Decision Points: The Presidency of Al Gore

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by hcallega, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. hcallega Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    The 2000 presidential election and ensuing recount are among the most controversial events of the 2000s. Recounts, legal battles, and public protests followed one of the closest elections in American history. The Supreme Court's ruling that ended the Florida recount left many Americans feeling that democracy had been denied. Yet all of the anger and frustration came after an election in which most voters saw little difference between Al Gore and George Bush. Few would argue the same twelve years later. The 9/11 attacks, War in Iraq, financial crisis, and exploding debt turned the Bush Presidency into a crucially important era in American history. Historians will look to this period as an era of immense polarization and frustration directed at the government. Despite predictions to the contrary, George W. Bush was certainly not a care-taker president.

    But what if the Florida recount had turned out differently? What if Al Gore had pursued a more aggressive and comprehensive strategy from the start? What if the Florida State Supreme Court had issued a "single uniform standard for voter intent?" More importantly, what would an Al Gore presidency have looked like? I attempt to answer these questions in my newest timeline, Decision Points. This is by no means a perfectly detailed story. Many of you will certainly disagree with my interpretation of this would-be American President. My goal is not to satisfy everyone, nor is it to write a biased "told-you-so" narrative in an attempt to prove conservatives wrong. This timeline is simply an attempt to craft the most realistic Al Gore presidency.

    I used many sources in writing this timeline. Two sources were of particular influence in crafting the general plot ark: 43* by Jeff Greenfield and Tony and Al by AH.com user Well (it can be found here:https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=243933). These two takes on a different 2000s provided some interesting ideas, though I differed on some major points. That's largely due to the goals of the authors. My goal is to be more comprehensive and less thematic. Other sources included extensive news articles and profiles of the Bush Presidency and Congress at the time.

    The first post will come shortly. I hope you all enjoy it.

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  2. NickCT Well-Known Member

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    Aug 28, 2010
    I am very excited!! Interesting that you used the title of Dubya's memoirs for the title of this TL
     
  3. terrellk Well-Known Member

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    Jul 31, 2010
    Very interested. Can't wait to see how this goes!
     
  4. MrHuman Well-Known Member

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    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Subscribed!
     
  5. rudebadger Well-Known Member

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    North South East and West of here.
    I guessing that you'll do something about Gore's concession phone call to Bush in the last hours of election day and then his retraction of it? Now that would be interesting! :D
     
  6. Historico Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2004
    I just picked up Greenfield E-Book on Kindle and re-watch HBO's Recount. 43* is pretty good so far, were you looking at using the same POD? Or a completely different campaign from the jump? Whatever you decide, Ill be watching buddy!
     
  7. hcallega Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Chapter 1

    Election Night

    It was one of the closest elections in American history, and it wasn’t over yet. After over a year of campaigning, hundreds of stump speeches, and millions of dollars spent on advertising, there was no clear winner. Polls had shown a tight race, but few expected just how close (and just how chaotic) the election would turn out to be. This was quite a surprise on the surface. The incumbent President was riding sky-high approval ratings while the economy flourished. Yet his party’s nominee struggled throughout the race and needed a last-minute comeback to stay alive. His opponent, stung by revelations of drunk driving, was never able to build a comfortable lead. Time after time, he was given opportunities to pull away from his stumbling opponent. Yet every time some controversy or gaffe kept the race close. Third party candidates from both ideological extremes also drew coverage, siphoning key support from both mainstream nominees. The 2000 election was a political circus, from start to finish. But unlike most great shows, this one didn’t know when to end.
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    The 2000 Presidential race began in June of 1999. The frontrunners from both major parties declared their candidacies that month. Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George Bush entered the election cycle as their parties’ frontrunners. They both commanded substantial war chests, the endorsements of party leaders, and solid leads in the polls. Yet the two men could not have been more different. Gore was an academic who had served in elected office almost his entire life. His father was a Senator from Tennessee, and Gore, Jr. was elected to Congress at the age of 28. He was a pragmatic centrist who took his time in analyzing ever side of every issue. He was meticulous and precise. But Gore was also seen as arrogant and condescending. His incredible intellect was often his worst enemy. Reporters grimaced at having to interview a candidate who was sure to correct them on any mistake or blunder. Al Gore was a braniac, and he made sure everyone knew it.

