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City the world's leading global Bank is pleased to bring you this episode of radio Atlantic we empower people to embrace the future with confidence. What accounts for two thirds of the national GDP? Stay tuned throughout the show as we explore the answer. Hello everyone. This is Alex Wagner. I have been on the road for weeks. What feels like a lifetime covering the midterm elections. And I am back even though the midterm election is not actually over yet votes are still being counted and races and Florida Georgia New York, Mississippi, California, Texas and Utah, but we're going to focus on one in particular. The state of Florida where there are recounts for both the governorship and a Senate seat today. We're going to look more deeply at that recount. And we're also going to look back at one of the most consequential ones in American history Bush v gore, and how American politics was never the same. Again. This is radio Atlantic. With me now is is it avair staff writer at the Atlantic to catch us up on everything that is happening down in Florida. Welcome welcome. Thank you, take me back. If you will to election night in Florida. There was one specific narrative coming out of the state that evening, and that narrative has changed dramatically in the course of the last week. It looked very clearly like it was a good night statewide for Republicans or a couple of Republican House seats that flipped to Democrats. But in the governor's race in the Senate race where you and I were both there couple days before the election, and I spent part of the final weekend in Miami and around, and there was a lot of confidence Andrew gillum and Bill Nelson among Democrats, and it just fell apart very clearly in a way that was reminiscent me of twenty sixteen. But then as we watch their the night in Florida the margin started to go down, especially in the Senate. Race which is much much tighter. And the funny thing to from a political standpoint on that as if you'd asked most people in the days leading up to election day where they thought it would go. They would have probably said Gillam would have run ahead of Nelson. The parts of the map in Florida that everybody has been paying attention to specifically in recent days are Broward County and Palm Beach county. Why are those so important, and why are the recounts focused on those parts of the state? Well, number one, those are the same countries that we talk about every single time. There's a disputed election Florida, the hanging chads where that's where there is something about Broward County that they have not been able to figure out how to do elections balance or about. So yes, literally have some kind of statue in the in this town center of the hanging. Chad remind everybody that this happened there, and it must not happen again. And yet it keeps happening it does. It keeps happening not because of chance, but because they're poor ballot design issues and their issues about how they're administering the elections. And nobody seems to think about them in between the night of the election and the sort of week afterwards when there are disputes over it, and then they move on. But then it comes back and the issues are resolved. And so one of the things that we saw this year is in Broward. There was an issue of how the belt was designed. And where the the Senate race was on the ballot for people to fill in the bubble, and whether people missed it, and and that led to this issue of under votes people who voted in in it looks like every other race. But didn't vote in the Senate race to the degree that I think they're almost twenty six thousand. Fewer votes cast in the US Senate race than in the governor's race example. I mean, it's just means for some reason Floridians in Broward County voted at a rate three point seven percent lower in the Senate race than in the gubernatorial race. Yeah. And maybe that's true. And the reason why that seems to have extra significance Broward Democratic-leaning county and the margin between Scott and Nelson is smaller than that twenty six thousand number. So if there were twenty six thousand people, theoretically who would've voted for Senate and would've voted for Bill Nelson to be the Senator then given the way the numbers went on this Bill Nelson would be like Senator the problem is that if you don't vote then you don't vote, right? Recount isn't going to account for votes that simply weren't cast their two other pieces to this that are actual sort of election concerns that exist independent of partisan back and forth as we talk about. This current Florida recount the Democrats are suing over something called signature match. Right. Yeah. So this is a law that says that your signature if it doesn't match exactly what the signature on file than your vote can be disqualified. And then there's the problem that some of these recount machines are overheating and breaking down. I think one of them broke down to the tune of one hundred seventy four thousand early voting ballots in the recount that now need to be recounted. Right. And what that's going to do presumably as open up a challenge of voting by counting them by hand. Because if the machine broke down wants to trust it to get the count, right? The next time. These are all problems that exist in Florida, independent of