Text: Bush Campaign Press Conference
Thursday, November 9, 2000
Following is the transcript of the Bush campaign press conference with communications
director Karen Hughes, chairman Don Evans and chief strategist Karl Rove.
HUGHES: It's virtually impossible to try to get back to all of you,
and so we decided to have this briefing this afternoon in an effort to (OFF-MIKE)
Governor Bush has spent the day primarily in meetings at the governor's mansion.
He started the morning with an 8 a.m. meeting with members of his governor's
office--senior staff. He's also met with Condoleezza Rice--Dr. Condi Rice, his
chief foreign policy adviser. He has met several times with Secretary Cheney
and with members of our senior staff and advisers.
He had lunch with Secretary Cheney. This afternoon, he is meeting with Texas
Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry (ph), and, again, talking about state business
and how all of this affects the state of Texas.
I'm now going to introduce to you the chairman of our campaign, Don Evans,
and he has a statement from the campaign.
EVANS: Thank you, Karen, very much.
Good afternoon, all of you. Thank you for coming.
We've had a close vote for the presidency of the United States, especially
in Florida, and we must now complete an accurate recount there. We are confident
that an accurate recount will verify the results of Tuesday night, and that
Florida's Electoral College votes will be awarded to Governor Bush and Secretary
Cheney, giving then more than the 270 Electoral College votes required for the
Vice President's Gore campaign did not like the outcome of Election Day. And
it seems they're worried that they won't like the official recount results,
In addition, my counterpart at the Gore campaign has made some statements
about ballots in Palm Beach County that don't tell the whole story. He notes
that 19,000 ballots have been invalidated for over counting, casting votes for
two candidates of the same office. He neglects to point out that in 1966--1996,
a year with much lower turnout, a similar number of 14,872 ballots were invalidated
for double-counting in Palm Beach County, and statewide, 143,000 ballots were
invalidated for over-counting in 1996.
The Democrats, who are politicizing and distorting these events, risk doing
so at the--at the expense of our democracy. One of the options that they seem
to be looking at is new elections. Our democratic process calls for a vote on
Election Day; it does not call for us to continue voting until someone likes
Throughout this process it's important that no party to this election act
in a precipitous manner or distort an existing voting pattern in an effort to
misinform the public. This process requires a thoughtful, calm, serious and
And that is exactly why Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney asked that former
Secretary James Baker lead this effort on their behalf.
I would now like to ask our campaign chief strategist, Karl Rove, to brief
you on some of the specifics of Florida and around the country.
ROVE: Thank you, Chairman.
I'd like to address three points.
First of all, there were allegations raised today about a disproportionate
number of votes cast in Palm Beach County for Pat Buchanan. Not that we're defending
Pat Buchanan, but to set the record straight, there are 16,695 voters in Palm
Beach County who registered as a member of the Independent Party, the Reform
Party or the American Reform Party, which were the labels borne this year by
the reform effort in Florida. This in an increase of 110 percent over the registration
totals for the same party in 1996.
Throughout the rest of Florida, the registration increase for these parties
was roughly 38 percent. There are disproportionate share of Reform Party members
in Palm Beach County. For example, while there are 16,695 Palm Beach County
residents who have registered in the Reform Party, in the nearby county of Broward,
there are only 476 individuals registered to this party.
The second thing that was talked about was the so-called confusing butterfly
ballot. The Gore campaign has been handing out a somewhat hazy and fuzzy copy
of it, so we are making available to you, and can do so electronically as well,
a relatively clean and clear copy of the butterfly ballot, which indicates that
this is not as susceptible to confusion as Chairman Daley indicated.
In fact, I really thought it was ironic that Chairman Daley went to great
lengths to decry the butterfly ballot as confusing and undemocratic, because
I have here the copy of the Cook County, Illinois, judicial ballot, which is
a butterfly ballot.
It's been used in a number of states, in a number of counties, and it's historically
been used in Cook County, Illinois. Maybe Mr. Daley's in a better place to decry
democracy and confusion in Cook County than he is in Florida, if that's really
I'd also like to update you briefly on the fact that there are a continuing
series of vote counts around the country which are going to affect the outcome
of this election. In Colorado, there are approximately 10,000 votes, most of
them from northwest Colorado, which have yet to be counted.
