The 2000 election took place well into the polarized partisan era, so why was there so little of a struggle between the two parties when the outcome was still up in the air after the vote was in?
The incumbent party was the apparent loser, so they should have wielded incumbent advantage in one way or another to squash the challenger party. Its candidate was the next-in-line ally of one of the most ruthless political clans in recent history (the challenger was from the other), so they should have had the killer instinct.
The incumbent party won the popular vote, had rising momentum going from its first to its second term, suggesting a win for the attempt at a third term. And the Electoral College race was about as close as you could get, all hinging on merely hundreds of votes in a very populous state -- which by the most extensive method of recounting, would have swung the state and the entire election to the incumbent party.
Instead, Al Gore declined to contest to the death the shutting down of the recount in Florida, surrendering the White House to the Republicans and the Bush clan in particular once again. Why risk another long string of Republican victories?
Remember that Clinton's terms only looked like an interregnum at best back then -- aside from the deeply unpopular Jimmy Carter, who got dethroned after a single term, and damn near got primaried out of his re-election campaign by Ted Kennedy, it was Republicans from Nixon in '68 through Bush in '88. In the documentary about the Clinton '92 campaign, The War Room, there's a scene where James Carville is trying to fire up the team before the New Hampshire primary, warning them that if they let this go, a Democrat will never win the White House again. After so many McGoverns, Carters, Mondales, and Dukakises, that's how bleak their party's prospects looked.
After only clawing back the presidency for two measly terms, why would the Democrats just hand it over to the Republicans for at least four and perhaps eight more years?
What people have remembered about the recount is that "if everything had been fair," Gore would have won Florida and the election.
Certainly he would have won Florida -- but who says the election? That's assuming that halting the Florida recount was the only event of unfairness that won a state for the wrong party.
Perhaps there were the usual shenanigans by the Democrat urban machines, or rigging the voting machines themselves, or electronically altering the data, or whatever else. If the Democrats pushed hard for fair process in Florida, they would open themselves up to counter-pushes against their own unfair practices in other states.
They would not have wanted to risk airing so much dirty laundry, delegitimizing not just the electoral process (which they don't care about), but more importantly their brand as a party. This could have kept them from pursuing the crusade to "make everything fair" even if they still would have won the election. It would have been almost impossible to govern with so much anti-democratic trickery on both sides being aired in public.
And it's also possible that they would have still lost, even after winning Florida. There were four states that the Democrats won by under 1 point, whose EC votes added up to 30 -- more than enough to outweigh the 25 votes of Florida. These were New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Oregon. The margin in numbers of votes was 300-some in New Mexico, and between 4000 to 7000 in the other three -- not impossible for an urban machine to come up with by unsupervised tampering, dead people voting, voters from outside the state, etc. In fact, New Mexico could be left out, and the other three would still make up 25 votes to perfectly replace Florida.
Two of those states were in fact won by Bush in the very next election, New Mexico and Iowa. So who's to say he didn't get robbed in '00?
I'm not saying there was such a degree of fraud in those four states (or other blue states). I'm saying that Gore and the Democrat leadership probably didn't know for sure either. The party elites don't know how the lowly precinct officials conducted themselves in Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Portland, and Davenport. That's all they needed -- a great big deal of uncertainty that would at the least expose all sorts of election fraud by their party, and at most rob them of these states, nullifying the gain of Florida in their supposed pursuit of total fairness.
It's hard to think of a convincing explanation, given what we know about how ruthless and heatedly partisan the top Democrats were, and how little of a fight it would supposedly have taken to win the election -- just recount votes in Florida! The most plausible conclusion is that they would have been found to have committed even more severe crimes of the same kind that they were accusing their enemies of.