what has become a political mudfight, and that is not unfamiliar to people who lived through the two thousand election, but in Florida that political mudfight I mean, I feel like mudfight isn't an accurate description for it. It's like nuclear war because this time. The president is involves is a President Trump has for at least a few months now seen Florida as kind of his step child that election means a lot to him Grandes Santa's as his Accolate. Rhonda Santa's may be the next governor of Florida, and Rick Scott, he sees a Senate races as critically important not just to Republican control of the Senate. But also to the Trump legacy. So tell me a little bit about how he's managed the the recount publicly and through his Twitter feed over the last week. Well, what we know from President Trump is that he is very interested in talking about voting conspiracies, right? That there were illegal votes in the twenty sixteen election. He before the election happened was saying, maybe it would not be an okay result. And he would have to challenge it. And then when he won he said, well, obviously, that means that it was an okay resolved. So how the electoral fraud theories are dependent on who's actually the winner. But still the president has continued to talk about the stuff and with the recounts going on in Georgia and Florida he has come back to these. These theories, I don't know what we're gonna call them because they're not even substantial enough to be theories. He's just says that there are legal votes or that there. Let's call them. What they are. They are baseless. There's been no evidence that there's been any voter fraud. Even Republican appointed officials in Varda have said, we have no idea. I don't think they've said this directly they said there is no evidence to support the president's tweets that on Monday. He said, the Florida election should be called in favor of Scott and Disentis in the large new numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere and many ballots are missing or forged an honest vote count is no longer possible ballots massively infected there's no evidence for any of that. And some of this is because of the way that voting works. A lot of the ballots that are coming in late as it were our mallets mailed in from overseas, including from a lot of troops stationed overseas. Their balance don't come until about a week after the election. No matter what. So that is the those are some of the. Votes that are being found quote unquote, infected from firm bribes overseas. But I mean, it does underscore, you know, and we're going to talk about the origins of sort of mudslinging in and around recounts in just a bit. But it underscores the fierce sort of partisan fight that's underway here. Right. I mean, the president is getting involved trying to impune the integrity of a state's election. They're calling the Broward County supervisor of elections the supervisor of corruption Roger stone is in the mix. He's going on info wars saying this brazen outrageous one-sided, I mean, everybody is in this thing because the stakes are so high. So I guess my question to you is is there going to be a resolution? No matter what happens is going to be resolution at some point. There will be some court decisions that show us where the counters and someone will be sworn in as Senator someone will be sworn in as governor. But it does seem like there is going to be. An asterisk around this election in Florida, and that seems purposeful. Look. This started out as President Trump, and Rick Scott, and the attorney general in Florida Pam Bondi talking about voter fraud, and it being something that Republicans were talking about notably Republicans were also talking about voter fraud in number of other races where they were losing around the country. There's a house candidate in New Mexico who was talking about voter fraud. House Ken in California, a state Senate candidate, and can I his role Republicans? But in the last couple of days, this is now bled into some Democrats. Starting talk about that. I was at an event earlier today share Brown center from Ohio who was talking about Georgia. And he said if Stacey Abrams doesn't win in Georgia will know that the count wasn't fair. Well, that is she might question of what happens to our democracy. We can no longer agree on the fairness of elections. What is one of the locations for governance going forward is very difficult. Right. James Madison, talked about from the earliest days that the democracy depends on the people who lose not walking away is European tting dark dark picture. It is a pleasure to have you on the podcast, even if you are painting an apocalyptic picture of what may happen to our democracy. Thank you for getting us up to speed on the latest, and perhaps not greatest in the sunshine state jokes. In some ways the seeds of what's happening today were planted eighteen years ago in the same state with the same parties staking out the same positions those results. Forever changed American politics up next. We're going to take a look back and gore and the great Ford a recount of the year two thousand with two advisors were involved in those campaigns. And who remember well our national trauma? This episode of radio. Atlantic is presented by city, the world's leading global Bank. Every day. We help our clients compete in the global