    The Republican nominee, George Bush, was almost the total opposite of Gore. He was charismatic, relatable, and easy-going. Voters felt like he was one of them. Bush spent most of his adult life in business. His successes in the white-collar world were mixed at best, yet he knew his way around both a board room and a baseball diamond (he was a minority owner of the Texas Rangers). His first political campaign ended in defeat, but he came back in 1994 to win the Texas Governor’s mansion. Bush’s politics were a new breed of “compassionate conservatism.” He didn’t offer the tough-love, small government talking points that doomed Newt Gingrich and many other Congressional Republicans. Instead, Bush talked about improving education, freeing up faith-based groups, and unleashing the potential of entrepreneurs and innovators. These were popular policies, and the Texas Governor knew how to sell them. Nonetheless, George Bush had his fair share of problems. For one, he wasn’t the most articulate public speaker. He often misspoke, often comically. More significantly, voters felt as though he didn’t have the necessary experience in international affairs. But George Bush’s biggest problem was one from his past.

    Polls showed a narrow lead for Bush heading into November. He had fought a hard race, defeating Arizona Senator John McCain in a brutal contest for the Republican nomination before turning to Gore. On the Democratic side, the primary fight was much less divisive. Gore took his party’s nomination easily. Both candidates raised massive sums of money for the general election. They quickly spent it, buying ads across the country and deploying armies of foot soldiers to deliver their message. Both Bush and Gore made surprising selections for their running-mates. Gore chose Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, a practicing Jew and political moderate. Lieberman had been a harsh critic of President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial, and his selection symbolized a major break with the sitting administration. On the Republican side, Bush selected long-time family friend and former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. His selection surprised many political insiders who expected Bush to choose a member of Congress or sitting Governor. But Cheney would prove to be a major asset on the trail. He lent business and foreign policy experience to the ticket, and bested Lieberman in the debates.
    The Presidential debates offered an opportunity for both candidates to improve their standing with the electorate. Bush led in the polls at the time, and had an opportunity to dispel criticisms that he lacked a deep knowledge of the issues. Gore, an experienced debater, had a chance to draw even in the polls. Both campaigns invested time into preparing their candidates in an attempt to win over crucial swing voters. The results proved surprising. For the most part, Bush effectively portrayed himself as a straight-shooter who could get things done. On the other side, Gore appeared arrogant and condescending towards Bush. It was a missed opportunity for the Democrat, one that he could ill afford.
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    As the election headed into the home stretch, it appeared as though Bush would narrowly defeat Gore in the popular vote. But many Republicans feared that the Vice-President would manage to win in the Electoral College. The Bush campaign went so far as to brief surrogates about the possibility of this result and how to go about challenging Gore’s legitimacy in the media. Meanwhile, the Democrats campaigned desperately in an attempt to pull out a shocking comeback. Turnout efforts were focused in the “rust-belt” states which voted for Clinton in the 1990s, but had supported Reagan in the ‘80s. Gore needed that region to win, while Bush had invested heavily there in an attempt to ensure his victory.

    The fate of the American presidency changed in a small town news station in Maine. Erin Fehlau, a reporter for WPXT TV, discovered just a week before the election that George Bush had been arrested for DUI in 1976. The station ran with the story. On November 2, just five days before the election, Bush admitted that the story was true. His top campaign adviser, Karl Rove, had known about the arrest for some time. He urged Bush to come clean shortly after he sewed up the Republican nomination. Bush was leading in the polls and the general election was still months away. Voters would likely forget about such an indiscretion if it was brought up in the early summer. But Bush had refused to disclose the arrest, and now it threatened to cost him. Many social conservatives and evangelicals were turned off by this story, and would chose to stay home on Election Day. It’s quite possible that American history would be very different if Governor Bush had followed his strategist’s advice and been honest when he could afford to. Instead, Al Gore was given just the opportunity he needed to pull even and have a chance to win the White House.

