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2000 Election

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2000 Election

It was one of the closest and most contested modern elections. Citizens affronted troublesome election equipment and vote recounts in Florida, one of the most influential states in the country. Americans watched the candidate expected to win concede the election before challenging the results in one of the most pivotal, modern elections. The 2000 Presidential Election was scrutinized in the courts and on television as one of the most analyzed examples of a presidential candidate winning the popular vote and losing to the winner of the Electoral College vote. In this summary, we explore the candidates and the results of the 2000 election with an analysis of the significance of this highly contested presidential election.

2000 Election Candidates

photo of 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore

Democrat candidate Albert Arnold Gore. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
photo of 2000 Republican presidential candidate George W. BushRepublican candidate: George W. Bush. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The 2000 election was a battle between Democrat Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, the sitting Vice-President, and the Republican Governor of Texas, George W. Bush.

Democrat Candidate: Al Gore

Al Gore was a vocal environmentalist and legislator from Tennessee who hoped to secure the Presidency after eight years as the Vice-President under Bill Clinton. Ivy League-educated, he was drafted during Vietnam where he spend five months as a military journalist. He returned home to alternate between law school and journalism, which he left to run successfully for the U.S. House. Subsequent wins in the House led to a U.S. Senate seat and presidential aspirations. Gore ultimately won the Vice Presidency under Bill Clinton in 1992 and was re-elected in 1998. Al Gore chose Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate.

2000 election sign for Gore / Lieberman

Gore / Lieberman Campaign Logo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Republican Candidate: George W. Bush

George W. Bush, son of former President H. W. Bush, was also an Ivy-League educated politician born in Connecticut and raised mostly in Texas. Bush served in the Texas and Alabama Air National Guard as a fighter pilot at home during the Vietnam War. During the next phase of his life, he was a Texas oil businessman and part-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. As his popularity in Texas grew, he successfully won the state governorship in 1994 which consumed his time through 2000. George W. Bush chose former Wyoming Congressman and Secretary of Defense (under President George H. W. Bush) Dick Cheney as his running mate.

2000 election sign for Bush / Cheney

Bush / Cheney Campaign Logo. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Role of Third Parties in the 2000 Election

Ralph Nader was an outspoken environmental activist and attorney who ran for President multiple times. A progressive liberal, Nader ran under different third-party designations. In Florida, Nader won 97,421 votes of which the majority were likely Gore voters in a two-party matchup. Some have called Nader a "spoiler", however, he was clearly trying to create a viable alternative and was not trying to hurt Gore's chances. In total, Ralph Nader received 2,882,955 votes equally 2.74% of the vote.

Patrick Buchanan was a conservative political staffer and writer who also ran for President multiple times. In 2000, Buchanan ran as a Reform Party candidate and received the fourth largest amount of popular votes with almost 450,000.

2000 Election Results

Candidate
Party
Electoral Votes (270 needed to win)
Popular Vote
% of Popular Vote
# of States Carried
✔George W. Bush
Republican
271
50,456,002
47.86
30
Al Gore
Democrat
266
50,999,897
48.38
20 (plus D.C.)
Ralph Nader
Green
0
2,882,955
< 1
0
Patrick Buchanan
Reform
0
448,895
< 1
0
Harry Browne
Libertarian
0
384,431
< 1
0

2000 Election Results. Source: StudySmarter Original.

The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers in the U.S. Consitution. This process balances the popular vote and the role of Congress in voting. There are 538 electors distributed on the basis of each state's number of Representatives (out of 435) and number of Senators (2 per state). All states except Maine and Nebraska award all electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the state.

A candidate needs to win 270 votes to win the electoral vote which is cast in each state and then certified in Congress.

2000 Election Map

2000 presidential elections, map of Electoral College Results of the 2000 Election, StudySmarter

Electoral College Results of the 2000 Election. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

2000 Election Polls

Early political opinion polling showed an initial Bush lead in the summer. A Gallup poll, conducted from June 6th to June 7th, 2000, yielded the following results:

  • Republican George W. Bush led Democrat Al Gore 48% to 44% among likely voters.
  • Gallup found in a 2-way Ballot (Gore, Bush) Bush would win 48% to Gores's 44%.
  • Gallup found in a 4-way Ballot (Gore, Bush, Nader, Buchanan) Bush would win 46% to Gore's 41%, Nader's 6%, and Buchanan's 2%.

It was believed that a strong U.S. economy was benefitting Gore who suffered from image issues and connections to the scandal-ridden Clinton Administration. Conversely, Bush had a set of strong debate performances but was viewed overall as possessing a weaker political acumen.

In the final days of the election, the major polls showed Ralph Nader polling less than 5% with George Bush winning in most of the polls. Nevertheless, ties in certain polls and an Albert Gore win in others demonstrated the closeness of the race.

Poll
Bush
Gore
Nader
Buchanan
Newsweek 11/2
45
43
5
Marist 11/2
49
44
2
1
Fox 11/2
43
43
3
1
Washington Post 11/5
48
45
3
1
Pew 11/5
45
43
4
NBC / WSJ 11/5
47
44
3
2
Harris 11/5
47
47
5
ABC 11/5
48
45
3
1
CBS 11/6
44
45
5
1
CNN / USA Today / Gallup 11/6
48
46
4
1
Voter.com
46
41
4
Reuters /MSNBC 11/6
48
48
5
1

2000 Election Polls Aggregated. Source: StudySmarter Original.

Exit polls were used extensively in 2000 to gauge voter sentiment and choice. Exit polls showing a Gore lead were used in early news reports and early declarations of victory. This caused some critics to argue the t.v. news media was causing many voters to abandon planned votes in the remaining hours of the day.