marketplace services make American goods competitive around the world. What does that mean think if your smartphone it's a physical object? But it's the software tech assistance in apps that make it useful. That's an example of how services are intangibly embedded in goods to make them more functional productive deficient, keep listening after the show to learn how services are revitalizing the economy. To better understand what's happening in Florida today. And where it might lead us. We're going to take a trip in the way back machine to the year two thousand two K vice president has recalled the governor and retracted his concession thousand votes, separating gore and Bush. We now have a second statewide recount of the votes when a presidential election was decided by a recount in Florida. Now, the US supreme court has spoken. Let there be no doubt. While I strongly disagree with the court's decision. I accept. Joining me now to help narrate this pivotal chapter of American political history are two men who lived through the national trauma of Bush v gore on opposite sides of the aisle. Mark McKinnon is a political adviser columnist and co host with me of Showtime's the circus. He was the chief media adviser for George W Bush's two thousand campaign, Mark, it's a pleasure to hear your voice. Glad to be with you. And Jeremy bash is a national security attorney and commentator in two thousand he was national security issues director for the gore campaign. Hey, Jeremy, hey, Alex. Thank you guys. Both for revisiting this painful chapter of American politics with me when you first heard about the current Florida recount for the gubernatorial and Senate races. Did you have flashbacks two thousand Jeremy absolutely? The first thing that I thought about was whether I was going to get a call to pack my bags for three days, which was what we were told on election night in two thousand and Alex says, you know, thirty six days later after sleeping mostly on the floor and eating at a vending machines, ultimately we lost. But I certainly thought I was headed back down south. Well, at least all those cheeses were worth it. Maybe not really Mark tell me if you can a little bit about those closing days of the election in two thousand and and when did you win to the Bush campaign, I? Realized this was not going to be settled easily. Well, Florida Florida Florida rings in my years forever. Tim russert calling the election. And it was you know, it was at first the worst night of my life, politically that was the best night of my life. And then I ninety again only to be remedied thirty six days later, but what a rollercoaster that night was for everybody on both sides. You know, it was the moment that we knew that something was that, you know, was awry was when Al Gore call back and took back concessions. He called Bush at one point in the evening to concede, right? You did. And that's when you guys felt great. And then. I remember that moment distinctly because I jumped up and kiss the wife of. Oops. Woman I could find. But did you have a sense? Did you have a sense of the margins were narrowing what happened between that verse? We thought it was done. We, you know, we marched from the campaign down to the down to the capital where there was a big election night. Then going on we thought that was it. And you know, and then then at all Benadryl spun southward, what did what was the reaction when gore called back? Just belief really and anger on the president's behalf. He was he was not happy. It's just like, wait a minute. This you can't do this. But of course, couldn't he did. And Jeremy what was happening on the other side so gore had conceded. And then his adviser said, we'll wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second. Maybe you haven't lost this thing after all I had gone out with the rest of the campaign staff to veterans plaza in Nashville, and we were there waiting for Al Gore, somebody to take the microphone and take the podium. And of course, we waited and waited and waited and pretty soon. Our flip phone started ringing, and we were told everyone back to the campaign headquarters. Gore's not coming out. He's not conceding. And this thing may be going to a recount in Florida where you was their excitement trepidation. I mean, it's interesting that I understandably on the Bush. There was frustration and probably a little bit of anger like you can't do this. What was it feeling on the on the gore side? We felt like the fight was still very much going on. I mean we were exhausted. Don't get me wrong. It was like running a marathon falling down someone telling you. Hey, stand up. You gotta run another one. And so we head back to the campaign headquarters. But I remember that night when we got back to campaign headquarters, we all some of the junior and mid tier staff pressed our noses against the glass of the conference room. Where all the senior level folks were gathered around there was a lot of energy. There's a lot of enthusiasm. And we thought look we'd better go down and fight for every vote. And they had said to me. Hey, we knew you were doing foreign policy on the campaign, but bashed didn't you had a law school? I said, yeah. But I never practice law. We don't care weaving lawyers in Florida. So we went and packed our bags in and got ready to board. The charter Mark over on the