    Election Night promised to be a strenuous affair for both candidates. Exit polls showed a dead-heat between Bush and Gore. The American electorate promised to be more divided than in any election since 1976; perhaps even more so when considering the likely geographic and cultural divides in the polls. The 1990s had brought with them the promise of a new American electorate. The Presidency of Bill Clinton had certainly brought change to the Democratic Party, shifting it from the old tenets of the New Deal to the gospel of the Third Way. The Republican Party reacted by shifting to the right, particularly on social issues. Meanwhile, the popularity of Ross Perot and the election of several independent governors across the country raised the possibility of third party success of the national scale. But the 2000 election appeared to have little in common with the decade that preceded it. Democratic gains in Dixie and the Southwest seemed likely to swing back to the Republican camp. Surprisingly, it was the GOP’s candidate who attempted to “triangulate” and shake off the aggressive partisanship of the Gingrich Congress. The candidacy of Ralph Nader (running under the Green Party banner) threatened to siphon votes from Gore, but stood little chance of winning the 5% necessary to receive federal funding. In short, 2000 was more a regression to the mean than a continuation of the ‘90s political evolution.
    The first polls closed at 6:00 PM. In the next several hours, the race for the Presidency would take shape. The early states for Bush, unsurprisingly. Some were traditional Republican strongholds like Indiana, while others were more recent conservative converts in the South. But two critical swing states also began counting their results before 8:00. Ohio, the classic bellwether state, appeared to be trending Bush. But the polls were far too close for the networks to call the state. Further south, the Sunshine State of Florida was finally wrapping up what had been a chaotic campaign season. Both the Bush and Gore campaigns had invested heavily in the state. Anticipating losing many of the Southern states Clinton had won, Gore needed Florida to reach 270 electoral votes. For the Bush campaign, Florida was important, though perhaps less so than for the Democrats. Led by strategist Karl Rove, the Republican nominee invested a great deal of time in traditionally Democratic states like California, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, Florida was very close to Bush’s heart. His brother, Jeb, was Governor of the State. A tightly fought Senate race would also draw voters to the polls. Florida was the crucial state in the election, one that both candidates had spent millions to win.

    It was surprising to many that the Associated Press called Florida for Gore before 8:00 PM. Most expected the Sunshine State to be one of the last to be decided. The Gore camp was ecstatic. Unless Bush was able to steal a Democratic-leaning state in the Midwest or Northeast, Gore was likely to be the next President. But down in Austin, the Bush team was furious. The polls hadn’t even closed in the Panhandle. That was Bush Country, the most reliably Republican region in the state. Karl Rove was on the phone instantly, berating news center pollsters, telling them their information was wrong and that they were suppressing turnout in the precincts that were still open. But for over an hour, the networks didn’t budge. State after state came in, some to Bush, some to Gore. The Vice-President got big wins in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two states Bush would need to mitigate the loss of Florida. As many in the country went to bed, it appeared that the Democratic hold on the White House would continue for four more years.

    Then everything changed. Just before 10:00, the networks took Florida off the Gore tally. It was undecided, exactly where most pollsters expected it would be. The air went out of the Gore campaign. The race was suddenly wide open. With big Bush victories in Arkansas and Tennessee, the Texas Governor only needed Florida to win the Presidency. For the next four hours, the networks sat on their hands as the votes were counted. Then, at 2:00 AM, the state was called for Bush. He had gone from being the night’s first big loser to seemingly the clear winner. He held a 50,000 vote edge over Gore, one that was seemingly insurmountable. At 2:30, the Vice-President of the United States called the Governor of Texas to concede. A half-an-hour later, he made his way to the War Memorial Plaza in Nashville to publically admit that George Bush, not Al Gore, would be the next President of the United States.

