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Candidates use Web to garner support during recount

The Republican Party is turning to email lists developed during the presidential campaign to help thwart the vote recount in Florida--the latest sign that political email is here to stay.

The Republican Party is turning to email lists developed during the presidential campaign to help thwart the vote recount in Florida--the latest sign that political email is here to stay.

"Contribute now," says one note making its way around the Net on Tuesday from Gov. George W. Bush's backers. "The expense of the recount effort must be funded immediately. Please send a check in any amount that you can up to $5,000 today."

A notice is also posted on the site, along with press clippings of the latest news coming from the presidential election saga.

The Bush campaign this weekend filed suit in federal court seeking to bar Florida election officials from going forward with a recount in four counties singled out by Democrats as statistically anomalous. Although the court rejected that challenge, any protracted legal battle over the election results could prove expensive, creating a financial headache for both campaigns.

Funds raised during election season for campaign efforts cannot be tapped to fight legal contests in recount situations, according to the Federal Election Commission.

It is unclear how much the Republican Party has raised in this latest push, but the Web site promises to make public all contributors. The Bush campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

The online rally cry signals that political email is no passing fad, as both parties continue to enlist volunteers and scrape for cash online long past the election's close.

Email strategies were strongly evident on election day a week ago, when Bush's and Vice President Al Gore's camps conscripted supporters to canvass their digital neighborhoods to get the vote out.

The Republican National Committee, in particular, managed to gather an email list of more than 80,000 core supporters who then contacted their friends and family members, urging them to the polls. It was evident even then that a few extra supporters at the polls could decide the tight race.

But the campaign schemes that were supposed to be put to bed a week ago are getting put to use again as election results hang in the balance.

Both candidates need Florida's 25 electoral votes to get to the White House. Gore won the popular vote by about 200,000 votes of some 100 million cast and is still the underdog in Florida.

Gore demanded a recount by hand in four counties after suspecting discrepancies in the results. Election officials put a 2 p.m. PST Tuesday deadline on the effort, but that decision is being evaluated by the Florida state court.

Republicans say Gore wants to count and recount the votes until he gets the results he wants.

But on his Web site, Gore provides a seven-paragraph explanation for his decision.

"We want the true and accurate will of the people to prevail, and that means letting the legal system run its course," the notice says. "If at the end of that process, George Bush is the victor, we will respect that result."

Hand recounts of about 430,000 votes were suspended in Palm Beach County pending an Want election news? Get it here outcome of the court decision. The county is a critical one for Gore. Already, some 19,000 ballots have been disqualified because voters said they mistakenly voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore.

However, the delicacy of hitting up party faithful who may have only recently pocketed their checkbooks has not been lost on some political observers--and perhaps on the parties themselves.

"Oddly enough, the (Bush) site does not spell out why the funds are needed," research analyst Elena Larson wrote in her report for NetElection, which is funded by the Annenberg School of Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. "It does not even claim to fight or oppose the recount effort. We can only assume that any mention of court action or litigation is expected to resonate poorly with the press and the public, and those who support Bush will quietly understand and help again."