Bush side that the Bush campaign responded quickly and aggressively in in the in the days after the election and by most outside accounts, they had sort. The most aggressive or the more aggressive, legal and communication strategy. Can you tell us a little bit about how the sort of top echelons of the campaign closed ranks and and figured out and mapped out what they were going to do. I mean, they just lit up every lawyer in the country, and the and everyone on flew down to, you know, you know, Republican operative was with a law degree and just flooded the on on the ground in the air in DC. And you know, it just got the best lawyers. They could find and including especially titles, and and just said, you know, we're we're going in. We're going in bare knuckles brawling, and we're gonna we're gonna we're gonna keep this thing. We're not gonna let it be taken away from us. The Bush campaign's would have hatched. What has become a broader talking point in American politics from the Republican party, which the Democrats were playing games with with the vote that that somehow the the vote in Florida the recount all of it was was rigged that it was an effort to steal election. Do you? Remember, how the Bush campaign kind of came to that? That talking point Mark. Well, pretty quickly when there was selective recount of just four counties. Say why would we just counting four counties that happened to be the best counties for gore, and if you're gonna recant recount everything right when when the recount began, Jeremy tell me about what the feeling was inside the campaign when when the when the ballots were being looked at again, they'll ver- Wilmington feeling Alex was mass confusion. We took a charter plane down to Florida, and it made three stops it stops in Tallahassee Orlando, and then Fort Lauderdale and a bunch of people kind of selected at random got off at every stop and just kind of fanned out Hoover to the democratic headquarters and the canvassing boards where the votes were being retail tabulate. But there was not a lot of communication between the team, and we didn't really have a game plan. And so I landed in Fort Lauderdale, and we rented a car, and we drove up to the Palm Beach democratic headquarters in visited with. Monte freakin, the chairman of the Pompey Democratic Party, come an old party, boss and activist. And he said come on. I'll take you over to where the votes are being recounted, and we went over to the canvassing board. And we saw we walk. I never forget we walked into the room. And we saw them repeating the punch cards into the machines. And I felt like I was walking through a cloud of smoke because the Chad from the punch cards where flying everywhere without. Oh, boy, we got a situation here. Wow. Clouds of CHAD'S. It was quite a scene, and it was an none of us. Exactly new quite quite how to handle it. Did you feel optimistic at that point? Did you feel like you could actually turn the election through the recounted? That was that the feeling inside the gore campaign. My personal feeling was that we were behind and that it was going to be a very tough struggle to take the lead. I think are feeling though was also motive. By the fact that a big issue in Florida was the ballot design in Palm Beach county, and because of the butterfly ballot which you'll recall seem to confuse a lot of voters. And if if you'll recall, of course, Joe Lieberman was on the ticket. It was a lot of enthusiasm particularly among the elderly Jewish population and century village and all the other kind of gated communities in in in that part of south Florida, and the idea that Pat Buchanan, we get ten thousand votes in Palm Beach county when a few years earlier he gotten obviously a fraction of that. And so there was a sense that something had gone wrong. And that voters might have been confused, and that maybe they were punching in won't one hole, and they should have been punching in another. And so I think we just wanted to make sure that everybody's vote was counted. And that the tabulation was correct in any other given year these screwy situations like the butterfly ballot probably would not have mattered. You've got so many million votes in a presidential election, Florida and the idea that. A couple of thousand could actually determine the outcome of the state. Let alone the presidency was sort of too hard to contemplate, but in fact, the the number dividing gore and Bush when all the dust was settled was about five hundred and thirty five votes on relieved. If you think in today's context, we're talking about recounts in Florida where there might be ten or thirteen or twenty thousand votes. Separating the candidates, and there are mandatory recounts under the law here, we had five hundred votes separating the two, and it would be dispositive for who would become president of the United States. Mark. Can you talk to me a little bit about the the closing days of this recount? There was a re there was real pressure from the Democrats to let the count continue on Republicans wanted the count to end by the deadline. The supreme court shutdown the recount on the deadline. And so not all of the votes were counted. What what what was that a hard position to take? Or did the Bush campaign feel like that was the right? Position to take. No, I defer to the warriors when they've just that was their