A Hot Week In The Sunshine State

gore bush florida
CBS
No one is going to win Florida this weekend.

Florida's top election official cannot award the state's 25 electoral votes to anyone until Florida's highest court rules on legal arguments Democrats and Republicans are making on Monday afternoon.

Saturday, George W. Bush picked up 1,380 votes and Al Gore got 750 votes from Floridians living overseas, bringing Bush's statewide lead to 930, up from about 300. Meanwhile, manual recounts of more than 1.7 million ballots continue in three counties, where Democratic spinners say Gore will pick up votes.

Democrats filed a brief in Florida Supreme Court Saturday afternoon, arguing that Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris has no "discretion" to decide against including the results of the recounts in the final statewide tally. Republicans file an answering brief Sunday.

In their 60-page brief, the Democrats said that the intent of the Florida law that provides for manual recounts is to allow sufficient time for the recount to be accomplished.

"It cannot be the case that the Legislature provided for full manual recounts to determine the accurate and controlling vote tally, while allowing the Secretary to certify a winner prior to when the recount can be completed," the brief reads.

In terms of the timeline, the Broward County recount of 588,000 votes is under way, and Gore has been picking up votes there. A hand count of 462,350 ballots also continues in Palm Beach County.

The state's largest county, Miami-Dade, did not decide until Saturday what to do with its 654,000 ballots. Although a sample recount of three precincts last week turned up very few discrepancies, Miami-Dade official decided to go ahead with a recount, beginning Sunday, with 25 teams planning to work 12-hour days for ten days.

All three counties are Democratic strongholds where results could help Gore.

Saturday's legal filings capped off a roller-coaster week of legal and political maneuvering where the advantage, or perception thereof, shifted many times and litigators with national reputations squared off against local officials.

When Harris announced Wednesday night that she would certify the sum of the last machine recount plus the overseas ballots - and ignore the recounts - a Bush victory seemed all but assured.

But the wind changed Friday, with both Florida's highest court and a federal court ruling Gore's way. While neither decision expresses an opinion about the parties' complaints regarding the inclusion and propriety of the recounts, the rulings bought Gore time this weekend; and the Atlanta federal court ruling, which instructed Republicans to take their constitutional complaints to Florida's courts first, removed the possibility that the federal court could trump any Democratic gains in the Florida courts and canvassing boards.

All the while, the campaigns - they're still campaigns, after all - handled the public relations side of their political death matcrather differently.

Gore addressed the cameras twice this week, once breaking in live to the networks' nightly newscasts, forcing Bush to hightail it back to Austin from his ranch to respond.

The Texas govenror has kept a lower profile, leaving the blood sport to spokeswoman Karen Hughes, campaign chairman Don Evans and former Secretary of State James Baker.

Until Saturday, the Bush tack was to question the reliability of the process, which they complain is at least subjective, if not corrupt, and to point up possible irregularities in the hand counts that could prejudice Bush.

But Saturday, Hughes and Montana Governor Mark Racicot took a more aggressive stand, calling an afternoon news conference to allege a Democratic conspiracy to discount soldiers' overseas ballots, which have been going for Bush 2-to-1.

"There is something terribly, terribly wrong with what's going on in the state of Florida," said Racicot, who seized on reports that up to 39 felons has voted illegally. "The American people have sound reason and substantial reason to question the validity of these hand counts."

The political conversation will continue on the Sunday morning shows.

CBS News' Face the Nation will host retired Sens. Howard Baker, a Republican, and Sam Nunn, a Democrat, who's been mentioned as a possible cross-party cabinet appointee in a Bush administration.

Many political observers think the Florida fight would benefit from the intervention of so-called "wise men" like Baker and Nunn, who have worked across party lines in times of national crisis - Baker in Watergate and Nunn during th Persian Gulf War.