The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Democratic candidate Al Gore, then Vice President, and Republican candidate George W. Bush, then governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush (1989-1993). Bill Clinton, the incumbent President, was vacating the position after serving the maximum two terms allowed by the Twenty-second Amendment. Bush narrowly won the November 7 election, with 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266 (with one faithless elector abstaining in the official tally). The election featured a controversy over who won Florida's 25 electoral votes (and thus the presidency), the recount process in that state, and the unusual event that the losing candidate had received 543,816 more popular votes than the winner.
In the American system of presidential elections, the electoral vote determines the winner, and Bush won this count, although Gore received the most votes (called the "popular vote"). This was the third time in American history that a candidate won the presidency without receiving at least a plurality of the popular vote; it also happened in the elections of 1876 and 1888.
Numerous candidates for the Democratic nomination tested the waters, but only two serious candidates entered the contest: Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee and former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Only Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone formed an exploratory committee.
Gore had a strong base as the incumbent Vice President; Bradley received some endorsements but was not the candidate of a major faction or coalition of blocs. Running an insurgency campaign, Bradley positioned himself as the alternative to Gore, who was a founding member of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. While former basketball star Michael Jordan campaigned for him in the early primary states, Bradley announced his intention to campaign "in a different way" by conducting a positive campaign of "big ideas." He made the spending of the record-breaking budget surplus on a variety of social welfare programs to help the poor and the middle-class one of his central issues, along with campaign finance reform and gun control.
Gore easily defeated Bradley in the primaries, largely because of the support given to Gore by the Democratic Party establishment and Bradley's poor showing in the Iowa caucus, where Gore successfully painted Bradley as aloof and indifferent to the plight of farmers in rural America. The closest Bradley came to a victory was his 50–46 loss to Gore in the New Hampshire primary. On March 14th Al Gore won the Democratic nomination.
Gore, as incumbent V.P., was supported by Clinton and despite Bradley's challenge was a safe front-runner. But some other prominent Democrats were mentioned as possible contenders, such as Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and famous actor and director Warren Beatty, who declined to run.
None of Bradley's delegates were allowed to vote for him, so Gore won the nomination unanimously at the Democratic National Convention. Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was nominated for Vice President by voice vote. Lieberman became the first Jewish American ever to be chosen for this position by a major party. Lieberman was chosen by Gore over five other finalists on his shortlist.
George W. Bush became the early frontrunner, acquiring unprecedented funding and a broad base of leadership support based on his governorship of Texas and the name-recognition and connections of the Bush family. Several aspirants withdrew before the Iowa Caucus because they were unable to secure funding and endorsements sufficient to remain competitive with Bush. These included Lamar Alexander, Elizabeth Dole, John Kasich, Dan Quayle, and Robert C. Smith. Pat Buchanan dropped out to run for the Reform Party nomination. That left Bush, John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, and Orrin Hatch as the only candidates still in the race.
On January 24th Bush won the Iowa caucus with 41% of the vote. Forbes came in second with 30% of the vote. Keyes received 14%, Bauer 9%, McCain 5%, and Hatch 1%. Hatch dropped out.
Bush, the governor of Texas, a son of a former president, and the favored candidate of the Christian right, was portrayed in the media as the establishment candidate. McCain, with the support of many moderate Republicans and Independents, portrayed himself as a crusading insurgent who focused on campaign reform.
On February 1st McCain won a 49%-30% victory over Bush in the New Hampshire primary. Gary Bauer dropped out. After coming in third in Delaware Forbes dropped out, leaving three candidates. In the South Carolina primary, Bush soundly defeated McCain. Some credit Bush's win to the fact that it was the first major closed primary in 2000, which negated McCain's strong advantage among independents. Some McCain supporters blamed it on the Bush campaign, accusing them of mudslinging and dirty tricks, such as push polling that implied that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi-born daughter was an African-American child he fathered out of wedlock. McCain's loss in South Carolina damaged his campaign. After the South Carolina primary, McCain won both Michigan and his home state of Arizona on February 22nd.
On February 24, John McCain criticized George W. Bush for not denouncing the Bob Jones University policy banning inter-racial dating. On February 28th John McCain also referred to Rev. Jerry Falwell and televangelist Pat Robertson as agents of intolerance. John McCain lost the state of Virginia to George W. Bush on February 29. On Super Tuesday, March 7, Bush won New York, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, California, Maryland, and Maine. McCain won Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, but dropped out of the race. On March 10, Alan Keyes got 21% of the vote in Utah. Bush took the majority of the remaining contests and won the Republican nomination on March 14, winning his home state of Texas and his brother Jeb's home state of Florida and other states. At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia George W. Bush accepted the Nomination of the Republican party.
Other mentioned candidates:
The nomination went to Pat Buchanan and runningmate Ezola Foster of California, over the objections of party-founder Ross Perot and despite a rump convention nomination of John Hagelin by the Perot faction (see Other nominations below). In the end, the Federal Election Commission sided with Buchanan, and that ticket appeared on 49 of 51 possible ballots.
