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Florida 2000
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Text: Gore on NBC's 'Today' Show
Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Following is the full transcript of Vice President Gore's interview with Claire Shipman on the "Today" show.

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Gore was absolutely relaxed and very upbeat and still very much focused on winning. He flatly rejected my suggestion, for example, that it may be impossible to ever get an accurate count in this race, because it was basically a tie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I don't agree that it was a tie. I think that when the American people vote, and it's a close election, I think it matters who they choose.

SHIPMAN: Did you win this election?

GORE: I certainly believe that I did.

SHIPMAN: Do you think there should be...

GORE: I understand that there's considerable doubt about that and that's why...

SHIPMAN: Do you think you should be president-elect right now? Do you?

GORE: Well, look, no, because the votes haven't been counted. I think that a clear majority of the people who went to the polling places and tried to vote did vote for Joe Lieberman and me. That happened in the country as a whole. I think it happened in Florida. But the votes have not all been counted yet.

SHIPMAN: You and Joe Lieberman say: Count every vote.

GORE: Yes.

SHIPMAN: But if this is about counting every vote, if you take the whole country, there are 1.2 million of those undervotes. Why not look more broadly at those undercounted votes?

GORE: Well, I think any time the election is close enough that ballots that for whatever reason have not been counted could make a difference, they should be counted. In fact, just last week in Texas there was a race that was close enough that they counted the undervote. And in accordance with the law Governor Bush signed in Texas, they looked at the indentations in the ballot or the chad and decided the race on that basis.

SHIPMAN: But let's say you get a judge to allow those some 10,000 ballots to be looked at by hand.

GORE: Right.

SHIPMAN: Say you pull ahead in the overall tally in Florida...

GORE: Right. I'm liking your hypothetical, so keep going.

SHIPMAN: ... and eventually win certification, don't you think that much of the country would look at that and say: That's not a legitimate result either, because the Gore campaign has essentially cherry-picked throughout Florida, finding counties that are heavily Democratic, to rack up those votes, and that's not a fair representation of the vote either?

GORE: No, I don't agree. First of all, I think this is going to happen. I think the law requires it to happen, and I think it will happen. But I offered a couple of times to have a hand count in the entire state. And when the Supreme Court of Florida raised that possibility, we said, ``Fine, let's do it.''

Now, why--the reason the Bush campaign did not accept that offer, I think, is that I think they believed that if there was a hand count of the entire state, our margin of victory would be even larger than it will be when these votes are counted in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

SHIPMAN: Do you think it's reasonable, if a canvassing board is already looking at those ballots and trying to determine to the best of their ability whether dimpled chads should count or not, and, indeed, counting some of them, do you think it's reasonable, then, to ask a judge to step in and say, ``We think all of those dimples should count.'' Isn't there any discretion allowed the local officials there in determining what is a vote?

GORE: Not under Florida law and not under Texas law. And in several jurisdictions that have had to actually face this question, they decide that if the voter has expressed a clear intent to vote, and the machine has fouled up in some way, then that should not deprive the voter of the right to vote. And if the voter has made a clear mark expressing intent to vote, then it ought to be counted. And, you know...

SHIPMAN: But that's what's so hard to determine, though, ``a clear mark,'' and everybody has a very different opinion about what's clear.

GORE: Well, it's a question of...

SHIPMAN: A lot of states don't count dimpled chads.

GORE: Well, the states that have carried this up to a decision by their Supreme Court do.

SHIPMAN: Tell us a little bit about this kind of presidential limbo that you're in, what that's like. You've worked so hard to be president, and this must feel like some kind of divine torture.

GORE: No.

SHIPMAN: What is it like every day?

GORE: Well, you know, I'm sure the Bush family is just like our family, in being prepared to win, being sort of prepared if it didn't go the right way to deal with that. But not expecting to have neither outcome, that takes some getting used to.

But, actually, Claire, we have been able to spend a lot of time together as a family. And after the rigors of the campaign trail, it's nice to sleep in the same bed every night.

SHIPMAN: I imagine that you must, some nights, lie awake plagued, thinking: What if I had just spent one more day in Florida? What if there wasn't a butterfly ballot? What if I had just won my home state of Tennessee, Florida wouldn't even be an issue.

