Bush ignores wrangling and says he is ready to take over

The Poll
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The Independent US

Upping the ante yesterday, George W Bush said he was working to build an adminstration, notwithstanding continued uncertainty about the election result.

Upping the ante yesterday, George W Bush said he was working to build an adminstration, notwithstanding continued uncertainty about the election result.

Speaking from his Texas governor's office in Austin, Mr Bush said: "I am in the process of planning in a responsible way a potential administration ... It is up to us to prepare the groundwork to ... an adminstration that will be ready to function from day one."

He had invited a small team of reporters to his office for his first public appearance since a brief statement on Wednesday. Mr Bush made a point of showing off members of his inner circle who are tipped for cabinet office, including Lawrence Lindsey, his economic adviser (and possible treasury secretary), Condoleeza Rice, his foreign affairs adviser and possible national security adviser, and his would-be Vice-President, Dick Cheney.

Vice-President Al Gore announced the closure of his campaign headquarters in Tennessee and returned to Washington. As the video of Mr Bush was televised across the country, he invited cameras to watch him playing football with some schoolchildren in Washington, while keeping his word not to comment.

Democrats have criticised Mr Bush for behaving as though he has won the election, describing as arrogant and blustering his ostentatious plans for a Cabinet. Mr Bush's appearance yesterday appeared a deliberate attempt to keep himself in the public eye as the future President, even as the wrangling continued.

Despite calls for the recount and lawsuits to be handled expeditiously, there will be no definitive results from Florida for another week. Unofficial results of the county-by-county recount released yesterday gave victory to Mr. Bush by 327 votes, but postal ballots have yet to be counted and a court injunction prevents confirmation of the results in Palm Beach County until next week.

Just as the continuing uncertainty in Florida did not prevent Mr Bush presenting himself as President in waiting, it did not prevent the ongoing war of words either. The former secretary of state James Baker, who monitored the recount in Florida on his behalf, accused Mr Gore of trying to "unduly prolong the country's national presidential election through endless challenges to the results", while pretending to be the voice of sweet reason. "Let the country step back for a minute and pause and think what is at stake here. This may be the last chance to do that. There is no reasonable end to this process if it slips away."

Mr Baker held out the prospect of continued wrangling if the Gore camp fought on. The Republicans, he said, could demand recounts in states such as Iowa, Wisconsin or New Mexico, where Mr Gore had won slim majorities.

Early in the day, Mr Bush's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, had claimed victory for Mr Bush in Florida on the basis of unofficial results of the re-count and called on Mr Gore to abandon their challenges. "We hope Vice-President Gore and his campaign will reconsider their threats of lawsuits or still more recounts, which could undermine the constitutional process of selecting a President and has no foreseeable end."

The Gore campaign, in the shape of its manager, Bill Daley, was in no mood to concede and he fired off a statement, insisting that "contrary to claims being made this morning by the Bush campaign, this election is not over". Mr Daley cited the recount to be conducted by hand in some Palm Beach County precincts today, the outstanding postal ballots, and the injunction that will delay certification of the results.