Romney’s plan to steal the election

“Romney’s plan to steal the election.” That’s my headline. The phrase in the underlying article is a little more … visceral. Here’s their headline (h/t Susie Madrak for the link):

Romney’s plan to ‘cut the nuts off’ an Obama second term

Not to put too fine a point on it. The Romney plan would be to do either — take the election away from Obama, or failing that, set up an illegitimacy perception that lays other groundwork. Not good either way.

One nightmare election-stealing scenario

Some explanation. There are several nightmare scenarios in which Republican aggressiveness could be used to trump Democratic timidity (or collegiality, or complicity; your choice on the phrasing). One of them is what happens if Obama wins the Electoral College but loses the popular vote.

First the strategy, then the logic. The strategy involves Republicans pumping up the popular vote in states Romney will win — Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, as well as the obvious Utah (click for an electoral map). At the same time, they count on Obama to pull his resources out of states he’s clearly winning. Hello, California, where the Sacramento Bee notes “both presidential candidates [are] devoting little time or resources in California.”

Changing the margin of victory has two effects. First is the one we’re going to talk about, the nut-cutting strategy. The second has to do with down-ticket races. I’ve been hearing substantial talk since 2010 that Obama does little to benefit down-ticket races, and this seems to be borne out in California, where the same Sacramento Bee article states (my emphasis and reparagraphing everywhere):

No matter what happens nationally, the presidential race is all but decided in California, with President Barack Obama maintaining a double-digit lead in the polls. Yet how well the rivals perform could tip the scales in the state’s most competitive congressional and legislative races. The narrower Obama’s win in the state, the better for GOP candidates on the rest of the ballot.

Dan Lundgren, one of the worst of the CA Republican representatives, gets his name mentioned as a potential beneficiary of this Dem strategy.

The logic of this move is obvious, yes? Maximize power. What else are modern Republicans about. Couple that with the obvious tendency of Democrats to surrender power and you have another perfect storm, for us.

They’ve tried to steal elections before

But back to nut-cutting. The strategy requires a full-on frontal assault, something Republicans are very used to doing. Perhaps Florida in 2000 comes to your mind. But there are many more instances.

Recall that in 2004, Republican candidate for governor in Washington state Dino Rossi, running against Christine Gregoire, narrowly won the initial popular vote count, lost in the second (manual) recount, and then took the case to court alleging massive vote fraud — where he finally lost. If I recall correctly, that was the last 2004 outcome to be determined, and it seemed to take forever. Rossi was apparently never going to give up.

Al Franken’s election in 2008 went the same way. Norm Coleman and his team of Republican lawyers kept Franken out of the Senate for eight months, tying him up in court. As the linked article points out, Coleman’s goal wasn’t to win, but to delay, to take one for the Republican team in the Senate:

It became obvious to Coleman, a few weeks after the election, that he would lose the court battle, because Franken would win despite any court rulings about how the ballots were recounted. So Coleman’s post-election strategy was to delay, while Franken’s post-election strategy was to win. Coleman benefited from delaying because the Senate was down one Democratic vote as long as Franken was not seated. In other words, Coleman extended the court battle as long as possible to perform his final duty for the Republican Party.

This is the “never surrender, never retreat” approach that Republicans often and easily resort to. Why would they not do it now? I know I would if I were conscienceless and power-mad.

They planned to steal the election in 2000 as well

Now let’s look at 2000 for a minute. Bush ultimately won the electoral vote thanks to partisans on the Supreme Court, who took the almost unprecedented step of interfering in a presidential election to select their favorite over the people’s. (Another application of “never surrender.”)

But what if Bush had won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College? Well, they apparently had a plan for that as well:

Bush Set To Fight An Electoral College Loss

They’re not only thinking the unthinkable, they’re planning for it. Quietly, some of George W. Bush’s advisers are preparing for the ultimate “what if” scenario: 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? … “The one thing we don’t do is roll over,” says a Bush aide. “We fight.”

How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. In league with the campaign – which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College’s essential unfairness – a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. “We’d have ads, too,” says a Bush aide, “and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.”

Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. “You think ‘Democrats for Democracy’ would be a catchy term for them?” asks a Bush adviser.

The article mentions two things that don’t pertain here, in my opinion. One, that Bush’s target would be the Electoral College itself, to encourage faithless electors. Romney’s target, should he pursue such a strategy, would be broader; it would set up the delegitimization of the entire Obama second term.

The second pointless point in the article is the notion that Gore would also pursue such as strategy. Foolish thought; Gore wouldn’t even stand up for himself in the Senate when that time came, much less throughout the nation.

What does a 2012 election-stealing strategy look like?

Now the Romney article again. First, on the source of the information that this is one of Romney’s actual plans. Note that there are two Republican insiders mentioned here, a donor and a fundraiser. They should not be confused for each other. It read to me like the fundraiser is the source, and the donor passed the fundraiser’s information to the article writer, Cliff Weathers:

A New York GOP fundraiser told a past Romney campaign donor in a phone call that “Mitt has a plan should he not win the electoral vote,” according to the donor. “We think we can make a compelling case to the American people,” she reportedly said. The fundraiser then said “we’ll throw everything we can in the way” of a second term for President Barack Obama.

The donor asked if this was the strategy of the Romney campaign, the fundraiser replied that she “got it directly” from people working for the former Massachusetts governor. NYaltnews will not reveal the name of the past donor or the fundraiser, according to the donor’s wishes.

The donor works as an officer at a Wall Street private equity firm, and has donated to Republican, Independence, and Democratic Party candidates for New York City Mayor, and New York Governor, State Senate, Assembly, and Congressional races in the past. … The phone call was reportedly made for a banking-industry PAC that is supportive of Romney, not the Romney campaign. The donor who contacted NYaltnews says the fundraiser had previously contacted him on behalf of the Romney campaign, as well as the campaigns of two New York Republican members of Congress in the past year.

Your guess is as good as mine on the veracity or value of the source. Given the way the power-mad Republican mind works — and past performance — I would personally be shocked if this weren’t at least being planned out. In fact, I call it megalomaniac-incompetence if the R’s forgot this time to game this scenario.

Is this actually happening? The article notes the following:

Curiously, Romney has began airing commercials and ramped up campaigning in states not considered battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania and Oregon. Some political observers say this is being done to gather stray undecided voters in these states and increase the chance and margin of a popular-vote victory.

Not evidence, but certainly suggestive. Again, this works especially well in combo with an Obama strategy that ignores the popular vote.

Romney may be preparing a set of talking points that the Electoral College is essentially unfair and back this argument with a massive Fox News and talk-radio blitz that would fuel doubt in the legitimacy of an Obama win. The goal is to turn public sentiment against President Obama with a message that the President’s campaign thwarted the majority of the people. It is has also been speculated on the Democratic-leaning blog, DailyKos, that Romney might be the first presidential-race loser to refuse to concede the election.

There’s more in the article; you really should click over. The strategy, if pursued, would include all of the pieces of the reported 2000 Bush strategy — Fox News; talk radio; dueling pundits (pundit-on-pundit violence); business “leader” and CEO-influence on employees; “non-partisan” preachers who suddenly love “democracy” — plus whatever else the phrase “full-on attack” implies these days. Why go at all if you don’t go all-out?

A test, of course, is it see if Romney concedes or pursues a Dino Rossi–Norm Coleman strategy as described above. A slow concession would be a huge tell in my book.

By the way, that colorful phrase about man-parts isn’t the writer’s; it’s that Republican donor’s, the one who passed along the story:

[S]aid the donor … “I don’t think they want to steal the election by saying ‘the popular vote should be counted instead of the electoral vote,’ I think they want to cut the nuts off a second term for Obama.”

Bottom line

Let’s see how this plays out. If it plays out at all, I’ll look down the road at what actual delegitimization looks like. Remember, its uses have advanced since Clinton days. They could be sneaking up on rebellion this time, though none would call it that.

If this strategy dies for lack of water — or a sufficiently fertile opportunity — it dies and we move on. If it lives however, I’ll try to work out the options. In my cynical mind, this may be worse than you might suspect. Stay tuned.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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