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I have driven the two hours from Austin to find out. And I have come at a bad time. The day before, the Florida Supreme Court resuscitated Gore by calling for a hand recount of the state's disputed ballots. They've given him votes too, so Bush's lead has shrivled up to 154. The new recount has already begun when I arrive. The Governor has asked the Supreme Court to stop it. If it doesn't act in time, Gore could get ahead, changing the dynamic in an instant and forever. Aides are the most worried they have been all campaign long that they could lose. The uncertainty should be driving Bush nuts--not just because it would irk any normal human, but also because he can be quite a fidget. Even when he is standing over food laid out for lunch, he starts to agitate. "Let's eat. Let's eat," he says. "Let's get after it." Interrupt him at a press conference, and he can't stop his face from torquing in irritation. Advisers are lucky to get a few minutes of uninterrupted briefing before he wedges in with a question.
So when I pull up outside his modest cottage, I'm expecting that I won't get much more than a high five. "Sorry, presidency may be slipping away," I can imagine him saying. "You won't mind showing yourself out will you?" Why on this of all days would he want someone watching everything he does, drawing conclusions from what's on his walls, picking apart his syntax? Yet Bush and his wife Laura seem delighted to see me as they stand at the edge of their concrete driveway. He looks surprisingly relaxed, considering he spent the two-hour drive from Austin that morning being briefed on the recount situation in Florida. When he arrived, he told his advisers, "I'll be at the ranch. Let me know."
We'll see how long he holds before he calls for an update. Bush takes a white baseball cap off the metal fence post at the tip of his lawn where it has been resting and carries it inside. The morning is crisp and sunny, and the sky is filled with specific clouds. We head out for the tour of the homestead. "Get a chance to practice my drivin'," says Bush, sliding the key ring up over his Chevy Suburban's antenna where he has speared it. He drives with one hand and rests his other arm out the window, as he pulls up to the first gate. "You seen that stag come by here?" he asks of the Secret Service agent. A male deer has slipped through the extra high fences of a nearby exotic-game farm and found its way among the property's gently lolling cows. Well, most of them are lolling anyway; a bull a few yards away has picked this moment to mate. "Putting on a show," Bush murmurs out of the side of his mouth. Then the stag shows up. It's a taxidermist's dream, with massive forelegs and a rack that should need cantilevering. "He's going to jump the fence," says Bush, and then, on cue, the stag easily does just that, loping toward the southern portion of the property.