|‹ 1996 2004 ›|
|United States presidential election, 2000|
|November 7, 2000|
|Nominee||George W. Bush||Al Gore|
|Running mate||Dick Cheney||Joe Lieberman|
|States carried||30||20 + DC|
|Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Bush/Cheney,
Blue denotes those won by Gore/Lieberman.
The United States presidential election of 2000 was a contest between Republican candidate George W. Bush, then-governor of Texas and son of former president George H. W. Bush (1989–1993), and Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Vice President. 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 elector abstaining in the official tally). The election was noteworthy for a controversy over the awarding of Florida's 25 electoral votes, the subsequent recount process in that state, and the unusual event of the winning candidate having received fewer popular votes than the runner-up. It was the closest election since 1876 and only the fourth election in which the electoral vote did not reflect the popular vote.
As the incumbent Vice President, Al Gore of Tennessee was a consistent front-runner for the Democratic nomination, with his only serious challenge coming from former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Other prominent Democrats mentioned as possible contenders included Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and famous actor and director Warren Beatty, who declined to run. Of these, only Wellstone formed an exploratory committee.
In addition to Gore's advantage as the incumbent Vice President, Bradley 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". The focus of his campaign was a plan to spend the record-breaking budget surplus on a variety of social welfare programs to help the poor and the middle-class, along with campaign finance reform and gun control.
Gore easily defeated Bradley in the primaries, largely because of support from 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. The closest Bradley came to a victory was his 50–46 loss to Gore in the New Hampshire primary. On March 14, Al Gore won the Democratic nomination.
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. Gore chose Lieberman over five finalists.
Delegate Totals Democratic National Convention Tally
Several Republican candidates appeared on the national scene to challenge Gore's candidacy.
George W. Bush became the early front-runner, 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 Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Lamar Alexander, 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 24, 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. On the national stage, Bush 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 1, 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. While McCain's loss in South Carolina damaged his campaign, he won both Michigan and his home state of Arizona on February 22.
On February 24, McCain criticized Bush for accepting the endorsement of Bob Jones University despite its policy banning interracial dating. On February 28, McCain also referred to Rev. Jerry Falwell and televangelist Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance", a term he would later distance himself from during his 2008 bid for the party's nomination. He lost the state of Virginia to 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 among others. At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia George W. Bush accepted the Nomination of the Republican party.
Bush asked former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to head up a team to help select a running mate for him, but ultimately, Bush decided that Cheney should be the vice presidential nominee. While the U.S. Constitution does not specifically disallow a president and a vice president from the same state, it 'does' prohibit electors from casting both of his or her votes for persons from his or her own state. Accordingly, Cheney—who had been a resident of Texas for nearly 10 years—changed his voting registration back to Wyoming. Had Cheney not done this, either he or Bush would have forfeited their electoral votes from the Texas electors, a situation which—given the eventual razor-thin margin of victory for the Republicans that year—could have resulted in a Democratic Vice President serving under a Republican President.
Other mentioned candidates:
Note: Some of the endorsers switched positions.
The nomination went to Pat Buchanan and running mate 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 attorney and political activist Ralph Nader of Connecticut and Native American activist Winona LaDuke of Minnesota, at the Green Party's National Nominating Convention in Denver, Colorado. The Green Party appeared on 44 of the 51 ballots nationally (43 states 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 held its national convention in Arlington, Virginia, August 31 - September 2, nominating a ticket of Hagelin/Goldhaber via unanimous decision without a roll-call vote. The party was on 38 of the 51 ballots nationally.
Although the campaign focused mainly on domestic issues, such as the projected budget surplus, proposed reforms of Social Security and Medicare, health care, and competing plans for tax relief, foreign policy was often an issue. Bush criticized Clinton administration policies in Somalia, where 18 Americans died in 1993 trying to sort out warring factions, and in the Balkans, where United States peacekeeping troops perform a variety of functions. "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building," Bush said in the second presidential debate. Bush also pledged to bridge partisan gaps in the nation's capital, claiming the atmosphere in Washington stood in the way of progress on necessary reforms. Gore, meanwhile, questioned Bush's fitness for the job, pointing to gaffes made by Bush in interviews and speeches and suggesting the Texas governor lacked the necessary experience to be president.
Bill Clinton's impeachment and the sex scandal that led up to it cast a shadow on the campaign, particularly on his vice president's run to replace him. Republicans, who typically have an advantage with voters on moral issues, strongly denounced the Clinton scandals, particularly Bush, who made his repeated promise to restore "honor and dignity" to the White House (a none-too-subtle jab at Clinton) a centerpiece of his campaign. Gore studiously avoided the Clinton scandals, as did Lieberman, even though Lieberman had been the first Democratic senator to denounce Clinton's misbehavior. In fact, some media observers theorized that Gore actually chose Lieberman in an attempt to separate himself from Clinton's past misdeeds, and help blunt the GOP's attempts to link him to his boss. Others pointed to the passionate kiss Gore gave his wife during the Democratic Convention, as a signal that despite the allegations against Clinton, Gore himself was a faithful husband. Gore avoided appearing with Clinton, who was shunted to low visibility appearances in areas where he was popular. Experts have argued that this cost Gore votes from some of Clinton's core supporters.
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. Nader dismissed such concerns, claiming his objective in the campaign was to pass the 5% threshold so his party would be eligible for matching funds in future races.
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 exceptions of Florida and Tennessee, 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, and carried Hawaii, as well.
