Gore was determined to steal the presidential election if he had to, and the networks were willing to help.
"One crucial calculation that convinced Mr. Gore to fight so tenaciously for 36 days after the election was that he was only a few hundred votes shy of victory," observes Bill Sammon of the Washington Times, a margin made tantalizingly narrow by media manipulation. Of the "187,000 registered voters in the Central Time Zone of Florida who did not cast ballots in the 2000 election," Sammon affirms that most were guilty of apathy. "But tens of thousands of others were dissuaded by the premature, erroneous declaration of a Gore victory, according to studies conducted by Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Taken together," he argues, "these surveys show the bad call caused Mr. Bush a net loss of about 10,000 votes."
In a new book called At Any Cost, detailing Al Gore's attempted theft of the presidential election, Sammon reports that "John McLaughlin & Associates, a Republican polling firm based in Washington, D.C., pegged the loss at 11,500 votes. Its poll, conducted November 15th and 16th, showed the premature calling of Florida for Mr. Gore dissuaded 28,050 voters from casting ballots. Although 23 percent were Gore supporters, 64 percent -- or nearly three times as many -- would have voted for Mr. Bush," he asserts. "Even a study commissioned by Democratic strategist Bob Beckel concluded Mr. Bush suffered a net loss of up to 8,000 votes in the western Panhandle after Florida was called for Mr. Gore. These surveys, like others conducted after previous elections, demonstrated that early projections of victory generally dissuade supporters of the losing candidate more than the winning candidate."
Sammon emphasizes "the political and historical significance of the suppressed turnout in the western Panhandle. If the network news had not jumped the gun," he explains, "Mr. Bush would have netted roughly 10,000 more votes in the Florida results, an election that ended up being decided by fewer than 1,000 votes. Those 10,000 votes would not have been enough to prevent the automatic recount mandated by Florida law when the statewide margin of victory is less than one-half of one percent," Sammon concedes. "But they certainly would have presented the Gore team with a much higher mountain to climb."
Sammon marvels that "the post-election mess was portrayed widely as a struggle between two men who bore equal responsibility for this unprecedented period of political angst. In the early going," he recalls, "the press vaguely intoned that one would have to step aside for the good of the nation. But Mr. Bush had won the election and Mr. Gore had lost, even when the votes were recounted many times. Mr. Gore always was the antagonist, even when it became painfully obvious that he could not possibly prevail. Even so," Sammon emphasizes, "the press steadfastly refused to assign any moral or ethical weight to the relative positions of the two combatants." He wonders, "if the positions of Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush had been reversed, would the press have provided as much cover to the Texas governor for 36 days?"