The nomination went to Ralph Nader of Connecticut and Winona LaDuke of Minnesota, at the Green Party's National Nominating Convention in Denver, Colorado The Green Party appeared on 44 state ballots and DC out of 50 ballots and DC.
The Libertarian Party's National Nominating Convention nominated Harry Browne of Tennessee and Art Olivier of California for Vice President. Browne was nominated on the first ballot and Olivier received the Vice Presidential nomination on the second ballot The Libertarian Party appeared on 50 of 51 ballots.
The Natural Law Party was on 38 ballots.
Ralph Nader was the most successful of third-party candidates, drawing 2.74% of the popular vote. His campaign was marked by a traveling tour of "super-rallies"; large rallies held in sports arenas like Madison Square Garden, with retired talk show host Phil Donahue as master of ceremonies. After initially ignoring Nader, the Gore campaign made a big publicity pitch to (potential) Nader supporters in the final weeks of the campaign, downplaying Gore's differences with Nader on the issues and claiming that Gore's ideas were more similar to Nader's than Bush's were, noting that Gore had a better chance of winning than Nader. On the other side, the Republican Leadership Council ran pro-Nader ads in a few states in an effort to split the "liberal" vote. In the aftermath of the campaign, many Gore supporters claimed that many of Nader's voters would have supported Gore, thus siphoning off enough would-be Gore votes to throw the election to Bush.
The sharpest differences among partisan groups came on the topic of moral issues. Already by 1992, Republicans were campaigning much more vigorously and vociferously than Democrats or independents on "hot button" social issues concerning what some proclaimed as the moral decay of society, in the form of permissive attitudes toward sex, abortion, gays and lesbians, and secularism. The difference grew larger by 2000, especially if one considers statements about moral decay and issues having to do with corruption and scandals in Washington together. Republicans often referred to morality as the "single most important problem" facing the nation. During his campaign, Bush frequently referred to restoring moral integrity not only to the White House, but to the nation as a whole. Gore studiously avoided the Clinton scandals, as did Lieberman, even though Lieberman had been the first Democratic senator to denounce Clinton's misbehavior. Gore avoided appearing with Clinton, who was shunted to low visibility appearances in areas where he was popular.
Both vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman campaigned aggressively in the 2000 presidential election. Both camps made numerous campaign stops nationwide, often just missing each other such as when Cheney, Hadassah Lieberman, and Tipper Gore attended Chicago's Taste of Polonia over Labor Day Weekend
With the exception of Florida, Bush carried the Southern states by comfortable margins and also secured wins in Ohio, Indiana, most of the rural Midwestern farming states, most of the Rocky Mountain states, and Alaska. Gore balanced Bush by sweeping the Northeastern United States (with the sole exception of New Hampshire, which Bush won narrowly), most of the Upper Midwest, and all of the Pacific Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Gore also won Hawaii.
As the night wore on, the returns in a handful of small-to-medium sized states, including Wisconsin and Iowa, were extremely close; however it was the State of Florida that would decide the winner of the election. As the final national results were tallied the following morning, Bush had clearly won a total of 246 electoral votes, while Gore had won 255 votes. 270 votes were needed to win. Two smaller states - New Mexico (5 electoral votes) and Oregon (7 electoral votes) - were still too close to call. It was Florida (25 electoral votes), however, that the news media focused their attention on. Mathematically, Florida's 25 electoral votes became the key to an election win for either candidate. Although both New Mexico and Oregon were declared in favor of Gore over the next few days, Florida's statewide vote took center stage because the state's winner would ultimately win the election. The outcome of the election was not known for more than a month after the balloting ended because of the extended process of counting and then recounting Florida's presidential ballots.
At approximately 7:50 p.m. EST on election day, 70 minutes before the polls closed in the largely-Republican Florida panhandle, which is in the Central time zone, some television news networks declared that Gore had carried Florida's 25 electoral votes. They based this prediction substantially on exit polls. However, in the actual vote tally Bush began to take a wide lead early in Florida, and by 10 p.m. EST those networks had retracted that prediction and placed Florida back into the "undecided" column. At approximately 2:30 am, with some 85% of the votes counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks declared that Bush had carried Florida and therefore had been elected President. However, most of the remaining votes to be counted in Florida were located in three heavily-Democratic counties - Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach - and as their votes were reported Gore began to gain on Bush. By 4:30 am, after all votes were counted, Gore had narrowed Bush's margin to just over 2,000 votes, and the networks retracted their predictions that Bush had won Florida and the presidency. Gore, who had privately conceded the election to Bush, now withdrew his concession and announced that he would wait for a recount in Florida before any further action. After the first recount by the morning of Wednesday, November 8 Bush's margin in Florida had dwindled to about 500 votes, narrow enough to trigger a mandatory recount in that state. In addition, Gore asked for hand recounts in four counties (Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. This set into motion a series of recounts (portions by machine, and portions by hand), questions about portions of the Florida vote, and finally lawsuits.
