Presidential Race Too Close to Call; Rx Drugs Played Role in Tight Florida Vote
After an "extraordinary struggle for the presidency" and a "night of high drama and confusing vote counting," the race between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush is too close to call, with the fate of Florida's 25 electoral votes needed to decide the outcome, the Washington Post reports. Early this morning, the television networks declared Bush the winner of both Florida and the election (Balz, Washington Post, 11/8). Prior to the announcement, Bush had won 29 states and 246 electorial votes. Florida would have put him at 271, one vote more than the "magic 270" necessary to win. In comparison, Gore had captured 17 states and the District of Columbia for 243 electoral votes (Fournier, AP/Chicago Tribune, 11/8). During the course of a "tension-filled hour," Gore had called Bush to concede the election. But as the "last votes ... trickl[ed] in from several Democratic strongholds" in Florida, Bush's lead in Florida dissipated; and Gore called Bush to retract the concession. With 100% of Florida precincts reporting, Bush led Gore "by several hundred votes," the Post reports, but according to Florida election law, an "automatic recount" is necessary if the winner's margin is less than 0.5 percentage points (Washington Post, 11/8). Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth (D) said that a recount would "only take a matter of hours." (Climer, Nashville Tennessean, 11/8). But the Post said awarding the votes could take "days" (Washington Post, 11/8). Gore campaign Chair William Daley said, "Until the results from Florida become official, our campaign continues" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 11/8). Earlier in the evening, the networks prematurely "put Florida and its 25 votes into Gore's column," only to retract that call later. Oregon, where Bush leads, is the only other states that remains "too close to call," the Post reports, with Gore grabbing a narrow victory in Wisconsin later this morning. But "mathematically, the presidential race hinged on the outcome in Florida." (Washington Post, 11/8). According to national exit polls, Bush "carved out his edge by winning among men, white voters, married couples and the wealthy," but Gore picked up votes among women, black voters, Hispanic voters, singles and individuals with incomes less than $30,000 (Thomma, Knight Ridder/Florida Times-Union, 11/8). Voters also favored Gore on issues such as "fixing Medicare," the Washington Post reports (Edsall, Washington Post, 11/8). But "no galvanizing issue seemed to emerge in this campaign and much of the contest seemed to revolve around more personal factors," the New York Times reports. Third party candidates Ralph Nader (Green) and Pat Buchanan (Reform) received 3% and 1% of the vote, respectively (Berke, New York Times, 11/8). In Florida, the race "is tighter than expected [partly] because Gore ... linked Bush to drug companies in the debate over" Medicare prescription drug coverage, the Boston Herald reports (Battenfeld/Miga, Boston Herald, 11/6). The state also is a "tough read for pundits" because while Gore's Social Security stance and plan to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare appeal to seniors, Bush's brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) "has a built-in organization to get out the vote," the Boston Herald reports (Marantz, Boston Herald, 11/7). Bush had hoped his "centrist pitch [would] resonate" with voters along the "I-4 Corridor," which runs along Orlando to Tampa. Voters there are generally from "affluent, suburban families, many of them recent transplants." On the other hand, "Gore's base in Florida is the high concentration of elderly and Jewish voters along the so-called 'Gold Coast' north of Miami" (Boston Herald, 11/6). Medicare reform, prescription drugs, patients' rights and the uninsured had found "particular resonance" with Florida voters, and both candidates "flitted in and out" of the state throughout the campaign (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/6). In August, for example, Gore chose to announce his $3,000 long term tax credit plan in Florida (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 8/24). Most recently, Gore "closed out the last leg of [his] marathon campaign in Florida," the Washington Post reports. Before 1 a.m. on Nov. 7, Gore and his "entourage" went to Miami for a "star-studded party on South Beach," moving on to a "detailed policy discussion with a half-dozen workers at Moffett Cancer Center" (Connolly, Washington Post, 11/8). For his part, Bush made several stops in Florida, pushing his Medicare prescription drug benefit plan and a plan to boost public and private research funding (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 9/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.