I talked to the governor's office in Arizona. There are 168,000 absentee ballots
which are still in the process of being counted in that state, 90-some-odd thousand
of them are machine ballots, 60-some-odd thousand of them are hand-count ballots.
Most of these ballots are from Maricopa County where we ran better than two-to-one
or 2.5-to-one among the absentee ballots that have been counted so far.
In addition, there continues to be a vote in Oregon. There are two counties
in southern Oregon where they are still counting. And this is good turf for
And there are approximately between 570,000 and 700,000 mail-in ballots yet
to be counted in the state of Washington.
And I discussed this morning with the secretary of state's office in California
that there might be as many as 1 million absentee ballots yet to be counted
So we are confident that this will carry with it the likelihood of an increasing
number of popular votes for Governor Bush and a diminishing margin between the
I have copies here, which I'll be happy to provide to you afterwards, of the
butterfly ballot from Cook County, Illinois.
But we'd be happy to take questions.
QUESTION: You don't think that it is at all strange that are 43 times more
votes who voted for Pat Buchanan in Palm Beach County (OFF-MIKE)
ROVE: Well, I think--the question was, do we think that there is a
discrepancy with the fact that this is one of the more liberal counties in the
country, that Pat Buchanan got a large number of votes there?
There are also--he received--roughly 5 percent of the statewide funds raised
for this race in 2000 came from Palm Beach County and out of the state of Florida,
roughly 5 percent of the state-wide total.
And second of all, look, there are lots of Reform Party--Reform Party members
are more likely to vote for their nominee than are people who are not registered
in the Reform Party.
And the interesting thing to me is, is that between '96 and 2000 the Reform
Party labels in this county enjoyed a registration increase of 110 percent,
which would tend to indicate that the people who are changing their registrations
were motivated and enthusiastic, while in the rest of the state the party label
only saw an increase of 38 percent.
So I think that 110 percent indicates the new converts to the Reform Party
in that part of the state are probably more likely to be enthusiastic for voting
for their candidate this fall.
ROVE: I'm the numbers guy. I'd be happy to yield to the chairman.
EVANS: Well, I think the important thing to focus on right now is the
outcome of the recount, and that's where really our focus is. Do you need to
be thinking about governing the country? Certainly you do. I mean, we know what
the results were from election night, and so it's only appropriate that the
governor begin to think about governing this country.
But right now we're focused on the recount that we think will be concluded
today, and once we get that recount then we'll be making a statement from there.
EVANS: Well, again, I mean we had a count on Election Day; this is
the recount, and it's an automatic recount. And so I think if the recount shows
that--it confirms the Election Day results, which said that Governor Bush had
been elected president of the United States, then I think it's only appropriate
that, yes, he be thinks that's final.
QUESTION: I think the networks were the ones who declared the official (OFF-MIKE)
that he won. And in this recount, it seems that there's been a diminishing of
the margin between Governor Bush and Al Gore so far. If that margin stays small
enough then the remaining overseas absentee ballots are probably more numerous
than that margin, will you have to wait before you begin to act as (OFF-MIKE)
EVANS: Well, the overseas ballots have been traditionally overwhelmingly
Republican. Bob Dole won them by 15 points in 1996 and in 1992. So I think the
Democrats have conceded that the--the overseas ballots are likely to be--be
Republican, and we agree with them.
Let me mention...
EVANS: Well, their spokesmen have been quoted to that effect, yes.
Let me add--speaking of automatic recounts. I want to alert you that there
are at least three other states in which automatic recounts are likely. The
state of Wisconsin, the--Gore's lead has shrunk to 5,050 votes. I've talked
to Governor Thompson's chief of staff this morning, who says that he believes
that after the Tuesday canvas, this will fall under a standard that may require
a recount or offer the opportunity of a recount.
In the state of Iowa, the margin is now just several thousand votes between
Vice President Gore and Governor Bush. And this--and several ballot boxes from,
we think, Republican counties have yet to be counted. This may fall under the--the
automatic trigger that is--that exists in Iowa law.