    But something was wrong. In Gore campaign headquarters, staffers noticed that Bush’s lead was rapidly shrinking. Just as Gore’s lead had shrunk at the results flowed in, so too did Bush’s. Florida was still too close to call, especially with the election on the line. Panicked, the Gore campaign staffers scrambled to get a hold of their candidate. Just as the Vice-President made his way to the podium, he was stopped and told what was happening. Gore, never one to admit he was wrong, picked up the phone and called George Bush. The race wasn’t over, and Al Gore was going to fight to keep it that way.
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  8. Historico Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2004
    Awesome update, can't wait to see how Gore secures his election, Keep it Comming!!!
     
  9. Emperor Norton I Calbear's Love Child

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    New Netherland
    Suggestion: For images, upload via imageshack. Imageshack may possibly digitally deteriorate your images over time, but linking from other sites brings up problems of links being broken, refusing to show the image, and possible virus issues if the website the image comes from is compromised.
     
  10. hcallega Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Appreciated. I'll do this in the future.
     
  11. EvilSpaceAlien Systeeeemkollaaaaps

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    May 23, 2010
    Location:
    E DU GO ELLER!?
    Personally, I prefer to use imgur since I find them better than imageshack, but whatever...

    Anyway, I've been dying to see a good president Gore timeline on this forum, so it's Nice to finally see one. You know, for all this talk about how a Gore victory in 2000 is an AH cliché, there doesn't seem to be a lot of timelines covering that subject on here... Either way, this is off to a great start. Consider me subscribed.
     
  12. Turquoise Blue Blossoming Tibby!

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    Yeah! A President Gore TL!
     
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  13. hcallega Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Chapter 3

    Recount

    As Al Gore called George Bush to take back his concession, a superstar team was being assembled to fly down to Florida. They were a group of elite campaigners, lawyers, and party loyalists who understood the machinery of politics and the courts. They were led by Ron Klain, a longtime Gore ally who had been exiled from the campaign's inner circle until that night, and Warren Christoper, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Klain and Christopher both had experience in law and politics. They would need their expertise to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. Their counterpart, Bush family friend and former cabinet member Jim Baker, was also on his way to Florida. It was his job to fight the Gore team at every turn and concede nothing. The results were so close that any inch given to the Democrats could end up putting Al Gore in the White House. Baker would simply not allow it.

    The machine recount was completed on November 10th. The Bush campaign insisted that whatever that those results should decide who won Florida's coveted electoral votes. But the recount produced a razor-thin margin of just 327 votes out of 6 million cast. The Democratic legal team expected something like this to happen. They knew that Bush would most likely win the machine recount due to voting irregularities in many heavily Democratic counties. With a margin so close, they had a legitimate claim to push for hand recounts. But how, and on what scope? Christopher had come close to calling for hand recounts in four Democratic counties on November 9th, but at the last minute decided to wait until the machine recount was done. The closeness of the results would grant a degree of legitimacy to any further recounts that a premature announcement would lack. But with the machine recount completed, the Gore was forced to make a decision. There were two competing ideas. One was to pursue a limited number of recounts in Democratic-leaning counties. This plan was supported by Christopher, who sought to prevent a protracted and legally messy process. The alternative was to go for the gold ring: manual recounts in all of Florida's 67 counties. This strategy was supported by Klain and strategist Michael Whouley. The Democrats were deadlocked until the Vice-President himself stepped in. Fearing that a limited recount would appear overtly partisan, Gore endorsed Klain's plan for a statewide hand recount.
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    On the morning of November 11th, requests for recounts flooded all of Florida's election and canvassing boards. Many Democratic counties were quick to approve the requests, while Republican election boards delayed or flatly denied them. The media wars started just as quickly. Baker and the Bush team claimed that "the polls are closed, the votes have been counted and recounted, and every results ends with Governor Bush the winner." Christopher responded by saying "The fundamental principle of our country is that every American citizen's vote must be counted. It is unclear whether this happened in Florida. It is our goal, and civic duty, to ensure that each and every vote is counted." The legal teams also went to work. Baker, along with Republican super lawyer Ben Ginsburg, filed a suit in federal court to halt the recounts. Florida Secretary of State, and Bush campaign chairwoman, Katherine Harris, announced that she would extend the certification deadline beyond 5 P.M. on November 14th. With many counties still reviewing recount requests, and others just beginning the process, this would likely mean a victory for Bush.

