Political Animal


November 01, 2012 9:38 AM All Lawyered Up and Ready To Go

By Ed Kilgore

This morning’s political buzz is interesting: the drumbeat of conservative commentary triumphantly concluding that the election is over with Barack Obama sure to be driven out of the White House like a whipped cur has not lost a bit of its volume. Yet state polls continue to show an Obama advantage in Ohio, and Romney is still campaigning in Virginia and Florida, states Republicans claimed they had put away a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, the national polls that were favoring Romney have evened up. And GOPers have to be fearing that the overwhelmingly positive initial perceptions of the Obama administration’s handling of Sandy could affect late deciders.

With just five days to go until the official event, it’s entirely possible that pre-election analysis will be entirely submerged in a sea of spin. But the possible outcome that has drawn the least attention as compared to its likelihood is Overtime. The most critical state, Ohio, is the one where partisan election administration, funky laws (e.g., the one providing a mandatory 10-day wait before provisional ballots can be counted), and the lead-pipe certainty of litigation combine to make a contested outcome very likely unless the winning candidate’s margin is decisive.

And who’s to say we couldn’t have a contested election in multiple states? Florida is still Florida, after all. And so long as no one concedes defeat, you could have multiple lawsuits in multiple states preventing (or challenging) certification of a winner—for weeks.

I doubt anyone remembering the endless waking nightmare (I literally woke up every morning wondering if I had dreamed the whole Florida mess, until I turned on the TV and saw it was still real) of 2000 would deny that the level of partisan polarization is many, many levels more intense today. The very precedent of 2000 ensures that both sides are heavily lawyered up for an unresolved election. How well will any of us handle this contingency? Will there be mass protests, violence, another Supreme Court intervention? Who knows?

Maybe I’m just influenced by stories my father told me of the Three Governors controversy in Georgia back in 1946-1947, when a constitutional glitch over what to do when a governor-elect died produced a wild and extended period of banana-republic maneuvering on the streets and in the courts, with members of the State Patrol picking sides and aspirants physically seizing control of the governor’s office. Or maybe I’m just furious that 2000 produced no better reforms that the sad and toothless Helping Americans Vote Act, and that we still have no national standards assuring the right to vote.

Quite possibly it Won’t Happen Here this time, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it. It would certainly take a very comfortable Obama win in all the key states to stop conservatives from challenging his right to serve another term, if only to help prepare themselves for another four years of destructive behavior.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on November 01, 2012 9:49 AM:

    2000 showed the GOP how to do it, and that the American public would accept it.
    They have worked tirelessly since then to fine tune the "rigging" and to prepare legal avenues to support whatever scam they use. Voter Fraud, Voter ID, working to get GOPers in positions of power in statewide voting offices...you name it. When you are a minority party, there's only two ways to win the presidency: Have clearly better policies and candidates OR cheat. Guess which one is applicable.
    Hurricane Sandy is a gift to any vote scam since it effectively provides a smokescreen to operate behind. - no electricity, less Media focus, less voter mobility, people without homes more concerned with that than voting....you get the picture.
    Add carefully strategized legal challenges and some arcane local voting regulations and the stage is set. As with 2000, the key is to control the vote in very specific "tipping-point" precincts in key states. Ohio, Florida....well we know they've got a plan there, don't we.

  • sjw on November 01, 2012 9:52 AM:

    Put nothing past these people. "By hook or by crook" is as legitimate a method for them as elections. Power is All. With no sense of American traditions, fairness, or even right & wrong, Republicans will pursue every possible avenue to get their way.

  • JeffInOhio on November 01, 2012 9:55 AM:

    Most reasonable observers think the Obama cake is baked in Ohio and there's not much Romney can do to win. I think you'll wake Wednesday morning to pundits pondering how Obama managed to achieve 300+ electoral votes while they had the race a toss up and when the analysis is complete, and the wingnut conspiracies are still swirling, it will show the Dem internals had it right all along, the "independents" breaking for Romney late were Tea Party types who won't identify as GOP and the Obama GOTV was nothing short of extraordinary.

  • Ron Byers on November 01, 2012 9:57 AM:

    The polling in Ohio is pretty consistantly for Obama. The margin is close, but the Jeep ad might have put the entire midwest into the Obama column. That Romney is spending so much time in Florida means they are seeing something in the polls they don't like. I think Sandy will play a key role with undecideds and might give Romney supporters a reason not to vote. The Democratic GOTV effort is in full swing. I am mostly worried about the senate. I don't want Akin or Mourdock to win. We can't have either of those dolts in the senate for 6 years.

  • c u n d gulag on November 01, 2012 10:00 AM:

    The Conservatives have a 3-pronged strategy to win this election - which they desperately need, if they're to regain, and then consolidate and hold, power:
    1. Voter suppression via ID & challenging voters at the polls.
    2. Voting machines that flip.
    3. Challenge any and every negative results that the first two didn't affect.

    And during the challenges, we'll look back on "The Brooks Brothers Riots" as if they were a boy-band concert.
    There will be blood.

    And, if after all that, Obama still wins, there may be RIVERS OF BLOOD.

