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Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:31 GMT
Bush closes in on White House
George Bush
Bush is starting to be treated like a new president
With Al Gore's myriad legal challenges apparently running out of steam, the 43rd president of the United States looks increasingly likely to be George W Bush.

Mr Gore is expected to accept defeat if he loses this week's courtroom battles over disputed ballots in the kingmaker state of Florida.

Al Gore
Al Gore: Not giving up yet
Crucially, Mr Bush also appears to be moving ahead of his rival in the battle for public opinion.

Recent surveys show increasing numbers of Americans believe the legal wrangling has gone on too long.

As the Democrat prepared for a last stand on Tuesday, the Texas governor was to be accorded the courtesy of his first CIA briefing - something unthinkable even last week.

Mr Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, meanwhile, has been sent to plot strategy for the coming year with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Confidence

Not long ago, the Republicans had a request refused to use offices put aside to prepare for government, and were denied public funds for the same purpose.


I do believe I have won this election

George W Bush
But, now, almost a month after the election - and still without the keys to the offices - there is a confidence about the party which suggests it believes its man really is heading for the White House.

Mr Bush has so far discouraged Republicans from using the "P" word - president-elect - but on Monday he called Mr Cheney "vice-president", suggesting he believes the battle is now all but won.

Hours later, members of his party were beginning to follow suit in public.

The move was further evidence that the Bush camp is now ploughing ahead with preparations for office.

Readying the team

Andrew Card, White House chief-of-staff-in-waiting, says he is working flat out to put the necessary people in place.


The governor will be well-served on becoming president

Andrew Card
"We'll be able to move pretty quickly," he told the Associated Press agency as his party celebrated Monday's court victories.

"I know what I'm doing in terms of trying to put together a team so that the governor will be well-served on becoming president."

Mr Card, who performed similar functions for Bush senior a decade ago, said the team was being deluged by job applications, some even from Democrats.

He said Mr Bush was ready to begin naming major appointments - but would probably hold off until next week.

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29 Nov 00 | Americas
Americans remain divided
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