Gore had no prepared statement when he came out for the cameras in front of the White House (yes, the White House) Tuesday afternoon, but he did take questions. With relish.
"I don't feel anything other than optimistic," Gore said of the chances for his pending appeal with the Supreme Court. As for it being his last shot, well... "When the issues that are now being considered in the Florida Supreme Court are decided, that'll be an important point," Gore said. And when someone asked about Seminole and Martin counties, Gore reminded everyone that he wasn't attached to those cases and then speculated about their considerable merits for about five minutes, often with a big smile on his face.
"I don't know what'll happen there," Gore said. "I think that those two cases are likely to travel the same route as the case that went into Judge Sauls's court and will end up in the Florida Supreme Court."
"Final arbiter" may mean something different to Al Gore than we thought.
This was supposed to be the endgame. George W. Bush, pausing for different reporters in Austin before picking up his first CIA intelligence briefing, said he was ready to "seize the moment." In a fresh NBC poll, 63 percent believed Bush won, 59 percent believed Gore should concede. The Florida legislature is cooling its heels.
Even the markets are acting liberated. With some encouraging words from Alan Greenspan at their backs, the Dow surged 300 points and NASDAQ 200 by noon, as if the twin prospects of a president and lower interest rates had made all seem right with the world.
But with nuclear time bombs like Seminole and Martin ticking on Gore's side and a lightly regarded 11th Circuit Court appeal ticking on Bush's, Gore and Lieberman are making very clear that they consider the Dec. 12 deadline to be a two-way street.
Plan A: The attack on Sauls
There is a flickering possibility that Judge N. Sanders Sauls, who basically spit tobacco juice on David Boies' black Reeboks, left the Gore team a back door: what the judge deemed the "reasonable probability" that the hand count could "change or place in doubt the outcome of the election." And Boies' case is that there's only one way to tell.
De novo. Start fresh and count the votes. Sauls, the Gore lawyers say, shipped the ballots all the way to Tallahssee. He entered them in evidence. Then he took the word of two flimsy statisticians without ever looking at a warehouse fill of real evidence: the ballots themselves.
On Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., the Florida Supreme Court announced that it would hear Gore's appeal. But they're still looking at the same steaming pile that Sauls wouldn't touch. If they leave it be, they can play ball with SCOTUS, honor the canvassing boards anew, and maybe put Gore and this whole thing to bed. If they pick up a shovel looking for the pony, they've got to get it done in a week once, of course, they figure out how to do it or set off a whole new fire in the legislature. And boy, would Rehnquist ever be pissed.
Plan B: Winning ugly
Gore still has, as a forward-leaning Larry King put it to most of his 14 guests Monday night, "a couple of days." He'll be able to make a final decision on whether Seminole or Martin will put him over the top in the worst possible way, and whether he'd rather win the White House that way than go back to Carthage. (Tuesday's signs: You bet!) And whether it matters that most of professional Washington and the nation seems to be rooting for the Florida Supremes to put him down.
Tuesday, Gore sounded tired, but the fight clearly isn't out of him. The veep's lawyer/chum Ron Klain, spun Gore's mood Tuesday to NBC's "Today" as "very resolute, very strong, I thought, very inspiring.... In many ways, this most difficult moment has been his finest hour."
Gore intends to make it last a lot longer than that.