    They are already irrational.
    The thought of another 4 years with a black Democrat as President, will cause many of them to become violently unhinged.
    Bet on it.

  • BillFromPA on November 01, 2012 10:12 AM:

    I find it hard to believe that Mittens and the repugs won't work every angle to win/steal this thing. Of course any state result closer than a certain %, usually .5%, will trigger a recount without cost to the campaigns. What I'm interested in seeing is if these greedy bastards will fork over their own $$ to contest an election where they're out by more than a point or two. If there's no chance of closing the gap then any money spent is for the 'principle' of de-legitimizing the result in the court of public opinion, their Plan B. They'll pay any amount for a win, I doubt they'll shell out for a 'principle'.

  • DIane Rodriguez on November 01, 2012 10:20 AM:

    Not ready to concede the race to manipulation The Democrats haven't just been handing the screw driver to the Repub rigging the voting machine. Looks like the get-out-the-vote early campaign has been working well and they have won some challenges. That benefits Obama, but it also benefits the down ticket races.

    I'm pretty jazzed after the Christie endorsement in the last few days. Obama had a national, constant platform to show his competency. Late in the game, but Romney is finding out that lying about corporations is the only thing that wakes up the news media.

  • CharlieM on November 01, 2012 10:22 AM:

    Actions of the Romney campaign over the past week says to me that their own internal polls show 'em losing. The ads in Ohio, the campaign stops in FL/VA, revival of the welfare work requirements meme, etc. - looks to me like desperation because they know what's coming.

  • Rieux on November 01, 2012 10:29 AM:

    HAVA is the Help America Vote Act, Ed, not "Helping."

  • stormskies on November 01, 2012 10:30 AM:

    This 'conservative' Repiglicans are akin to a rabid animal that has rabies. Get in their way and they attack at all costs.

    I sure hope JeffInOhio in correct. If so these rabid animals can then simply be euthanized.

  • stormskies on November 01, 2012 10:35 AM:

  • james on November 01, 2012 10:38 AM:

    In 2008, I was halfway expecting GWBush would declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, cancel the elections and declare himself "President until conditions improved." I still think some Republicans are angrily disappointed he didn't do that.

    How can we possibly save the country from the evil Democrats without a dictatorship? And all the best dictators get elected first.

  • jpeckjr on November 01, 2012 11:00 AM:

    I was told the "three governors" story when I was growing up in Georgia, too.

    The hero of the story was Ben W. Fortson, Georgia's Secretary of State from 1946 - 1979, when he died in office. Mr. Fortson had custody of the official state seal, used to certify a Governor's actions as official. As a result of an auto accident when he was a younger man, Mr. Fortson used a wheelchair.

    To protect the seal from being used by any of the claimants, Mr. Fortson hid it under the cushion of his wheelchair.

    It is an example of integrity and courage in a state Secretary of State we are not seeing much these days. I still regard him as a model of public integrity.

  • bushworstpresidentever on November 01, 2012 11:31 AM:

    However, unlike 2000, rest assured that this time the Democrats are ready for legal action in all of the key states.

  • rrk1 on November 01, 2012 11:39 AM:

    I think a rerun of 2000, on crack this time, is inevitable. If there is a lingering contested election the Fascists will go nuts all over the south, and some parts of the West. Unfortunately, it's the Democrats who are more likely to accept a stolen election without acting out.

    The Rethug dirty tricks department has been working overtime for years and hoping for a close election. Any race with a poll margin less than 5% is ready made for stealing, and investigating every close precinct in every state, all with different rules, is not likely.

    American 'elections' have always been dodgy, even though we like to tell ourselves we have the gold standard of democracy. Like so much else in this country, it's pure bullshit.

  • Mimikatz on November 01, 2012 11:48 AM:

    There are a couple of key differences this time around. First, in 2000 Clinton held the office but he was on his way out. Obama is running for re-election and Romney really would have to dislodge him: possession is nine points of the law, as the saying goes. Obama has the machinery of the federal gov't in his control. Second, we went through this once before, and the Dems now know how the GOP operates. No one is going to be caught unawares. And again, Obama, as the incumbent, has a built in advantage, because he has to continue governing during any period of confusion. Third, Obama has proven himself to be much tougher than Al Gore. Further, although the 25-30% of dead enders hate the Kenyan Socialist, the rest of the country just saw Obama being a very strong leader and Romney being a desperately lying SOS. The press has subtly turned against Romney, I think.

    I would not expect the same result as 2000, and don't think it will take past Wednesday to resolve this.

  • Allan Snyder on November 01, 2012 1:41 PM:

    "Quite possibly it Won’t Happen Here this time, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it."

    I'll bet you a year's worth of diapers, which you're obviously going through at a rapid rate, that nothing remotely close to your ridiculous scenarios comes to pass.
    I swear, you seem to be wishing for it, along with most of the beltway crowd. Check the polls and take a dose of reality for once. He's ahead in enough states to win easily, and he will.

  • TCinLA on November 01, 2012 1:46 PM:

    I really we should consider the possibility of Civil War II. I'd hate to see it, but there may be no other way to bring the insanity under control.