Plus the sun was in his eyes

Posted: Dec 18, 2000 12:00 AM
It was a nice speech, albeit five weeks late: "And I'd like to give a special thanks to all my supporters who worked so hard to steal the election in Florida, including David Boies, whom I'll never hire again even to wash my car."

And it was nice that the vice president did not actually morph into his "Saturday Night Live" caricature by prattling on about how he won the popular vote. Of course, he didn't need to be a gauche blowhard since various Democratic mouthpieces were gauche blowhards for him.

In its lead editorial the day of Gore's better-five-weeks-late-than-never speech, The New York Times twice claimed Al Gore was the popular vote champion -- and also won a rhumba contest at the Hotel Montenegro once.

Most delusionally, the Newspaper of Record claimed Gore was the winner "probably in Florida as well." But alas, "ballots that could have brought a different outcome went uncounted in Florida."

Normally, I'd write this off as the partisan rant of a bizarre sectarian newspaper edited by wrathful demagogues -- which it is -- but some honest Democrats seem to believe the same thing. As one such rara avis helpfully explained the theory to me: "Democrats are stupider."

I ought to stop when I'm ahead, but for those Democrats who genuinely believe that Al Gore secretly beat George Bush in Florida -- there are competing arguments.

First, the well-belabored one: All the ballots were counted in Florida. And counted a second time. And then counted a third time in certain select Democrat bastions. The only ballots that weren't "counted" had already been counted three times without registering a vote. Al Gore was denied was yet a fourth try at bat for particular ballots that were, at best, cast improperly.

But whether or not you view the endless Florida recounts as a subterfuge for fraud, error and outright theft, that debate concerns only the Democrats' close calls -- not the Republicans' close calls. Republicans have their own separate and independent bones to pick with the Florida election unrelated to dimpled chads or stupid voters.

No one jawbones about them because Bush won. Losing a close election is like narrowly missing an airplane. You pace the airport thinking of all the things you could have done differently and made your flight. If only I hadn't hit the snooze button that last time, if I hadn't stopped for a doughnut, if the cabbie had taken a different route, if only I had won Tennessee ...

But when you arrive just in time for a flight, you never muse about the various ways you could have been at the airport even earlier. It doesn't matter. You made your flight. Similarly, Bush won Florida. It doesn't matter if he can concoct some post-election stratagem for being credited with another 1,000 votes here or there.

Still, granting Gore his 9,000 indecipherable votes -- lock, stock and dimple -- Bush has his own recriminations about the Florida election.

First and most strikingly: The networks called Florida for Gore before the polls had closed. No one really talks about this since Bush caught his plane, but an early call is roundly acknowledged as a great way to suppress the vote for the purported loser.

Of the 379,000 votes that were cast in the (very Republican) western panhandle region of Florida affected by the incorrect call, 65 percent went for Bush. Comparing voting patterns throughout the state in the last four presidential elections, economist John Lott determined that the Republican voting rate in the panhandle this year was suppressed by about 4 percent compared to the Democrat voting rate.

That alone adds up to another 10,000 votes for George Bush.

Another doughnut that slowed down Bush was the high rate of felons voting illegally in the Sunshine State this year. In a review of half a million ballots cast in 12 counties, The Miami Herald turned up 445 Florida felons who voted illegally, including 62 robbers, 56 drug dealers, 45 killers, 16 rapists, seven kidnappers, and at least two voters whose mugs grace the state's online registry of sexual offenders.

Seventy-five percent of the voter/felons unearthed were registered Democrats(!). If that sample is representative -- and 8 percent of all Florida voters is a lot more representative than the average Gallup poll -- about 5,000 felons voted illegally in Florida's election this year. Had those votes been excluded in a post-election contest -- which is, incidentally, the purpose of a post-election contest -- Bush would have netted another 2,500-vote advantage.

Exclude all the crooks from the Florida election, and Bush won by 13,430 votes -- more than all the dimpled chads in the Florida Supreme Court's fantasies.