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Monday February 26 3:34 PM ET Bush Hopes Vote Study Ends Election Debate By Randall Mikkelsen WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush (news - web sites) said on Monday he hoped the debate over the legitimacy of his election was over following a review that found a hand recount in Florida's Miami-Dade County would probably not have changed the outcome. ``Hopefully all the focus on the past is over with. It's time to move forward,'' Bush told reporters as he met with his Cabinet to discuss his pending budget request, due on Wednesday. An independent study commissioned by newspaper companies reported on Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore (news - web sites) would not have won a hand recount of votes in Florida's Miami-Dade County conducted after the Nov. 7 presidential election, and could have even lost votes. Results from the state's other counties were not expected for a few weeks. Gore had asked for a hand recount, which was ultimately denied by the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites), in four counties including Miami-Dade. Democrats had widely predicted Gore would have gained 600 votes in Miami-Dade, enough to overcome Bush's margin in Florida and hand the state's 25 electoral votes, and the presidential election, to Gore. Bush was certified the winner in Florida by 537 votes. Asked how he felt about the study, conducted for USA Today, The Miami Herald and Knight Ridder newspapers, Bush said, ''Good.'' Gore spokeswoman Kiki McLean said the former vice president could not be reached immediately for comment. All 60,000 Undervotes Counted USA Today said the independent study concluded that Gore would have had a net gain of just 49 votes in the county if the most lenient standard -- of counting even faintly dimpled chads -- had been used. It said Gore could have lost votes if stricter standards were used. The three media organizations hired the national accounting firm of BDO Seidman to examine all 60,000 undervotes -- those which did not register a preference when votes were counted by machine -- in Florida's 67 counties. The results from Miami-Dade were the first released. Despite the new evidence supporting Bush's victory in the Electoral College (news - web sites) that decides U.S. elections, Gore remained the winner of the popular vote. Democrats have pointed to that margin in arguing Bush must make compromises to acknowledge the preferences of the voting majority. Bush said his State of the Union-style speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night would be a chance to reach out to voters who did not support him on Nov. 7. ``Tomorrow night's speech is a part of moving forward. We've worked hard here in this administration to reach out to people who may not have supported me. I think we're making pretty good progress,'' he said. His discussions about the budget, he said, were about ''what's best for America, not what's best for a political party.'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was not expected to discuss the election in his speech.
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