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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Well, sports fans, after three big hours of sleep, I’m probably feeling like a lot of you–especially those of you suffering from an Exit Poll Hangover. More about that later, along with lots more about non-presidential results from yesterday.
But despite what you are hearing from many quarters this morning, the presidential contest has not been decided, and in another example of Things I Wish I Hadn’t Been Right About, it’s all coming down to provisional votes in Ohio. Forget about Iowa and New Mexico; they just don’t matter. If Kerry manages to pull ahead in the final vote in Ohio, then all the hype, all the red ink on the network maps, all the stuff we’re going to (ironically) hear about Bush’s popular vote margin, are irrelevant; Kerry will be inaugurated as POTUS 44.
Can it happen? Sure, though the stupidity of our electoral system makes it hard to know whether the odds resemble a full court hook shot at the buzzer, or something a little more likely.
Bush’s “final” margin in Ohio is about 130,000 votes. Nobody knows exactly how many provisional ballots were cast in the Buckeye State yesterday, but Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican with no particular reason (other than national media exposure) to guess on the high side, says the number may approach 175,000. For reasons too numerous to go into right now, Kerry will get a very high percentage of those ballots if they are counted. There are also maybe 100,000 absentee ballots that haven’t been counted yet, with no real indication how those may cut. And finally, there were enough election-night irregularities in Ohio–including lots of extraordinary delays in allowing people to vote–to suggest a statewide recount would be in order, especially given the high stakes.
So far Bush has eschewed a definitive victory claim, but as the picture in Ohio gets clearer, we may see the White House and its media allies go into full cry about all the godless liberal trial lawyers who are trying to “steal” the election by completing the count. And the situation will not be helped by the leisurely pace that Blackwell seems to be signalling for adjudication of provisional ballots.
But John Kerry did not create the mess in Ohio; it’s been building for months, and many of us have been frantically signalling for quite some time that getting a full and honest count there might be very difficult. So let’s wait and see, and in the interim, gird up our loins for a serious effort in the immediate future to bring this country into the modern era of election procedures. It’s insane that we are once again in the dark about the identity of the president-elect on the day after.

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