A New President for a New Century


President Clinton's two terms in office left the country divided. Many Americans were pleased with the economy, but were dis­appointed with the president's personal behavior. As the 2000 election approached, the major parties looked for candidates who appealed to a broad cross section of voters.

The Candidates

The Democrats nominated Vice President Al Gore for president, hoping that the popularity of Clinton's policies would mean votes for Gore. The large Republican field eventually came down to two men: Governor George W. Bush of Texas and Senator John McCain of Arizona. Ultimately, the Republi­cans chose Bush, the son of former President George H.W. Bush, as their nominee.

Gore made history by naming Senator Joseph Lieberman, from Connecticut, as his running mate. This marked the first time in U.S. history that a Jewish American ran on a national ticket. George W. Bush chose Richard Cheney as his running mate. Cheney had served as chief of staff to President Ger­ald Ford and defense secretary to former President Bush in 1989.

During the campaign, Gore stressed protecting the environment and improving education. Bush also supported educational reform. Calling himself a "compassionate conservative," Bush favored local "grass­roots" efforts to help the disadvantaged without large and costly government programs. A major campaign issue was what to do with the budget surplus. Gore and Bush agreed that Social Security and Medicare needed reform, but they disagreed on the details. Both also supported tax cuts and plans to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.

Claiming that there was little difference between Bush and Gore, activist Ralph Nader entered the race. Noting that "too much power in the hands of the few has further weakened our democracy," Nader ran as the nominee of the Green Party, which was known for its strong environmental views.

The Election of 2000

The 2000 election was extraordinarily close between Bush and Gore. For five weeks after the race, the outcome remained undecided. The key state was Florida, where Bush had a slim lead. Without Florida's 25 electoral votes, neither Bush nor Gore had the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Because the results in Florida were so close, state law required a recount of the ballots using vote-counting machines. Gore also asked for hand recounts in several counties, and a battle began over whether and how to conduct them. Lawsuits were filed in state and federal courts. The issue ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

On December 12, in Bush v. Gore, the Court ruled that the hand recounts of selected votes in Florida ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It further held that there was not enough time to conduct a recount that would pass constitutional standards. This ruling left Bush the winner in Florida. The next day, Gore conceded the election.


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The Task: Part 4