Democrat Al Gore said on Monday he would not want to win the White House "by a few votes cast in error or misinterpreted or not counted", and believed Republican George W. Bush would not, either.
On the same day attorneys made Gore's case in federal and state courts, the vice president reached out to the court of public opinion, saying he was focused "not on the contest, but our democracy."
"While time is important, it is even more important that every vote is counted and counted accurately," the vice president said in his first public comments in five days on the post-Election Day fight for the White House.
Gore made the remarks to reporters outside the White House shortly after lawyers for Gore and Florida's Volusia County went to court to keep a hand recount of votes in selected areas of the state going. The recount may decide who is the next president.
The attorneys beat back an effort, at least for now, by Bush to win a federal injunction to stop the hand recount.
Lawyers for Gore also joined a suit by Volusia County that challenges a decision by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, to certify election results at 5 p.m. on Tuesday - before many of the hand recounts can be completed.
Unofficial returns now show Bush up by a few hundred votes in Florida. Whoever wins Florida and its 25 electoral votes will be able to claim victory and the White House.
The vice president monitored much of Monday's high-stakes drama from his office at the White House, where he fielded telephone calls from supporters and aides.
Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman have also stayed in touch with Democratic leaders, trying to ease the concern of some about a potentially bloody and protracted battle.
In late afternoon, Gore stepped before the cameras and said, "Look, I would not want to win the presidency by a few votes cast in error or misinterpreted or not counted. And I don't think Gov. Bush wants that either."
"Having enough patience to spend the days necessary to hear exactly what the American people have said is really the most important thing because that is what honors our Constitution," he said.
The vice president then walked away, saying, "I'm not going to comment on any of the ongoing legal matters."
His aides had plenty to say, however.
Gore communications director Mark Fabiani and press secretary Chris Lehane, in separate interviews, both called Florida Secretary of State Harris "a political hack" trying to help Bush move into the Oval Office.
Fabiani also took a few verbal swipes at Bush's younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has recused himself from the recount battle.
"The citizens of Florida deserve an accurate and speedy count. The secretary of state, a crony of the Bush brothers, is trying to steal this election away," Fabiani said.
Earlier Monday, Harris announced she would enforce a Tuesday deadline set by state law to certify the state tally.
The law allows the deadline to be extended in special cases at the secretary of state's discretion. But Harris, who was part of the Bush campaign, refused.
Lehane charged that Harris was "trying to do an end run that would frustrate the will of the people, much as the Bush campaign tried to give the American people the bum's rush a couple of days ago" when it sought an injunction to stop the hand count.
"She (Harris) is acting in the finest tradition of a Soviet commissar," Lehane said.
Fabiani said he was in contact Monday with Gore and said, "He is fine. He is convinced that he won the vote in Florida, just as he won the national vote."
"He is looking forward to a speedy hand recount of the vote, but that can be completed only if the Bush brothers and their political cronies get out of the way," Fabiani said.