The leads cover the main election developments: 1) The Florida judge hearing Al Gore’s contest case turned down Gore lawyers’ request for an immediate recount of 13,000 disputed ballots but did order that the ballots be brought to his court and scheduled a hearing for this coming Saturday to address how they might be counted there. 2) Both presidential camps filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court for Friday’s hearing there. The Bush position is that federal judicial intervention is required to overturn the Florida Supreme Court decision that pushed back the certification deadline and mandated including some manual recounts, while the Gore position is that with this decision, the state Supreme Court played a traditional judicial role in what is purely a state matter. 3) The Florida Legislature held hearings that, says the New York Times, “virtually assure” that it will soon meet in a special session to name its own slate of electors for George W. Bush, which, if Gore were to prevail on court-ordered recounts, would result in Congress having to choose between competing Florida elector slates.
The NYT lead headline says that the Florida Legislature is “MOVING TO BYPASS COURTS FOR BUSH.” The Washington Post headline emphasizes the delay inflicted on Gore by the Florida judge’s decision, which is also an element in the NYT’s big print. But the Los Angeles Times headline emphasizes his decision to move the ballots to his court, and the subhead calls that a partial Gore victory.
One theme of the coverage is the poll-suggested perception–shared by Gore apparently, who was on national television for the second day straight asking for the public’s patience–that the general public is becoming increasingly twitchy. The WP has unnamed Gore advisers acknowledging that he cannot keep fighting indefinitely without a court victory. The coverage makes it clear that the Bush legal strategy is the flip side of this: A NYT front-pager on the Florida contest case says that Bush lawyers proposed a “leisurely” schedule for the litigation, one that would end the trial the day before Florida’s electors must be designated, and the Wall Street Journal story on the case notes that for the first time ever, Bush lawyers argued that if any Florida votes are to be hand counted, they all should be, a position that they rejected previously but that now, says the paper, is “becoming unrealistic.”
The papers also note that another Florida court is moving forward on the Seminole County case brought by a Democrat challenging some 15,000 heavily Bush absentee ballots he says were cast after incomplete applications for them were corrected by Republicans. The NYT reports inside that according to the Martin County supervisor of elections, his county–which also broke big for Bush–also allowed Republican field workers to correct incomplete absentee ballot applications while letting Democratic and independent incomplete applications “stack up without being corrected.”
The NYT and USA Today front the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling Tuesday that police cannot run traffic checkpoints designed to stop drug traffickers or other general criminal activity because they are a violation of drivers’ privacy. Thus the court drew a distinction between this sort of general stop and checkpoints it has allowed that are specifically designed to catch drunken drivers or illegal immigrants.
The LAT top-fronts and the WP fronts word that Lotronex, a bowel medication for women, has been withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer, Glaxo Wellcome, after the FDA received reports linking it to some deaths. The company insists that the drug is still safe. The papers point out that this is the latest example of a drug raising safety concerns after it was “fast-tracked” to market by the FDA.
The NYT’s Maureen Dowd calls the current phase of the Bush campaign, with George W. Bush mostly out of sight and Dick Cheney, who was a reluctant campaigner, suddenly in front of microphones and transitioning, the “Cheney ascendancy.” And a separate NYT piece, headlined (online at least) “CHENEY PLAYING ROLE OF A FULL PARTNER,” has a Bush campaign spokesperson calling him “one of Washington’s wise men.” But neither this story nor much of anything else in the papers during the campaign has looked beyond Cheney’s political résumé. Sure, Cheney was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff–but what was his role in the Nixon pardon? Or in the Mayaguez snafu? Sure, he was secretary of defense during the Gulf War–but did he know that all his Pentagon’s briefs about the Patriot vs. Scud intercepts were blather? And what’d he ever do on Gulf War Syndrome? Or on the high percentage of the war’s U.S. casualties that were caused by U.S. forces? You get the idea.