters, today sees more of the same. The paper's lead quotes an unnamed "Democratic strategist" saying, "If Gore loses the Supreme Court ruling or wins [and] then loses the hand count, I think there's not going to be a lot of patience left for further appeals." By contrast, the story also reports the Republicans have plans to persist "even if the legal or vote-counting tide turns against Bush" and quotes the new Florida House speaker, a Republican, as saying the Republican-run state legislature might step in to appoint Florida's Electoral College slate if the dispute isn't settled by Dec. 12.
A WSJ piece reports that both parties are doing famously with the Internet in their just-ginned-up efforts to meet their unexpected recount expenses. The paper says the Republicans are raising more money with their more aggressive use of the technology. One Republican involved tells the paper, "Web fund raising is a license to print money."
The NYT reports that e-mails released yesterday by Jeb Bush's office included one that may impugn his stated recusal from the recount dust-up. Alerted to a voter's complaint about receiving phone calls urging her to call the governor to complain about disallowed votes, Bush passed on the information to key aides with this tag: "This is a concerted effort to divide and destroy our state." One, his press secretary, responded: "Ve have our vays also. I'm working on this." (Phony German spelling in the original.)
Gail Collins, in her NYT Thanksgiving column, writes that she is particularly thankful she does not have to spin for either candidate. Especially since that means she does not have to denounce on behalf of George W. Bush the 39 Florida voters who turned out to be convicted felons, which would have required working up a rage over a voting convicted drunken driver.