(CNSNews.com) - Former Secretary of State James Baker, the Bush campaign's key operative in the Florida recount controversy, Tuesday offered a compromise to the Gore campaign. Baker said Bush would be willing to accept all ballots that have been re-counted by hand by 5 p.m. today as long as the Gore campaign abandons all other efforts to extend that hand count. Baker said such a deal would take the issue out of the courtroom.
"We have had counts. We have had multiple counts. We've had multiple recounts and selective manual recounts and selective manual counts. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to bring this to a close and we sincerely hope that this proposal will enable us to do so," Baker told a Tallahassee news conference.
"Both sides should agree to accept the vote count of all the counties at the statutory deadline, today, at 5 p-m. In addition, both sides should agree to accept the overseas absentee ballots as of midnight, Friday, in accordance with the law," Baker said.
Baker continued, "We have objected to the manual recount in Florida. The Gore campaign has objected to the statutory deadline in Florida. We are offering to accept the manual recount up to the time of the statutory deadline, if the Gore campaign will accept that deadline."
Baker had another proposal for the Gore campaign as well.
"If the Gore campaign accepts this proposal and drops its litigation, we will dismiss our lawsuit. And then, ladies and gentlemen, the courts will not decide this election. Many people around the country have urged both candidates to reach out to one another with a fair proposal to resolve this very divisive and unfortunate process. We are doing just that," Baker said.
Baker said Bush is still ahead of Gore in Florida but is still not certain Bush will win the state.
"He's ahead by 380 votes and there are any number of overseas absentee votes that will have to be counted on Friday and there's no assurance that he will win those votes. Traditionally, they have favored the Republican candidate but there's absolutely no assurance. If you are suggesting we are taking no risk by this proposal, I would argue with that rather strongly. I think for them to reject it just on the grounds that it locks in a victory for us is simply not right." Baker said.
A ballot count by hand statewide in Florida is "crazy" and would "increase the uncertainty" because it would take too long, according to Baker.
Baker said a statewide hand count would jeopardize the December 18th deadline for Florida's electoral votes to be counted along with those of other states. "Clearly, that's not acceptable, not just to us, but to the American people, I would venture," Baker said.
Baker also believes the lack of an election outcome is wreaking havoc on both the American and overseas financial markets.
"Why are the markets disturbed? Because they don't see any finality here. Why are some of our friends and indeed some of our adversaries overseas looking on this with great interest on the one hand and apprehension on the other? Because they don't see any end to this process. Nobody can come up right now and say, here's how's it's going to end, here's when it's going to end," Baker said.