    With Harris' announcement, many counties began to halt their recounts. Harris requested that the State Supreme Court halt those that continued. Baker's team filed further requests in Federal District Court. The Gore team mobilized their resources to counter the Republican charges. The Associated Press reported that Bush's lead was under 300 votes, and shrinking fast. It became increasingly clear that the election would be decided by the courts. Luckily for Gore, they happened to favor the Democrats. Both the State Supreme Court and Federal District Court ruled in favor of the Gore campaign. The state court ordered Harris not to certify the election results until they had reviewed Gore's motion to allow the manual recount to continue. Compounding the headache for the Bush team, the federal court dismissed their request for a halt of the recount.

    As the days ticked on and the recounts continued, voters across the country became increasingly frustrated with the process. The legitimacy of the next President had been dealt a major blow, regardless of who prevailed. Media analysts on both sides lambasted the candidates. Bush was accused of trying to halt the democratic process, while Gore was portrayed as a thief, hell-bent on stealing the election. It was even more chaotic on the ground. Rev. Jesse Jackson led marches calling for a revote in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, claiming that many African-Americans had been denied their right to vote. Pat Buchanan went so far as to claim that many of his votes were meant for Gore. It was clear that whoever won would have to assuage fears that their victory was illegitimate. That being said, it was unclear who would able to claim victory.
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    November 21st was a turning point for the Gore campaign. The Florida State Supreme Court ruled that the hand recounts should continue and moved the certification deadline to November 26th. This decision allowed many of Florida's counties to precede with what had been a difficult process. Chants of "Sore-Loserman" were replaced by charges of judicial activism and a trampling of the democratic process. The next day, Bush's running mate Dick Cheney suffered a heart attack. While it wasn't serious, it exemplified the levels of anxiety and stress that were put on the two campaigns. Despite being miles away (Bush was in Austin, Gore in Nashville), the recount affected the two candidates greatly. Neither man could move forward, and neither one wanted to concede defeat.

    With the deadline nearing, several counties (including Miami-Dade) halted their recounts. They claimed there was simply too little time to adequately complete the process. With the clock ticking, the United States Supreme Court shocked many observes by agreeing to hear a case over the recounts. The primary complaint by the Bush team was that the Florida court had changed the election rules after the election itself. This was seen as "moving the goalposts" and drew the ire of Republicans around the country. In the mean time, Secretary Harris certified the state for Bush on November 26th. This meant little, as Al Gore addressed the nation and made it clear he would not rest "until every vote is counted." His legal team appealed the certification to a Federal District Court in Tennessee. However, the judge there refused to hear the case before December 1st. This provoked the Florida State Legislature to take action. The Republican-controlled body voted on a measure that would allow them to appoint the state's electors if no result was made clear by December 12th, effectively ensuring the election for Bush.

    With a slew of suits and counter-suits by both sides, several key rulings were made. The first was in Tennessee, where Gore's appeal of the certification of results was denied. This lead to the Gore team appealing the case to the Florida State Supreme Court. The court then made what was arguably the most important decision of the entire recount process on December 8th. By a 4-3 vote, the judges ordered a recount in every county with undervotes based on a uniform standard, rejected the state legislature's decision to appoint their own electors, and set a deadline of December 14th at 5 PM for the recounts to come to an end. The United States Supreme Court, acting on an appeal by the Bush legal team, agreed to hear the case on December 11th. In the meantime, the recounts were halted.
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    The fate of the American Presidency was decided in the chambers of the United States Supreme Court. The Bush campaign, represented by Ted Olson, argued that the Florida State Supreme Court had violated Florida election law and Article II of the Constitution by repeatedly moving the certification deadline. Gore lawyer David Boies countered by arguing that the Florida State Constitution allows for judicial review of elections by the State Supreme Court and that no Constitutional provisions were violated. The case would be decided on the morning of the 12th. In the chambers of the nation's highest court, the justices debated until the wee hours of the morning. Finally, at 10 AM, the decision of the Court was made public. By a 5-4 ruling, the Court issued a per curium ruling upholding the decision of the Florida State Supreme Court. They elaborated by stating that what ever result each county had at 5 PM on the 14th was the final legal tally that had to be observed.

