Bush camp accuses rivals of making political capital out of disputed vote

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The Independent US

George W Bush's campaign managers accused Democrats yesterday of trying to make politics out of an election result they didn't like, warning them that if they sought to overturn the initial vote in Florida there were plenty of other places around the country now supporting Al Gore where similar objections could be raised.

George W Bush's campaign managers accused Democrats yesterday of trying to make politics out of an election result they didn't like, warning them that if they sought to overturn the initial vote in Florida there were plenty of other places around the country now supporting Al Gore where similar objections could be raised.

In an increasingly coruscating war of words, Mr Bush's campaign chairman, Don Evans, said the purpose of democratic elections was to choose a leader, "not voting until someone likes the outcome". He said the objections of Mr Gore's supporters were a political game in which democracy was the big loser - a mirror image of the accusation that Democrats have been hurling at Mr Bush.

Mr Evans added: "We are confident an accurate recount will confirm the results of Tuesday night." But neither he nor Mr Bush's chief strategist, Karl Rove, said they would claim themselves the winners on the basis of the automatic recount, which was under way as they spoke. "We'll have to wait and see," Mr Rove said.

Rebutting Democratic Party claims of irregularities in Palm Beach County, Mr Bush's team said there was nothing unusual about the 3,400 votes cast for Pat Buchanan, a firebrand right-winger whose racist-tinged views are inimical to the many liberal Jewish residents of the affluent oceanside community of West Palm Beach.

Mr Rove said there had been a 110 per cent increase in independent voters in the county since the last presidential election in 1996 - well above Florida's average increase of 38 per cent - and that much of that was due to Mr Buchanan's attempts to lure people who voted for him in the Republican primaries four years ago. He further claimed that the county was an important source of funding for Mr Buchanan.

Mr Rove also dismissed reservations about the so-called "butterfly ballot" in Palm Beach County, in which candidates' names appeared on either side of the voting paper, with holes indicating support for them running down the middle. In a dig at Mr Daley's parentage - his father was a powerful Chicago mayor with a formidable political machine frequently accused of improprieties - Mr Rove produced a ballot from Cook County, which covers downtown Chicago, and said it too was in butterfly format.

Most threateningly, Mr Rove reeled off a list of states and areas around the country where he said results currently favouring Mr Gore could still be thrown open to question. He mentioned the close presidential results in Iowa, Wisconsin and New Mexico. He also said that absentee ballots still being counted in many parts of the country could narrow the margin by which Mr Gore is currently winning the overall popular vote.

The tenor of the briefing by the Bush camp raised fears of a war of attrition in which the election process - already a cliffhanger with no uncertain result - could go on and on and undermine confidence in the whole process. "This is a very treacherous path," Bill Schneider, political analyst for the Cable News Network, said straight after hearing Mr Rove's remarks.

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