ROVE: And there's also a recount going on, as we speak, in Bernalillo
County, New Mexico, Albuquerque, the largest county in the state; 27,000 ballots
were not counted on Election Night, and so they're rerunning the Bernalillo
County vote as we speak. That will be concluded about 10 tonight. I talked to
Senator Domenici earlier today, who said he anticipated that Governor Bush would
pick up a significant number of votes, though it's unclear whether they are
enough for us to carry New Mexico.
ROVE: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Is the campaign ready to take steps to support a recount in those
ROVE: Well, Iowa may be an automatic recount, simply because it falls
under an automatic trigger. We are waiting to see the results of the canvass
Tuesday night in Wisconsin, and to be guided by Governor Thompson in this respect.
ROVE: Well, as I say, Iowa is an automatic recount. The error in New
Mexico was discovered jointly by the Bush and Republican campaigns and election
officials, and they're rerunning that without any...
ROVE: Not at this time.
EVANS: Not at this time.
QUESTION: What do you think the country should be taking away from this? As
it is, the republic doesn't know who the next president is. And now today, there's
a marked escalation in the rhetoric, accusations about fair play or unfair play,
with regard to politicizing the process. What should be people make of all this?
HUGHES: Well, I think the country should look at the way the two campaigns
are approaching this. We have approached this in a calm, in a thoughtful, in
a responsible way. Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney asked Secretary Baker
to travel to Florida on their behalf. He's someone--a man of enormous integrity,
in whom the American people can feel great confidence.
The process is being governed by our laws. It is--obviously, sometimes in
a nation of elections, sometimes elections are close.
But we do have a process. The law in Florida has an automatic recount. There
has been a final vote count that showed that Governor Bush carried the state
of Florida and therefore was elected to the presidency on Tuesday night. There
is now an automatic recount under way under Florida law, and I think the American
people can be reassured that that recount is being conducted in a careful and
thoughtful and calm and responsible way.
HUGHES: Well, I think that some of the comments made at the news conference
earlier today were somewhat shrill. I think that it's troubling that Chairman
Daley is making an issue without giving you all all the facts about the ballots,
which Karl just explained.
I mean, I think it's certainly interesting that they're talking about double-counting.
Under our laws, if someone votes twice for the same office that is an invalid
ballot. And that not only occurred in this election, but it occurred in the
1996 election in comparable numbers in the same county which they're talking
about, and I think that is an important fact that the American people need to
know that unfortunately Chairman Daley omitted from his news conference.
QUESTION: Where is the documentary evidence on the actual (inaudible) Palm
Beach County that those (inaudible) votes that you claim were invalidated because
they were people voting twice?
ROVE: My understanding--well, first of all, let me make clear about
Palm Beach County.
The butterfly ballot and the ballot that was used in Palm Beach County was
prepared by the election authorities in that county, who are led by an elected
Democrat. Democrats designed the ballot, Democrats ran the Election Day, Democrats
led the count of the ballot.
My understanding is is that the program in the machines is designed to detect
instances where an individual votes for two candidates for the same office and
automatically rejects those. This is done by the computer scanning the ballot
and identifying a simple logic question for the computer: Did the person vote
for one candidate or two candidates for this office?
QUESTION: Do you have a magic number in mind after the recount above which
you'll feel justified in saying ``OK, it's over with (OFF-MIKE)
ROVE: Well, our view is that this is a process that on Tuesday night
yielded a winner. Tonight, we're confident, or tomorrow when the numbers are--we're
confident that we will be ahead. And the process ought to move forward.
We cannot stop and wait until the last ballot struggles in in Washington state
or the last ballot struggles in in Arizona or Iowa or Wisconsin before a orderly
and necessary set of steps are taken.
QUESTION: Do you expect (OFF-MIKE)
ROVE: We're going to wait and see.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Is it possible a lot of that happened before (OFF-MIKE)
ROVE: Well, it could have, but I would remind you that earlier this
year, one of the issues involved with the control of the Reform Party was who
were registered members who could then vote for delegates to the national nominating
convention of the Reform Party.