position that they were doing it by the water, and that was the letter, and and they appeal to the appropriate. Sources at that point. Which was the course ultimately the supreme court. Of course, you know, having the hindsight that we have now, you know, it ended up being hugely problematic. It would have been much better to not have the supreme court rule on this. And have a statewide recount as we now know that was done by some nonpartisan media sources that determine that Bush would have won a statewide recount. But the fact that the supreme court ruled on it made at least half of America believe that the thing was fixed. There was a political decision and that became hugely problematic for the hopeless presidency. I believe I think at handicapped him going in half the country to believe little it president much in the same way that Obama had to deal with the birther stuff. You know, both of those peasants has had to go into their presidencies with this hugely problematic issue of not being believe that their legitimate president, Jerry. Emme? What was the feeling in e you were involved in the recount, I mean in those closing days and hours of the recount itself where you're finding against the supreme court and a looming decision. What was the feeling? Well, Alex, I again, remember that Al Gore had won the national popular vote by five hundred thousand votes and also the way the electoral college shook out if Bush was going to be able to get over that two hundred seventy threshold he was gonna need all of Florida's electoral votes. And then he would only get over by one vote. So at the end he had to seventy one to Al Gore's to sixty six so it was kind of this crazy almost threatening the eye of needle that we felt that Bush had to achieve in order to take the presidency. And so we wanted to make sure that if there were any mistakes in the tabulation of the votes that we could eliminate that. Because obviously everything was on the line. And and the idea was was an this really came from Warren, Christopher the former secretary of state and who had been serving as as the leader of the gore recount effort. His view was you know, let's not overreach here. This is much about battle of. Public opinion as it is a legal issue. And let's try to keep the any recount request as narrow and his cabin as possible. So only in the places where we actually think we have a problem. Should we ask for a recount, I wanna sort of telescope out a little bit to talk about the after-effects of the of the Florida recount, certainly it shaved a presidency. Mark you said that this colored the Bush presidency and that half the country didn't think he was the legitimate president of the United States, but it also established this idea of electoral fraud, which other Republicans have taken and run with in much more, extreme fashion. If you listen to what President Trump is saying about Florida and the recount, even what was happening in Arizona, Georgia. He is making baseless claims very toxic claims about the integrity of our election system. Do you can you trace some of that back to what happened in Florida? Well, yeah, I think you can. I mean, I just broadly anecdotally, but I think go back and research, it, I, you know, I think that's sorta gave birth to a lot of election fraud conspiracy notions that have spun out since then that we've seen over and over and over again, including now, I mean, the president was was was, you know, I guess yesterday saying to stop election when they didn't even have all the military ballots in right, which of course, you cannot do you're supposed to count every vote. That's that's that's sort of the basis of our democracy. So yeah, it has. And it's and it's also, you know, I sort of factor in the all these suppression. I would I would call it systemic suppression efforts on of Republicans, which I find Branchville and indefensible I think the the reality is the greatest fraud in American politics today is. Notion of voter fraud. It just it happens. So rarely you know, any real studies investigations voter fraud. Find literally nothing, you know, somebody accidentally wandered in and had the wrong card the incidents where it happens or just very, you know, they're either unintended or stupid, but there's no sort of designed voter fraud going on anywhere, nor has there been really ever. Does it disturb you that the Republican party has in large part been the party to spin out these theories? Yeah. I mean, I'm concerned because of a bet that gets sort of wrapped up in a larger concern that I have about direction of Republican party. We didn't autopsy in two thousand twelve where our conclusion was in order to continue to be a governing party of the majority of a majority that we had to make the tent much bigger that we had to find ways to attract more younger voters more diverse voters. More women, you know across the board. We just we couldn't keep winning with old white men, and what happened with Donald Trump's election really is. And a lot of other these you know, sort of suppression efforts going on is just a doubling down on saying we're just going to get we're gonna find a way to get white men. And at a certain point, you know, that just becomes a suicide strategy. And I think we're close to that. Jeremy when you look back on Florida in two thousand is it feel like the sort of