The two scenes in Washington and Texas could hardly be more
The central players in one of history's most riveting electoral
dramas - each in his separate world, each approaching his
predicament in wholly different ways - are providing fresh clues as
to how they might actually govern as president.
Mr. Gore is planted at the dining table of his turreted official
manse here in Washington. He's firing off e-mails on his hand-held
Blackberry communications device. He's poring over fine print of
Florida law. He's a one-man war room, overseeing the minutiae of
his newest campaign.
Mr. Bush is mostly ensconced at his Texas ranch, far from his
official residence in Austin. He's made the big strategic decisions
- and his regimented staff does the rest. He's doing three
conference calls a day. He's exercising. He's chatting with
reporters as his barky dog, Spot, stands near. He's referring most
questions about Florida to James Baker III.
As the post-election marathon enters its 15th day, those who have
observed the two candidates during this period of uncertainty see
strengths and weaknesses in both.
What they're doing right
Bush has managed to project an image of relaxed strength,
delegating responsibility and sticking steadfastly to positions
("hand recounts are undesirable") carved out early in the process.
Gore, for his part, has shown himself adept at shaping public
opinion. So far, he's brought a majority of Americans along with
his assertion that counting each Florida vote is more important
than deciding the winner quickly.
In particular, these analysts say, Gore's surprise speech last
Wednesday night - during network news broadcasts - showed a certain
adroitness and caught many, including Bush, off guard.
"Gore had a tough circumstance," says Christopher Arterton, a
political scientist at George Washington University here. "He's
turned it around by pretty well keeping the public's attention on
the issue of fairness - rather than on the image of squabbling over
Gore "did seem to have a larger view of the public interest at
heart," agrees William Leuchtenburg, a historian at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Gore as 'Clintonian'?
But others characterize Gore and his party as "Clintonian" in
their tactics and demeanor.
"This is an effort on a scale that we really haven't seen in
presidential politics - trying to find every single vote and
exploring every avenue regardless of the larger cost to the
system," says Earl Black, a political scientist at Rice University
He sees Democrats' efforts, including taking some 10,000
affidavits from disgruntled voters in Florida, as pugilistic and
legal-minded - to the point of hurting the transfer-of-power