And as you recall, Pat Buchanan made an extraordinary effort to take his existing
support, garnered during the '96 presidential contest, and get them to register
as Reform Party members this year.
Now, remember this is a county that in 1996 gave 8,000 votes in the Republican
presidential primary to Pat Buchanan. This is a county where he has an active,
core group of volunteers, lead by a relative. And this is a county that has
been a disproportionate share of his money, out of the state of Florida, and
it's a part of the country where there are enclaves of strong conservatives.
And, yes, I suspect that if you go back and examine the record, you will find
that the reason for the dramatic expansion of the registration rolls is the
effort of Pat Buchanan to make certain that he was the nominee of the Reform
Remember, Florida was originally a non-Buchanan state, was in the Reform Party.
In fact, the anti-Buchanan chairman came from Florida.
QUESTION: Karl, you said a (OFF-MIKE) number of uncounted ballots across the
country, and the number of ballots that would be recounted in various states,
are you suggesting that truly there's a chance that Governor Bush will move
ahead in the popular vote?
ROVE: Well, I just--I suggest that we're likely to see the margin close.
And we ought to--if we're going to make--if people are going to make strong
statements based on the popular vote, as it exists now, we--we ought to temper
them, because there're a large number of--of popular votes still outstanding.
I'm not suggesting that the absentee ballots will necessarily change the outcome
in Arizona, they won't. Our margin in Arizona will continue to rise.
I'm not certain that they will change the outcome in California, though, I
do believe that--that the margin between Vice President Gore and us in California
is likely to diminish.
ROVE: I can assure you, there's not going to be a party tonight. As
you know, we're meeting at the Dell Community Center because every facility
in the city of Austin is booked. And while we're grateful for Michael Dell's
gift to the community--to the people of Austin, in the community center, there's
physically no place to do it.
QUESTION: How is the governor doing? What's going through his mind?
HUGHES: Well, obviously, the governor is very interested in the situation
in Florida. He is receiving regular updates from Secretary Baker. He is very
calm. He's upbeat. I spoke to him by telephone early this morning, and he told
me I had better get to the office because there was a lot going on. And he said
that it sounded from my voice like I was sleepy. Unfortunately, it was that
I was sleepy, it was just that I'm losing my voice from talking so much.
He is upbeat. He has been in a series, as I said, all day of meetings, and
is beginning to think through, as Chairman Evans indicated--beginning to through
some of the planning for a transition, should the vote tonight confirm that
that is, in fact, the outcome of this election.
QUESTION: Does he not have some concern that all the controversy surrounding
this will have some impact on his presidency, should he prevail, that this will
always be a cloud over the presidency?
HUGHES: Well, David, first of all, I would point out that Governor
Bush, in this election, has received more popular votes than President Clinton
did in either of his two elections, in either 1996 or in 1992.
So Governor Bush has obviously earned a great deal of support and the confidence
of the American people in the course of this election.
We'll let you--we'll have to see the results of today's recount. There is
a recount--an automatic recount under way. We've had one final count, on Tuesday
night, and now we've got a recount under way.
HUGHES: I wouldn't say a great deal of time at this point. There have
been some discussions--some preliminary discussions. As you know, those started
back before the election, and both candidates, both campaigns--I think all responsible
campaigns realize that you need to do some preliminary planning prior to even
Election Day. So there are some discussions.
But I would say that most of our staff time, most of our discussions and most
of Governor Bush's time today has been--he's talked with his state officials
on state government business. He's also been receiving--I think most of the
meeting that I was in with him we were getting an update on the situation in
HUGHES: Well, under our American democratic system what matters is
who earns 270 Electoral College votes. But I was just pointing out that I do
think the people who raise the issue of the popular vote, it is interesting
to look at it in context and realize that Governor Bush earned more popular
votes than President Clinton did during both of his two previous elections.
HUGHES: Well, I think that all these ``if'' questions start with ``if''
for a reason. And I think what we'll have to do is--we'll be glad to answer
those kind of questions once this recount is complete.