These ultimately resulted in a December 12 7-2 United States Supreme Court decision stating that the Florida Supreme Court's plan for recounting ballots was unconstitutional, as well as a 5-4 United States Supreme Court decision that ended the Florida recounts and allowed Florida to certify its vote. The vote was certified according to Florida state election law by Katherine Harris, the Republican Secretary of State who had been the Florida co-chair of Bush's campaign. Because Bush's younger brother, Jeb Bush, was the governor of Florida, there were allegations that Harris and Jeb Bush had manipulated the election to favor the governor's brother.
On January 6, 2001, a joint-session of Congress met to certify the electoral vote. Twenty members of the House of Representatives, most of them Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus, rose one-by-one to file objections to the electoral votes of Florida. However, according to an 1877 law, any such objection had to be sponsored by both a representative and a senator. No senator would co-sponsor these objections, deferring to the Supreme Court's ruling. Therefore, Gore, who was presiding in his capacity as President of the Senate, ruled each of these objections out of order.
Bush subsequently became the President-elect after the electoral votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were certified by the joint session of Congress. Bush took the oath of office on January 20, 2001.
Ultimately, the Media Consortium hired the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to examine 175,010 ballots that were discounted; these ballots contained under-votes (votes with no choice made for president) and over-votes (votes made with more than one choice marked). Their goal was not to deduce who actually won the election but to determine the reliability and accuracy of the systems used for the voting process.
In the aftermath of the election, the first independent recount was conducted by The Miami Herald and USA Today. Counting only "undervotes" (when the vote is not detected by machine), and not considering "overvotes" (when a ballot ends up with more than one indication of a vote, for example both a punch-out and hand-written name, even if both indicating the same candidate) Bush would have won in all legally requested recount scenarios. If overvotes where the intent of the voter was clear were counted, using any consistent standard for 'clear intent of the voter', Gore would have won. This was not requested by either side at the time; the independent recount therefore led to a greater awareness of the issue of 'overvotes'.
Under the recount rules initially requested by Gore, Bush would have won, and under the rules requested by Bush, Gore would have won.
'Source (Electoral and Popular Vote): Federal Elections Commission Electoral and Popular Vote Summary
(a) One faithless elector from the District of Columbia, Barbara Lett-Simmons, abstained from voting in protest of the District's lack of voting representation in the United States Congress. (D.C. has a non-voting delegate to Congress.) She had been expected to vote for Gore/Lieberman.
Although Guam has no votes in the Electoral College, they have held a straw poll for their presidential preferences since 1980. In 2000, the results were Bush 18,075 (51.6%), Gore 16,549 (47.2%), and Browne 420 (1.2%).
States where the margin of victory was less than 5%:
(139 Electoral College votes were decided by 5 percentage points or less)
States where the margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10%:
(224 Electoral College votes were decided by 10 percentage points or less)
A proposed solution to these problems was the installation of modern electronic voting machines. The United States Presidential Election of 2000 spurred the debate about election and voting reform, but it did not end it.
Also, charges of media bias were levied against the networks by Republicans. They claimed that the networks called states more quickly for Al Gore than for George W. Bush. Congress held hearings on this matter and the networks claimed to have no intentional bias in their election night reporting. However, a study of the calls made on election night 2000 indicated that states carried by Gore were called more quickly than states won by Bush; however, notable Bush states, like New Hampshire and Florida, were very close, and close Gore states like New Mexico were called late too.
Some Democrats blame third party candidate Ralph Nader for taking the election away from Gore. Nader received some 97,000 votes in Florida. According to the Washington Post, national exit polls showed that "47% of Nader voters would have gone for Gore if it had been a two-man race, and only 21% for Bush." If the national numbers can be applied to Florida, Gore would have had a margin of some 24,000 votes over Bush. Many commentators believe that if Nader had not run, Gore would have won both New Hampshire and Florida, winning the election with 296 electoral votes. (Gore only needed one of the two to win.) Defenders of Nader, including Dan Perkins, argued that the margin in Florida was small enough that Democrats could blame any number of third-party candidates for the defeat, including Workers World Party candidate Monica Moorehead, who received 1,500 votes. Nader's reputation was still hurt by this perception, and may have hindered his future goals as an activist. For example, Mother Jones wrote, "For evidence of how rank-and-file liberals have turned against Nader, one need look no further than the empire he created. Public Citizen, the organization (Nader) founded in 1971, has a new fundraising problem—its founder. After the election, contributions dropped... When people inquire about Nader's relationship to the organization, Public Citizen sends out a letter that begins with a startling new disclaimer: 'Although Ralph Nader was our founder, he has not held an official position in the organization since 1980 and does not serve on the board. Public Citizen—and the other groups that Mr. Nader founded–act independently.'
Ironically, this is precisely opposite of the view held by Democratic Party and Democratic Leadership Council senior staff. In the January 24, 2001 issue of the DLC's Blueprint magazine, Democratic party strategist and DLC chair Al From wrote,
"I think they're wrong on all counts. The assertion that Nader's marginal vote hurt Gore is not borne out by polling data. When exit pollers asked voters how they would have voted in a two-way race, Bush actually won by a point. That was better than he did with Nader in the race."