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 make clear 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 that 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, 10 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 a.m., with some 85% of the votes counted in Florida and Bush leading Gore by more than 100,000 votes, the networks, starting with Fox News, 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 a.m., 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, withdrew his concession. The final result in Florida was slim enough to require a mandatory recount (by machine) under state law; Bush's lead had dwindled to about 300 votes by the time it was completed later that week. A count of overseas military ballots later boosted his margin to about 900 votes.
Most of the post-electoral controversy revolved around Gore's request for hand recounts in four counties (Broward, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia), as provided under Florida state law. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris announced she would reject any revised totals from those counties if they were not turned in by November 14, the statutory deadline for amended returns. The Florida Supreme Court extended the deadline to November 26, a decision later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Miami-Dade eventually halted its recount and resubmitted its original total to the state canvassing board, while Palm Beach County failed to meet the extended deadline. On November 26, the state canvassing board certified Bush the winner of Florida's electors by 537 votes. Gore formally contested the certified results, but a state court decision overruling Gore was reversed by the Florida Supreme Court, which ordered a recount of over 70,000 ballots previously rejected by machine counters. The U.S. Supreme Court quickly halted the order.
On December 12, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 vote that the Florida Supreme Court's ruling requiring a statewide recount of ballots was unconstitutional, and that the Florida recounts could not be completed before a December 12 "safe harbor" deadline, and should therefore cease and the previously certified total should hold. The Supreme Court's decision was an unsigned or "Per Curiam" ruling; the ruling was “limited to the present circumstances” and could not be cited as precedent.
Though Gore came in second in the electoral vote, he received 543,895 more individual votes than Bush. Gore failed to win the popular vote in his home state, Tennessee, which both he and his father had represented in the Senate. Gore was the first major-party presidential candidate to have lost his home state since George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972. Bush lost in Connecticut, the state of his birth. Bush is also the first Republican in American history to win the presidency without winning Vermont or Illinois and the second Republican to win the presidency without winning California. (James A. Garfield in 1880 was the first.)
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Running mate||Running mate's
|George W. Bush||Republican||Texas||50,456,002||47.87%||271||Dick Cheney||Wyoming||271|
|Al Gore||Democratic||Tennessee||50,999,897||48.38%||266||Joe Lieberman||Connecticut||266|
|Ralph Nader||Green||Connecticut||2,882,955||2.7%||0||Winona LaDuke||Minnesota||0|
|Pat Buchanan||Reform||Virginia||448,895||0.4%||0||Ezola B. Foster||California||0|
|Harry Browne||Libertarian||Tennessee||384,431||0.4%||0||Art Olivier||California||0|
|Howard Phillips||Constitution||Virginia||98,020||0.1%||0||Curtis Frazier||Missouri||0|
|John Hagelin||Natural Law/Reform||Iowa||83,714||0.1%||0||Nat Goldhaber||California||0|
|Needed to win||270||270|
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.
(b) Candidates receiving less than 0.05% of the total popular vote.
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 votes):
States where the margin of victory was more than 5% but less than 10% (85 electoral votes):
After Florida was decided and Gore conceded, Texas Governor George W. Bush became the President-elect and began forming his transition committee. In a speech on December 13, in the Texas House of Representatives chamber, Bush stated he was reaching across party lines to bridge a divided America, saying, "the President of the United States is the President of every single American, of every race, and every background."
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 presided in his capacity as President of the Senate, ruled each of these objections out of order.
Subsequently, the joint session of Congress certified the electoral votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Bush took the oath of office on January 20, 2001. He would ultimately serve for the next 8 years. Meanwhile, Gore declined to run for president in 2004 and 2008.
The first independent recount was conducted by The Miami Herald and USA Today. The Commission found that under most recount scenarios, Bush would have won the election, but Gore would have won using the most generous standards.
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. Nonetheless, NORC concluded that if the disputes over the validity of the ballots in question had been consistently resolved and any uniform standard applied, the electoral result would have been reversed and Gore would have won by 107-115 votes.
Since the 2000 presidential election was so close in Florida, the United States government and state governments pushed for election reform to be prepared by the 2004 United States Presidential Election. Many of Florida's year 2000 election night problems stemmed from usability and ballot design factors with voting systems, including the potentially confusing "butterfly ballot." Many voters had difficulties with the paper based punch card voting machines and were either unable to understand the required process for voting or unable to perform the process. This resulted in an unusual amount of overvote (voting for more candidates than is allowed) and undervotes (voting for fewer than the minimum candidates, including none at all). Many undervotes were potentially caused by either voter error or errors with the punch card paper ballots resulting in hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chad.
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.
The Voter News Service's reputation was damaged by its treatment of Florida's presidential vote in 2000. Breaking its own guidelines, VNS called the state as a win for Gore 12 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Although most of the state is in the Eastern Time Zone, counties in the Florida panhandle, located in the Central Time Zone, had not yet closed its polls. More seriously, inconsistent polling results caused the VNS to change its call twice, first from Gore to Bush, and then to "too close to call".
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.
In the aftermath of the election, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed to help states upgrade their election technology in the hopes of preventing similar problems in future elections. Unfortunately, the electronic voting systems that many states purchased to comply with HAVA actually caused problems in the presidential election of 2004.
Some Democrats blame third party candidate Ralph Nader, claiming he split votes with Gore. Nader received 97,000 votes in Florida. According to the Washington Post, Voter News Service exit polling showed that "47% of Nader voters would have gone for Gore if it had been a two-man race, and only 21% for Bush." Based on these theoretical numbers for Florida, Gore would have had a margin of some 25,000 votes over Bush if it were to have been a two way election. 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 hurt by this perception, and may have hindered his 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 one member of the 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."