Winners & losers

In Week Two, Jeb Bush, "Chad" and Dick Nixon finish on top, while Katherine Harris, Jesse Jackson and ... Dick Nixon hit bottom.

By Jake Tapper

Published November 17, 2000 10:24PM (EST)

Last week, Mary Matalin and Ralph Nader were among those honored and dishonored. This week brought us a whole new cast of characters, some of whom would've been better off staying off the big stage:

WINNER -- Lawton Chiles. The former Democratic governor of Florida may be dead, but his legacy lives on in the six (of seven) justices sitting on that increasingly crucial state Supreme Court.

LOSER -- The networks, again. This time, Republicans are peeved that Florida was called for Vice President Al Gore before all the polls -- including those in the Republican panhandle in the Central time zone -- were closed. Congressional hearings on the whole mess, led by Louisiana Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin, are in the works.

WINNER -- Brother Jeb. His state's a mess, but he's remained out of the fray, keeping a low profile and recusing himself from the Elections Board in a way Secretary of State Katherine Harris -- Gov. George W. Bush's state co-chairwoman -- should have long ago.

LOSER -- Katherine Harris. Democrats point out that every move she's made has been consistent with what Austin would want her to do -- without exception. Republicans herald her courage, but if and when Bush ends up in the White House, she shouldn't count on making it through any U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for that ambassadorship she reportedly wants so badly.

WINNER -- Dick Nixon. Recast as a gracious loser by James Baker -- with major assists by the New York Times' Johnny Apple and William Safire -- recalling Tricky's fabled refusal to seek a recount after his close loss to Kennedy in 1960.

LOSER -- Dick Nixon. As David Greenberg presciently pointed out last month, Nixon thought he was robbed, and very well might have contested the result if he thought he stood a chance.

WINNER -- The "Chad." He's keeping us dangling in Florida while getting serious cross-marketing with heroic "Charlie's Angels" star turn.

LOSER -- Spot the dog. Naughty barking disrupted Daddy's press conference. As far as would-be presidential furballs go (Buddy, Checkers, Millie, Mike Dukakis), an inauspicious debut.

WINNER -- Law students. Democrats just filed a motion to compel compliance with the injunction. Republicans are appealing a decision by the Southern District Court of Florida to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. "Nothing sharpens students' attentions in terms of the subtleties of statutory language than this controversy," says Johnny Burris, a professor of Florida constitutional law at Nova Southeastern University's Shepard Broad Law Center.

LOSER -- Punch-card ballots. They were slammed 12 years ago in a 1988 National Bureau of Standards report called "Accuracy, Integrity and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying," which cited a 1984 election in none other than Palm Beach County as an example of the mess over "hanging chads." Too bad no one took the report seriously back then.

WINNER -- Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. One of the only Republicans not reading from the RNC's tiresome talking points. (All right, already, with the "Carnac the Magnificent" shtick.) Suggesting that a statewide hand recount seemed reasonable may have enraged the Austin powers, but it was a rare moment of candor and statesmanship.

LOSER -- Jesse Jackson. Democrats welcomed his arrival in Florida like FEMA welcomes hurricanes. Heckled off the stage in West Palm Beach, his "Every vote counts" rally ended up something of a bust.

Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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