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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

Gore, Bush Back at Usual Jobs During a Highly Unusual Time

Scene: Vice president returns to Washington and Texas governor tends to state business. Aides portray candidates as calm amid the uncertainty.

November 10, 2000|JAMES GERSTENZANG and MARIA L. La GANGA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

NASHVILLE — With little to keep him at campaign headquarters here and a high school football banquet beckoning in Washington, Vice President Al Gore headed back to the nation's capital Thursday evening.

In Austin, Texas, Gov. George W. Bush spent much of the day ensconced in the Governor's Mansion, meeting with officials from his state office as well as with members of his campaign staff.

But for all the sense of a return to calm that the two presidential candidates' aides projected for them, their days and lives were aswirl in public uncertainty.

Gore's immediate destination was the vice presidential mansion. But with the recount of Florida's critical votes underway, the question of whether he would remain in government housing after Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, was far from decided.

Bush met with his lieutenant governor, who would become Texas' chief executive if Bush becomes president, and with his senior foreign policy advisor. But his spokeswoman ducked a question about whether they talked about personnel issues in a new Bush administration.

Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said that the governor, who also met with running mate Dick Cheney, did spend some time talking about a transition from a Clinton to a Bush administration.

"A rush to judgment," Chris Lehane, Gore's spokesman, said critically, adding that Gore had no need to jump into such work.

And, with controversy cascading around them, aides to each went out of their way to describe the candidates in identical moods.

"A rock," said Lehane of Gore.

"Very calm," said Hughes of Bush.

After being on the move more or less constantly for 14 months, Gore found himself doing something different Thursday: His perpetual motion gave way to a state of suspended animation.

Except for an afternoon jog and his evening trip to Washington, Gore spent the entire day in his suite atop the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel here.

At midday, the vice president, in a long-sleeve blue T-shirt and faded red sweatpants, headed by motorcade to Centennial Park for a run with his two oldest daughters and his brother-in-law. It was the first time in many days that Gore, who has recently gone out of his way to project a presidential image, was seen wearing anything other than a business blue suit.

As he passed a group of reporters, one called out, "Mr. Vice President, did you win the election, sir?"

"We're having a great run here. Thank you," he replied.

As for his return to Washington, which will allow him to attend a banquet for his son Albert's football team tonight, Lehane said: "He has a full-time job as vice president. He will continue to monitor developments in Florida as they evolve."

Running mate Joseph I. Lieberman spent the day at home with his family in Washington, speaking by telephone with aides, a spokeswoman said.

Lehane was heading to Florida to join the 75 to 100 Gore legal and campaign representatives there. The campaign operation in Nashville was being dismantled.

"The campaign organization, per se, ceases after election day," said Greg Simon, a senior Gore aide.

Bush's day began with an 8 a.m. conference with members of his gubernatorial office staff, conducting the business of the state that he still governs. He met with Condoleezza Rice, his chief foreign policy advisor.

Asked whether she and the governor discussed a future position for Rice in a Bush administration, Hughes said only that the two discussed foreign policy.

The governor and Cheney got together several times throughout the day and shared lunch at the mansion. The afternoon was spent with Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, Hughes said, "talking about state business and how all of this affects the state of Texas."

He also met with his senior campaign staff, those who would likely follow him to Washington if the election goes his way. And he received regular updates from James A. Baker III, his envoy in Florida.

Hughes, in obvious understatement, described her boss Thursday as "very interested in the situation in Florida."

"He is upbeat," Hughes said. And he is beginning to think through "the planning for a transition should the vote tonight confirm that that is in fact the outcome of the election."

Details about Bush's day were hard to come by. His tight-lipped staff has circled the wagons since the election's outcome was thrown into doubt. Bush headquarters at 301 Congress Ave. is in limbo, with staff members frozen in place until the election is decided.

Bush is likely to make a public statement about the election's outcome once the recount in Florida has been completed.

He and his wife, Laura, are expected to stay in Austin for the weekend instead of heading to their ranch, about 90 miles north, because the Texas first lady chairs the annual Texas Book Festival, which begins in the capital today.

*

Gerstenzang reported from Nashville and La Ganga from Austin, Texas. Times staff writers Megan Garvey and Matea Gold contributed to this story.

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