GORE: I don't lie awake at night. I sleep like a baby. I've been getting seven, eight hours of sleep a night, and I am not tortured over what-ifs at all. And, in fact, I believe we're going to win this election.

SHIPMAN: What are the odds?

GORE: Well, I think they're still 50-50. I think that the court--I think the law is so clear in Florida that the votes are going to have to be counted and thousands of them, again, have not been counted.

SHIPMAN: You're in a race against the clock down there.

GORE: That's true.

SHIPMAN: I mean, you have got to get a lot accomplished by what many people, including the Florida Supreme Court, think are some reasonable deadlines.

GORE: Yes.

SHIPMAN: For example, December 12.

GORE: I think it will be over by the middle of December. I think it's most unlikely that it will go past that.

SHIPMAN: Have you given any thought to what you might do if you don't ultimately win this election?

GORE: No, not really. If I did not win, the first thing I would do is turn my attention to trying to help Governor Bush unify the country behind his leadership and make sure that there was no question about legitimacy of his win. That's one of the reasons why I'm focused now on this insistence that every vote be counted. And I would expect him to do the same thing if he lost.

SHIPMAN: But, again, if you don't win, but you feel that the process has been unfair, that you don't get the votes counted as you want, and I know that's a hypothetical...

GORE: Yes.

SHIPMAN: ... and I know you don't want to answer it, but can you imagine healing that sort of bitterness?

GORE: Yes. Yes, I could. I don't think that's going to happen. But, even in that situation, the country has a great need for unity and to minimize the feelings of rancor and bitterness.

SHIPMAN: Some of your advisers say that, in fact, you believe that the Bush campaign and Governor Bush are trying to steal this election.

GORE: No. No, no. I have never used that word, that phrase. And, in fact, I have publicly--well, in one public statement, urged my supporters never to use that phrase. I think that both Governor Bush and I should recognize an obligation, during this time when the votes are still to be counted, to try to restrain the passions of our partisan supporters.

SHIPMAN: How does it feel to be called a sore loser?

GORE: Well, the only people I've heard that from is from partisans on the other side who called me far worse than that before the election.

SHIPMAN: Have you given any thought to the idea that the real victor in this contest may be the man who walks away?

GORE: You know, I read people who spin that out, and I don't buy it at all. There were two very different visions of America's future presented by Governor Bush and myself. And if I was worried about the kind of situation that confronted me as president, I wouldn't have run in the first place.

SHIPMAN: Do you think public support for what you're doing right now matters?

GORE: Well, I don't think that we're having an election about the election. I think that we're having a test of our democratic principles. Will we count all the votes or not? Or will we allow those who are in charge of the electoral machinery to simply set aside thousands of votes that might determine the outcome?

Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself. Silencing the voice of a voter, silences the American spirit in a very real way. No matter how close an election is, the outcome must be decided by the people.

And you know what? When it's close, it means that the passions are high, it means that feelings are intense. And in a close election, it is even more important than at any other time for the outcome to be determined by the people, because that outcome is the one that will be accepted by all the people.

SHIPMAN: But then, again, I still don't understand, don't you think that if you get votes counted in part of Florida but not other parts of Florida where there are also ballots that were undercounted and sitting there, that that will also be viewed as an illegitimate...

GORE: No, I don't, because, you know, both campaigns had an equal opportunity to go out and register voters. Both had an equal opportunity to get people to turn out to the polls. Immediately after the election, both campaigns had an opportunity to look at where there might have been mistakes and to say under Florida law, ``Look, there are a lot of mistakes that we think took place in this county, this county and this county.'' The Bush campaign had that opportunity, we had that opportunity. And this is an extraordinary situation, Claire.

SHIPMAN: Is there any comfort in knowing that whatever happens, whatever the outcome of this is, that you have been part of something historic?

GORE: I mean, I'm really in love with our democracy. That sounds corny, I know, but, believe me, that is the way I feel. It is a thrill to take part in it. And so, sure, even without the close election and all that, you know, I could do without that part of it.

SHIPMAN: So you're not reveling in being part of this part of history?

GORE: Oh, no. No. I doubt that Governor Bush is either. I'm sure that both of us have some experiences and feelings that are very similar right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SHIPMAN: And we also asked the vice president a question a lot of people have been wondering about if he doesn't prevail now, would he do it all over again in 2004. He said: No comment. He wants to get the 2000 election over with first.


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