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Inevitably, of course, it got personal. Gore was steamed by Bush's televised declaration of victory the night Harris certified the election, Eskew says. "He thought it was minimalist in its healing and outreach. And the moves that they made to start the transition, I don't think he felt they were necessarily playing by the same set of rules." What Gore never expressed, aides say, was the kind of recrimination and self-doubt they had heard from him in other difficult times of the near past--during the campaign-finance scandals of 1996, Bill Clinton's impeachment, the dark early days of his own presidential quest. Old friends in Tennessee told the New York Times that Gore was haunted by the fact that he would be President if he had not lost his home state. But the troops around him in Washington insist that they saw none of that. "I have not heard him look back once," strategist Mark Fabiani said near the end.
Nor, at least while the fight was on, was he willing to look toward the future. At one point, when Eskew and Gore's brother-in-law Frank Hunger started musing about the Vice President's 2004 prospects, Eskew recalls, Gore cut them off: "Until we get to a midterm election, none of this stuff is set, so to speculate about it is really not something I want to spend time on." But in his concession speech, Gore clearly had an eye ahead, vowing to "never stop" the fight he began in his campaign. Of course, it may be that his party will not forgive him, four years from now, for having snatched defeat from the jaws of peace and prosperity. But it may also be that having won everything except the only thing that counted--the long, last legal battle--Gore has also won another shot.