patient z. Zero for this virus of quote, unquote, electoral fraud and allegations of electoral fraud. I think so, but I think would also we learn from two thousand is that elections are going to be very close and particularly in a in a hard-fought election. No matter if one party wins, the popular vote, the reality is is that the electoral college is gonna be razor thin. And so that councils for every side to kinda pull out all the stops in the run-up to election day. It looks like if you look at the like the landscape today. Right. The midterm elections aren't over. There are recounts happening in states across the country. And that's because the margins are so close. And so as we look to the future. With a country as divided as we are. We're going to have even more closely divided elections, which inevitably means we're gonna have more recounts in our future more opportunity to make what should be a fair and open process filled with integrity a place where you can inject partisan rancor and partisan politics. Are you guys worried about the future of elections? I'm not I'm a prisoner of hope. I, you know, I think as Mark McKinnon. I think that I think they are getting better and better with each election. We learn more the systems get have more integrity. You know? Hopefully, we'll have one in the future where we don't have. You know, we don't have voting machines actually burning like horns, Florida right now over-heating voting machines. Yeah. How does that happen in two thousand eighteen I would like to amend something? If I may Alex just about sort of, you know, where this all started the real precedent for you know, lot of sort of voter conspiracy and voter fraud. So we're seeing today with an Indiana race in nineteen eighty four of alternately got settled by the house of representatives, and the Democrats kind of pulling a double reverse in the congress, which which was such an egregious move that Barney Frank democrat voted against it. So which is just to say that the notion of gaming the system to your vantage is not a Republican Democratic issue. It's it's it's it's whoever has to happens to be gaining the upper hand at the time is gonna is gonna do whatever. They can. It's all about power and keeping it. Yeah. I think we should be clear that gaining trying to get the upper hand in any election and have the results that you you'd like to have is not something unique to either party on. On the hopeful note, just as a as a way to as evidence of that in to reinforce it. We had a great outcome in Arizona this election. We had a very close race in this in the US Senate race there between Kirstin cinema and Martha mcsally and Maxine was a head and then more votes came in and it turned around. And there was a was a lawsuit five America county and everybody got together and said the rural counties objected to it and they found a solution. And it was a very sort of progressive model for how this can work and then very diplomatically conceded the race after she had been ahead. So, you know, hopefully, we'll see more of that in the future, and Alex I would just add that I think the key is to make sure that all the votes are counted properly. No matter the circumstances. And I agree with Mark that Arizona in some ways is the model, and I think our legal systems should ensure that recounts can happen quickly. Expeditiously? I liked the new Florida law that basically says it's not one side requesting a recount, it's not Nelson or Guillem requesting a recount if they're behind or Disentis or Scott opposing recount if their head there are automatic triggers. There has to be a recount of the votes, if the margins are small enough, well, all I will say is this with Florida and the importance of the state in the twenty twenty presidential election with the importance of each Senate seat in the current makeup of the Senate and the outsize importance that state governors play in national politics, it's imperative that whatever the results this week or next week or whenever this Florida recount ends America. A lot in American politics will be riding on it. And maybe maybe maybe this time Florida has actually learned its lesson. Jeremy and Mark thank you guys so much for joining meat and opening up old wounds are living our listenership is wiser for it. And we appreciate your time. I think Germany can confirm that even having Florida right now, they they pass some a lot of state legislation to make it better than it was obviously still problems. But hopefully, we'll learn more or less to your point hopefully in twenty twenty we will not here late at night, Florida, Florida, Florida. Dark. I say I'd have a flashback in a breakdown all the same time just for your own sanity. We hope it doesn't come back to Florida. Thanks, guys. Thanks. That'll do it for this week radio Atlantic. This episode was produced edited by Kevin Townsend with help from Patricia Katherine wells is the executive producer of Atlantic podcasts. Our theme music is the battle hymn of the Republic by John Batiste. Check us out at the Atlantic dot com slash radio and rate and review us apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Thanks for listening. We'll be off next week for the holiday and stuffing our faces with Turkey. So enjoy thanksgiving. And we'll see you the week after. 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