    As election boards across Florida raced the clock, legal analysts probed deeper into the Court's ruling. Central to their decision was that Florida Supreme Court had set a strict uniform standard for determining voter intent. Had they not, the Court would have ruled in favor of Bush under the Equal Protection Clause. But due to the foresight of the state court, the recount was constitutional. The final decision was heavily partisan. All four liberal justices supported the Gore, while the three conservative justices aligned with the Bush. The two swing justices split. Justice Kennedy, writing that the court violated Article II by usurping the legislatures role, joined the dissent. Justice O'Connor joined the liberals, drawing the anger of conservative pundits across the country.

    On December 14th, at 5 PM, Secretary of State Katherine Harris appeared in front of an army of television cameras and reporters in Tallahassee. Her face was somber and she was clearly exhausted. With the eyes of the nation, and both candidates, on her, Harris read a prepared statement on the election. She recognized the extraordinary nature of the recount and its future implications. She mused on her own role in the process and applauded election officials for an extraordinary job. She even went so far as to state that the results were the responsibility of no single individual or campaign. And then she read the results of a recount that had taken over a month to resolve.

    "By a margin of 107 votes, and with a total 2,912,628 votes, Vice-President Al Gore has won the electors from the state of Florida."

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  14. Turquoise Blue Blossoming Tibby!

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    Location:
    Europe
    The closest election to date. Al Gore becomes President thanks to 108 Democratic-voting Floridians.
     
  15. DTanza Jerry Brown 2020 Banned

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    Aug 14, 2011
    Location:
    California Republic
    Hooo boy. Can't wait to see the catfight between the Democrats and Republicans after this.
     
  16. Westbrook 49 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2010
    Location:
    Fort Wayne
    Fascinating. Good TL so far.

    One key detail (assuming that everything else has stayed the same) is that the Dems no longer have the tie in the Senate, since Lieberman will be VP, and the Governor of Connecticut at the time was a Republican (John Rowland), who would appoint a Republican replacement (possibly even himself). The GOP will then have a 51-49 majority, giving them control (However slim) of both chambers. Might be interested to see how that plays out (Or if someone switches parties either direction).
     
  17. 1.36 Master of Maps

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    Either way this ended....it won't be good.
     
  18. Darth_Kiryan The Númenorean Sith

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    Location:
    AUS
    wow! quite the legal problem there.
     
  19. Historico Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2004
    Senator Jim Jeffords of New Hampshire may still leave the GOP and caucus with the Democrats as he did IOTL. That would give the Democrats a 51-49 vote majority, but after the recount I doubt the Republicans are going to be in the mood to play ball when it comes to passing any of Gore's more significant legislation. It'll be interesting to see how that develops as both hands are going to want to do some creative things with the surplus.

    Hc, I loved the subtle POD, of the Recount Team asking for a statewide recount from the get go. You had Gore win by 107 votes, is that the number from the full recount IOTL? I remember reading somewhere that there had been a private commission in OTL that did the full recount, and it showed that gore had indeed won. But I cant think of the source at the moment.
     
  20. Andrew T Kick 'em when they're up!

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hcallega: this is an utterly plausible POD, and I think you've gotten TTL's version of Bush v. Gore exactly right, particularly in light of OTL's majority subsequently declaring that Bush v. Gore "has no precedential value" (i.e., all but conceding that it was made up out of political expediency).