November 6, 2004


Bush Secured Victory in Florida by Veering From Beaten Path (ABBY GOODNOUGH and DON VAN NATTA, 11/07/04, NY Times)

Pasco County might be unheard of outside Florida, but that did not stop President Bush, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Republican luminaries from visiting as Election Day approached.

This rapidly growing place north of Tampa, where shopping centers, road extensions and subdivisions open by the month, supported Al Gore in 2000 and Bill Clinton in the two previous elections. But since Mr. Gore's bitter defeat, thousands of middle-class families, many of them Republican and independent, have joined the many Democratic retirees who used to dominate here, making it a prime target for Gov. Jeb Bush, his brother and a vast army of Republican volunteers eager to erase the stain of the 36-day stalemate of 2000.

Their efforts paid off. While Democrats placed their emphasis on the state's urban centers and dispatched thousands of lawyers in a defensive effort to avoid mistakes they made four years ago, the Bush campaign concentrated on the new face of Florida, winning a margin of nearly 20,000 votes in Pasco and racking up many thousands more in counties like it.

As early returns came in on election night, the president's strong showing here prompted Governor Bush to call his brother in the White House with the news. "This was much better than what our projections were for a narrow victory,'' the governor said he told President Bush. "You are going to win."

What happened in Pasco County is what happened in suburban and rural communities throughout Florida. The Bush campaign lavished these communities with attention while Senator John Kerry's campaign and the independent groups working on its behalf invested most of their resources in cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando.

The Republican strategy succeeded most along the Interstate 4 corridor in central Florida, where Mr. Bush's pledges to quash terrorism and promote traditional values appealed to the mostly white, middle-class, religious-leaning population. [...]

While the Republicans were playing offense, the Democrats, still reeling from their searing experience in the litigated election here in 2000, seemed intent on playing defense. The Democrats dispatched 3,000 volunteer lawyers from around the country who manned the polls, especially in South Florida, the Democratic stronghold, to guard against any efforts by the Republicans to disenfranchise voters.

The Republicans - as part of a broader, carefully charted strategy, they now say - gave the Democratic lawyers a lot to worry about. A week before the election, the Republicans announced they were worried that convicted felons would try to vote, as well as thousands of people who had registered in more than two states. So Democratic lawyers prepared to beat back voter eligibility challenges that they expected from their Republican counterparts.

But only about 6,000 challenges were made throughout Florida, compared with at least 125,000 in Ohio. Outside a polling place in northern Palm Beach County, a cluster of Democratic and nonpartisan lawyers stood in a semicircle at 2 p.m. on Election Day, marveling at how few challenges the Republican lawyers had leveled. "It's going very smoothly," said Jan Jawthrop, a lawyer from Brooklyn. "There have been few challenges. And I think everyone is well informed about their rights. They remember 2000."

As Ms. Jawthrop and her colleagues spoke, a van decorated with Bush-Cheney signs pulled up, and nearly two dozen voters walked past the lawyers to cast their votes.

Republican strategists acknowledged that their party had purposely warned the news media that they might file challenges to deter felons and dual registrants from voting. They said their tough talk had forced the Democrats to marshal their forces to conduct poll monitoring in the critical final days.

"I think they overreacted to it," one senior Republican strategist said. "Come Election Day, they worried about how to protect their vote. Aside from a big head fake in the media, we spent our time worrying about how to get out our vote."

The Ownership Society will not just benefit individuals, by making them owners, but conservatism, by giving them a stake in society and something to protect from the State. Think of home ownership programs as an effort to depopulate the cities and move folks to suburbia and beyond and you can see that they are as much political as social in purpose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2004 3:36 PM


Agree with your comment about the implications of the Ownership Society. Though I personally wouldn't want to involve myself, national politics played by these guys is like a three-thousand mile by two-thousand mile chessboard, no?

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at November 6, 2004 10:42 PM

Thanks, FDR, then, for helping to restore the Ownership Society that Coolidge Prosperity destroyed.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 7, 2004 1:14 AM

Here's my take on Bush's home ownership scheme. Orrin pretends to be an anti-statist, but he's backing a social engineering project in the "Ownership Society". You can't engineer for ownership by giving money away. I predict that this will blow up in the administration's face.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at November 8, 2004 2:37 PM


The State will get bigger as a function of individual accounts. Its role in our lives will diminish to the benefit of Society, chiefly the Church.

Posted by: oj at November 8, 2004 3:47 PM
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