Some "No Holds Barred" Honesty From The Mainstream Media....

John blueoval at 1SMARTISP.NET
Wed Feb 23 19:22:34 MST 2005


2000 changed everything
Michael Barone
February 21, 2005


Sometimes a decision made in the heat of partisan battle has
reverberations for years to come.

One such decision was the one of Al Gore's campaign to selectively
challenge the results of the 2000 election in Florida by demanding
hand counts of votes cast in three counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward
and Palm Beach. The latter two produce huge majorities for
Democratic candidates, and the election officials in charge of the
hand counts were Democrats. In other words, Gore sought new counts
only in areas where he was likely to gain votes and would not take
the risk of a statewide hand count, where those gains might be
offset by others for George W. Bush.

We know now that, thanks to the news media consortium that
recounted ballots in every Florida county, recounting under any
method and any criterion they tested would not have overturned
Bush's exceedingly thin plurality.

But the Gore campaign, Terry McAuliffe during his four years as
Democratic National Chairman and John Kerry in his 2004
presidential campaign encouraged rank-and-file Democrats to
believe that the election was stolen. They decided to delegitimize
an American election for partisan gain. And in the process, they
did much damage to George W. Bush and the Republicans, to the
reputation of the American political process and, inadvertently
but to a far greater extent, to their own Democratic Party.

The damage to Bush was obvious. A large minority of Americans has
regarded him as an illegitimate president. That has weakened his
ability to work across party lines and has helped to maintain the
intense polarization of the electorate. It made it more difficult
for him to win re-election in 2004.

The damage to the Democrats, I would argue, has been greater. Many
of them remained focused during the first Bush term on the Florida
controversy, and have done less than they might have to produce
attractive new policies. McAuliffe predicted that anger over the
Florida result would defeat Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002. But Bush won
with 56 percent of the vote. Democrats hoped that anger over
Florida would produce a huge turnout in 2004. John Kerry did win
16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore. But George W. Bush won
23 percent more popular votes than he did in 2000.

What might have hurt the Democrats even more, perhaps, is if
Gore's strategy had been successful and he had been installed as
president, thanks to the partial hand count sanctioned by the
six-to-one Democratic-appointed Florida Supreme Court.

We now have a test case of that in the state of Washington. There,
the 2004 election for governor was exceedingly close. Something
like half the ballots in Washington are cast by mail, and it takes
a long time to count them. On Nov. 10, the count showed Republican
Dino Rossi up by 3,492 votes. Two days later, Democrats in heavily
Democratic King County, which casts about one-third of the state's
votes, started turning in affidavits to qualify provisional votes
-- something which hadn't been done in more Republican counties.
Then, the King County auditor's office starting finding new
ballots that had been misplaced -- 10,000 on Nov. 16, 1,779 on
various days between Nov. 23 and Dec 18.

A recount on Nov. 24 showed Rossi still ahead of Democrat
Christine Gregoire by 42 votes. But Democrats on Dec. 3 demanded a
hand count, which gave Gregoire a lead of 129 votes on Dec. 23.
Gregoire has been inaugurated as governor. But an examination of
King County records shows about 1,800 more ballots cast than names
of voters who asked for them. Republicans have brought a lawsuit
asking that the election result be set aside and a new election
held.

By a 53 percent to 36 percent margin, voters believed that Rossi
had really won, and by a 51 percent to 43 percent margin, they
favored Rossi in a revote. A Survey USA poll showed 62 percent
favoring a revote.

A selective recount, of the sort Gore sought in Florida, has made
Gregoire governor, at least temporarily. But it has cast a pall of
illegitimacy over her far greater than that cast over George W.
Bush by the Florida result.

Of course, no two cases are exactly alike. But now we have a
better idea of what a Gore presidency secured by a selective
recount would have been like. The negative reverberations from
Gore's decision to seek a selective recount would have been even
greater than they were. It's unfortunate that he didn't seek a
statewide recount or that he didn't follow Richard Nixon's example
and decline to contest a close election.

Michael Barone is a senior writer for U.S.News & World Report
<http://www.usnews.com/> and principal coauthor of The Almanac of
American Politics <http://www.michaelbarone.com/almanac/>.
©2005 Creators Syndicate



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