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Nevada vote clinches White House for Bush.

Byline: Patricia Wilson

George W Bush last night secured the electoral college majority needed to become the 43rd US President.

Nevada's four electors put the Texas governor over the top with a total of 271 votes, one more than the constitution requires.

That closed the door on the remote possibility that a few 'faithless electors' who had pledged to vote for Bush might upset his victory by casting their ballots instead for Vice President Al Gore.

All that remains is for Congress to make the votes official on January 6.

The electors gathered in their state capitals across the country to cast their votes.

Though Democrats and political reformers tried to persuade Republicans to defect, the only rogue elector was a Democrat from the district of Columbia who had been pledged to Mr Gore but left her ballot blank as a protest against Washington's lack of representation in Congress.

Elsewhere, Mr Gore's home state of Tennessee cast its 11 electoral votes, as expected, for Mr Bush.

And Florida - after five turbulent weeks of recounts and legal challenges - kept its promise and cast its all-important 25 votes for the Republican.

'It was, like, finally, we did it,' said Mel Martinez, an elector in Florida. 'It's like a close ball game and the clock ticks and your team wins.'

As the day began, a small chance for a Democratic victory remained, with Mr Bush holding a 271-267 lead over Mr Gore among the 538 pledged electors.

A switch by three Bush electors, along with the uncast Gore vote, would throw the election to the House. A switch by four Bush electors and the election was Gore's.

But most expected the Bush-pledged electors to keep their promise.

In many states, electors are bound by law to keep their pledge. But other states - like Florida - have no such law. Some scholars say the laws probably are unenforceable.

Several electors in the past have broken their pledge, most recently in 1988, but never in a close election where it could change the result.

Mr Gore's running mate, Joseph Lieberman, discouraged any vote-switching as he thanked Connecticut voters for re-electing him to the Senate.

'Al Gore and I don't expect any surprises,' Mr Lieberman said.

Both parties mounted campaigns to reach the electors, with Bush aides seeking out all 271 votes pledged to the Republicans.

Some Gore electors criticised the electoral college system, which for the first time since 1888 allowed the loser of the popular vote to win the electoral vote and with it, the presidency. Others were simply unhappy with the outcome.

Mr Bush was reaching out yesterday to the capital's elite on his first post-election foray into Washington, holding talks with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and leaders of Congress. Over breakfast, Mr Bush got a status report on the US economy from Mr Greenspan, the financial wizard who has received credit for monetary policies that have enabled the US economy to achieve its longest peacetime expansion.

'I talked with a good man right here. We had a very strong discussion about my confidence in his abilities,' Mr Bush said after the meeting.

Mr Bush, who arrived on Sunday night, went to Washington in part to mend fences after his narrow victory over Mr Gore and the bitter post-election battle over the state of Florida. He is to meet Mr Gore and President Bill Clinton separately today before returning to Austin, Texas.

Mr Bush and Mr Greenspan would seem to differ on what to do with billions of dollars of federal budget surpluses projected to flow into the Treasury during the next decade. Mr Bush favours an across-the-board tax cut of $1.3 trillion while Mr Greenspan favours using the surplus to pay down the national debt.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 19, 2000
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