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June 03, 2008


Brendan, you state as a matter of fact that the Bush campaign planned in 2000 to challenge a Gore electoral college victory if Bush won the popular vote. I'm curious about your evidence for that claim, since the two sources you cite don't quite get you there.

The Kinsley column states only, "By contrast, it was reported that some Bush advisers discussed plans before the election to try to challenge the Electoral College result if--as seemed more likely at the time--Bush got more popular votes but Gore led in electors." Let's deconstruct that sentence. First off, Kinsley doesn't claim any original reporting on the issue or even vouch for its accuracy; he says only "it was reported" without further detail. Second, Kinsley doesn't say it was reported that the campaign planned to challenge the Electoral College result, only that "some Bush advisors discussed" the matter. We don't know which Bush advisors, how seriously they discussed it, or most critically, whether those discussions ever ripened into a plan by the campaign to challenge the result.

As for the very argumentative Village Voice piece, the only thing it has to say on the subject is, "Bush's willingness to champion both sides of any argument started with his campaign's pre-election attempts to delegitimize a Gore electoral college win, a position discarded when Gore won the popular vote by over 300,000." Nothing is said about what those "attempts" were or by whom they were reported. And note that "pre-election attempts to delegitimize a Gore electoral college win," even if such a characterization could be supported, falls short of a plan to challenge the electoral college results. You can understand the difference by comparing Gore's unwillingness to challenge the Bush win in the electoral college with numerous post-election attempts on the left to delegitimize Bush's victory, some of which continue to this day. Given the very anti-Bush slant of the Village Voice piece, it seems probable that if the writer knew about a Bush plan to challenge a Gore electoral college win, he would have said so.

Before a fact can be little-known, it has to be a fact. A Bush campaign plan to challege a Gore electoral college victory doesn't appear to be more than a speculation or supposition, not a fact.

Let me second Rob's point. Brendan, I would urge you to correct your post unless you have convincing evidence.

I didn't make it up guys - it was widely reported. I just linked to quickly available secondary sources. Anyway, added original source article in update above.

I would not exactly see the way Bush became the holder of 270 electoral votes "that exact scenario," but in any case...

I recall a significant late airtime presence in California right before the 2000 election. Given that there was no chance he could win the state, the only way the ad buy made sense was to try to run up the popular vote.

There was quite an expectation at the time that Gore would run the table on the larger swing states (including Florida), and that Nader would do a lot better than his eventual 2.7% nationally.

Under those (not unreasonable) assumptions, a popular-vote win by Bush and a clear electoral-vote win by Gore was a very realistic scenario. So that would leave the question of how the Bush campaign would have responded.

It seems quite realistic to assume that the Bush campaign would have been a lot more aggressive in undermining Gore in such a scenario than Gore was in the actual scenario we got.

It is all the more realistic if my recollection about the ad buy is accurate. Because why else care about a popular vote increase that won't translate into a single electoral vote, unless it is a prelude to a challenge?

Now, maybe someone has a more convincing rationale for the ad buy than mine. Or maybe someone can show that my recollection is simply wrong.

What happens if Bush wins the popular vote for President, but loses the White House because Al Gore's won the majority of electoral votes?

Brendan's right. This was a big topic of discussion in the days before the vote.

Oddly, nobody in the media ever asked the reverse question - "What happens if Gore wins the popular vote but Bush wins the electoral majority?"

Polls had them tied within the margin of error, the predicted delegate count was on a knife's edge, but everybody knew that Bush was more popular and were troubled that Gore could win it on a technicality.

So Brendan, you are relying solely on one newspaper story (in a brief search I could find no corroborating source; every story comes back to Kramer.) which in turn relies solely on mysterious and un-named Bush camp nobodies who, we are supposed to believe, talked to no other reporter about this dramatic accusation.

Of course plenty of people, including freshman senator Hillary Clinton, argued in 2000 that Gore should have won because he won the popular vote.

Brendan, you should retract this baloney. You're starting to sound like Keith Olbermann.

Wait, Brendan. Is Hillary actually trying to "change the rules"? This piece says she's attempting to make a case to the superdelegates, and points to the vote to bolster her case. All well within the currently-agreed upon rules, or am I missing something.

Brendan, the more I look at your broad-claiming and unequivocal sentence,

"A little-known fact about the 2000 race is that George W. Bush's campaign planned to challenge a Gore victory in the Electoral College if Bush won the popular vote."

and then look at the evidence you present to support your "fact", the less I think of your judgment.

Do the right thing.

Brendan - You're right. You didn't make it up -- someone else did. But you are repeating this smear against President Bush, and you should be ashamed of yourself for doing so.

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