Florida 2000 Election

November 7th, 2000

With the eyes of the nation on Florida, scrutiny started on election night and continued for weeks amid multiple county and state-level recounts. First, national television networks prematurely called the election for Al Gore. Then they retracted that call and proclaimed George Bush the winner of Florida. Gore then called Bush to concede, despite a slim margin of victory. Then, Gore rescinded the concession and began a legal challenge that would span many weeks.

Bush: ''You mean to tell me, Mr. Vice President, you're retracting your concession?''

Gore: ''You don't have to be snippy about it… Let me explain something. Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this.''

A dialogue between the 2000 presidential election contestants. Source: New York Times account of phone call transcript.

At the time, the Governor of Florida was Candidate George Bush's brother, Jeb Bush. An automatic recount was required by state law due to the slim margin of victory. After this recount process, the Gore campaign called for another recount in targeted counties. In response, the Florida Supreme Court called for a recount of selected votes which was appealed by the Bush team. Because this was an immediate, national issue, the case moved to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ballot technology emerged as an issue. The "butterfly ballot" and "hanging chad" became household names for the positioning of ballot names and the paper material that is punched out, or left partially attached. Confusing results or unintended votes for different candidates became a source of voter concern as the Gore/Bush lawsuit revealed the limits of paper ballots.

Important Dates

11/7/2000 -Election Day

11/8/2000 -Multiple recount procedures begin in Florida

12/9/2000 -U.S. Supreme Court halts all recounts

12/12/2000 -U.S. Supreme Court rules that county-specific recounts (rather than whole-state) violated the Constitution. The decision meant Bush won the 25 electoral votes from Florida- reaching the 270 mark of victory.

Bush won Florida's 25 electoral votes by a margin of 537 votes. Bush won 48.85% of the vote to Gore's 48.84%, and Nader's 1.63%.

Most people are unaware that the vote in New Mexico was closer than in Florida, with Gore winning the state's five electoral by only 366 votes!

Significance of the 2000 Election

1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 are the four most recent examples of Presidential candidates winning the popular vote but losing the election due to the Electoral College. Like the Hayes-Tilden (1876), Harrison-Cleveland (1888), and Trump-Clinton (2016) match-ups, the 2000 election remains a debate topic on the role of the Electoral College in deciding the results of presidential races.

The election of George W. Bush did consist of the Republican winning 30 states and winning Gore's home state of Tennessee. Nonetheless, Bush could not claim a broad mandate to enact new policy. The nominal but symbolic turnout in support of third-party candidates highlighted the continuing demand for alternative positions not embraced by the two major parties.

Since 2000, candidates have learned to wait on media reports of certain 'wins' and to avoid early concessions. Americans' distrust of election fairness and assurance that their vote will be counted arose out of the Florida recount.

2000 Election - Key takeaways

  • Al Gore the Democratic candidate, was the current Vice President.
  • George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, was the current Governor of Texas.
  • The 2000 Presidential Election was one of the most controversial in recent electoral history.
  • The winner of the popular vote (Gore) lost to the winner of the electoral vote (Bush).
  • Political polls indicated a close race with Bush slightly favored to win.
  • The third-party candidacies of Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan impacted the race.
  • The vote was so close in Florida that multiple recounts were initiated.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the recount and settled the election lawsuit.

Frequently Asked Questions about 2000 Election

In both elections, 2000 and 2016, the candidate who won the election did so while losing the popular vote, however, attained the presidency due to the Electoral College process. 

The 2000 election was ultimately decided by multiple recount procedures and a lawsuit by the Al Gore campaign. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the contention and the final counts resulted in a victory by Bush. 

George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, won the 2000 election. 

The 2000 Election was ultimately decided by a recount in the very close Florida election results. 

Time Magazine reported on a study done by MIT and Caltech that concluded that up to six million votes were 'lost' due to problems with ballots, voting machine issues, lost absentee votes, and issues with voter registration. 

Final 2000 Election Quiz

Question

In which state did media scrutiny and legal challenges result in a recount of votes?

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Answer

Texas

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Question

What job did Bush hold in 2000?

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Answer

Vice-President

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Question

What job did Gore hold in 2000?

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Answer

Vice-President

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Question

Who was the U.S. President that Gore served under as Vice-President?

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Answer

George H.W. Bush

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Question

Which third-party candidate received the third-highest amount of popular votes in the 2000 Election?

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Answer

Ralph Nader

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Question

What is minimum number of electoral votes needed in order to win in the Electoral College?

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Answer

270

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Question

Which of the following statements is true?

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Answer

George W. Bush was the son of a U.S. President and brother of the Governor of Maine.

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Question

Which of the following statements is false?

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Answer

Al Gore won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote

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Question

The recount of ballots in Florida was impacted by the decision of which institution?

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Answer

U.S. Supreme Court

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Question

The 2000 election was the first instance of a presidential candidate winning the electoral vote but losing the popular vote.

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Answer

True

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Question

Political polls leading up to the election predicted a strong win by Al Gore.

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Answer

True

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Question

America watched the 2000 election and followed issues including which of the following?

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Answer

Florida recount

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