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Dems Open Florida Wounds

Rekindling bitter memories, Democratic leaders accused President George W.
Bush of stealing the 2000 presidential election in Florida and pledged
Saturday to avenge that loss next year.

"We should be ready for revenge!" former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek implored a
cheering, whistling crowd of state Democratic convention delegates. The
party's presidential candidates promised to do just that.

"Everything that you care about ... is vanishing," Rep. Dick Gephardt of
Missouri told the crowd of 5,000. "Our good jobs are vanishing. Our civil
rights are vanishing. Our clean air and clean water is vanishing. Osama bin
Laden has vanished. Saddam Hussein has vanished."

"There is only one way to fix the problem," he said. "We've got to make
George Bush vanish."

Meeting amid the resorts and amusements of Disney World, the Democrats were
hearing from five other candidates in the November 2004 presidential
elections: front-runner Howard Dean, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Rep.
Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina and John
Kerry of Massachusetts.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was to address the group Sunday. Illinois
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun cited illness for missing the event and the Rev. Al
Sharpton
skipped it to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

The Supreme Court halted the 2000 recount of Florida ballots after five
weeks, with Bush ahead of Al Gore by just 537 votes out of 6 million cast.
The state's 25 electoral votes put Bush in the White House.

Democratic leaders hope memories of Gore's narrow defeat will inspire liberal
voters to turn out in record numbers against the Republican president.

"Al Gore won the state of Florida in 2000, and we should never forget it,"
Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe said. "We're going to beat George
Bush again in the state of Florida in 2004."

Ralph Reed, a Republican strategist who was defending Bush in hallway
interviews, said the Democrats' strategy of political vengeance will fail as
it did in 2002, when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - the president's brother - was
re-elected despite McAuliffe's promise to defeat him.

"People want their leaders ... to talk about the future. They don't want
anger and pessimism and personal attacks. They want a positive vision from
leaders looking forward," Reed said.

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