ROVE: All right. There's--officially, when you're talking about large
quantities of votes there tend to be differences. But what's interesting to
me is, of the 67 counties in Florida, there are either exactly the same results
or virtually the same results, that is to say within 1, or 2, or 3, or 4, or
5 votes, in probably 63 of the 67 counties or 64--or 62 of the 67 counties.
The changes in the ballots have been largely isolated to several counties, the
most prominent of which is Palm Beach.
In fact, we have sent a letter to the Palm Beach authorities raising a question,
because if you look at the number of ballots that they said on Election Night
had been cast in the county and compare it to the precinct-by-precinct canvass
that was conducted yesterday, the number of ballots in each of those reports,
the Tuesday night report and the Wednesday report, are virtually the same.
However, if you look at their certification to the state, they show 800 more
ballots than they had either on Tuesday night, or that you could arrive at by
looking at the precinct-by-precinct summaries; 600 votes for Vice President
Gore and 200 votes, roughly, for Governor Bush. So this is a disturbing difference.
But, look, it's not unusual to have a one-or two-point--or one-or two-vote
difference in a county tabulation. What's interesting to me, is how many counties
reflected no difference and how many counties had only one or two.
But the one county that has the largest discrepancy between Tuesday night's
vote total and Wednesday's canvass, and then the number that they're apparently
submitting to the state is Palm Beach County.
QUESTION: ... does it look the same way, the...
ROVE: They're--no, the first page is different. On the butterfly ballot
in Chicago they placed the presidential race on a different page from--you have
to turn that page in order to get there. You would have to turn it back, from
QUESTION: I know, but one of questions is, is it laid out the same way? You're
suggesting that the county was equally as confusing, that that's what it is
to Palm Beach.
ROVE: What I'm suggesting is, Bill Daley's standard, which is, you
should not use a butterfly ballot, because it is undemocratic and confusing,
is questionable, given the fact that Cook County uses the same ballot, as do
the state of Ohio, for example, and a large number of other states.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) it doesn't look like that for the office of president,
ROVE: I can't recall the specifics of that page. But it's a butterfly
ballot, which is--which is the point of his remarks.
ROVE: Pardon me? It's the same structure, yes.
There are holes beside each one of these arrows. So you can have the same
ROVE: Well, here you have--yes, you can have three names right here.
Here's one, here's one and here's one. You could have three options next to
ROVE: I believe that we have an Election Day for the purpose of having
an election. And in this country at least we don't follow the practice of some
other countries in the world and hold elections and hold elections until somebody
gets the outcome that they desire--in the place that they want to have the election.
QUESTION: Given that the polls were open later (OFF-MIKE) more than likely
Democratic candidates. What's your thought?
ROVE: It was in the city of St. Louis the polls were kept open for
some hours after the close of the polls in the rest of the state. I know Senator
Kit Bond feels very strongly about this. We've not taken a position on it. It
does affect the outcome, we think, of the presidential race. They're compiling
information about how much it may have affected the presidential contest, but
we've taken no steps beyond that.
HUGHES: Thank you all very much. Thank you.
QUESTION: If, in fact, you get the announcement in Florida, whatever
it is, will we see your face again? (OFF-MIKE)
HUGHES: I will be glad to brief you no matter what the outcome is.
As soon as we know an outcome, we will let you know and we'll have some sort
of formal briefing and let you know. We'll let you know.
HUGHES: No, it was not.
HUGHES: I'm sorry? I don't know that decision's been made yet. We will
keep you posted.
HUGHES: Again, if we know tonight. We don't know for certain yet--the
secretary of state requested that all the counties certify the recount by 5
We do not know yet whether that, in fact, will be accomplished. There's no--almost
all of them have completed, that's correct. I believe there are still eight
or nine that have not completed it. So we just have to wait until we hear from
the state of Florida.
HUGHES: Again, those are the types of decisions we'll have to make
once we complete the recount.
Thank you all.
HUGHES: I know that it was scheduled to take place I believe at 2 our
time, so I believe it has, but I have not heard a report.
(END OF AUDIO FEED)