Pundits await the concession


Eric Boehlert
November 3, 2004 7:39PM (UTC)

For now, television's chattering class, still groggy from another campaign all-nighter, is being respectful about John Kerry's decision not to concede the presidential race Tuesday night. But there is the sense that if there isn't an announcement from Boston by noon or so, that mood could change.

Given the steep mathematical battle the Kerry camp faces, a concession is almost certainly in the works. A brief e-mail message sent out Wednesday morning announcing that three key, grass-roots Democratic groups -- America Coming Together, America Votes and the Media Fund -- had canceled their 11:30 a.m. press briefing was one of several small indications that any potential Democratic battle over uncounted votes was being waved off.

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On the morning shows much of the talk centered on a pending concession. C. Boyden Gray, a legal advisor to President Bush's father, told CNN, "I think it's over. As a complete practical matter, it's over, and Kerry should concede. But it is a political decision."

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, who worked on behalf of Vice President Gore during the Florida recount in 2000, stressed, "I think that the old saying 'It's not over until it's over' is relevant here. As a matter of law, even as a matter of mathematics, [I don't think] you can say for sure when you add the [Ohio] absentee and provisional ballots [and] when you carefully count. We're not talking about recounting or challenging or contesting a result. Notice there are no lawyers running around here. It's just a question of the secretary of state [in Ohio] counting these votes."

But looking at Ohio, the vote deficit Kerry faces (136,000) and the number of outstanding provisional ballots that remain uncounted (approximately 140,000), CNN legal analyst Jeffery Toobin concludes that there "just doesn't seem to be any way that John Kerry can find 136,000 net new votes out of this universe."

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mark Racicot, chairman of the Bush reelection team, dutifully played the concession card on TV, with Giuliani telling CNN that Kerry should step aside "because it [a win] can't be done. You've got to face reality." Asked when Bush would declare victory, Racicot said, "He's trying to extend the appropriate courtesies and be gracious under the circumstances and allow the Kerry campaign, in the cold, hard light of day, to take a look at the conclusion. And sometimes you become overcome by the facts. It is not easy. When they released the statement last night [insisting Kerry could still win], you still had on the board a number of different states. Those states have now been resolved. When they look at it this morning, they'll come to that" conclusion.

At ABC News, former Bill Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos reported, "The maneuvering continues. I talked to a very senior Bush official a couple of minutes ago, and he announced that President Bush would give a speech, and now they postponed it. What they are doing, as this official said to me, is giving Sen. Kerry a berth to do the right thing -- to send the signal and now give a few hours if that's what it takes for Sen. Kerry to come out and make his own announcement."

Asked what kind of advice supporters are likely sending Kerry Wednesday morning, Stephanopoulos said, "I'm sure Democrats are calling him and his campaign privately to say the same thing. It won't take long. The numbers speak for themselves. It is a huge popular-vote victory for President Bush. It is virtually impossible to go over the top in Ohio. You just talk about going out with dignity and grace."

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Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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