I’ll bet you didn’t know that Al Gore won the 2000 election by winning Florida. You can’t be blamed for that, because nobody knew it at the time. But Paul Krugman, ever ready to re-write history and teach us the many things the media doesn’t want us to know, has the full story:
Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida’s ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore.
There you have it. And don’t complain about the lack of evidence, he came by this revelation from the book Steal this Vote by the very reputable British journalist, Andrew Gumbel. Gumbel is so reliable that one highly rational Democrat-leaning advice columnist says she simply believes him, evidence be damned.
You aren’t to blamed for not remembering things the way Krugman and Gumbel do, especially if you read the New York Times. At the time that the Times’ media consortium completed its analysis of the uncounted Florida votes (undervotes and overvotes, it’s all coming back now isn’t it), they reported that the vote was so close the final outcome depended on which votes you counted and how you judged them:
Thus the most thorough examination of Florida’s uncounted ballots provides ammunition for both sides in what remains the most disputed and mystifying presidential election in modern times. It illuminates in detail the weaknesses of Florida’s system that prevented many from voting as they intended to. But it also provides support for the result that county election officials and the courts ultimately arrived at — a Bush victory by the tiniest of margins.
The study, conducted over the last 10 months by a consortium of eight news organizations assisted by professional statisticians, examined numerous hypothetical ways of recounting the Florida ballots. Under some methods, Mr. Gore would have emerged the winner; in others, Mr. Bush. But in each one, the margin of victory was smaller than the 537- vote lead that state election officials ultimately awarded Mr. Bush…
But the consortium’s study shows that Mr. Bush would have won even if the justices had not stepped in (and had further legal challenges not again changed the trajectory of the battle), answering one of the abiding mysteries of the Florida vote.
Even so, the media ballot review, carried out under rigorous rules far removed from the chaos and partisan heat of the post-election dispute, is unlikely to end the argument over the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The race was so close that it is possible to get different results simply by applying different hypothetical vote-counting methods to the thousands of uncounted ballots. And in every case, the ballot review produced a result that was even closer than the official count — a margin of perhaps four or five thousandths of one percent out of about six million ballots cast for president.
But Krugman and Gumbel are right that the Times consortium found that a full, manual recount of all undervotes, overvotes, and uncounted absentees would have given the election to Gore under seven of the competing standards for vote-counting:
If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards, and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won, by a very narrow margin. For example, using the most permissive “dimpled chad” standard, nearly 25,000 additional votes would have been reaped, yielding 644 net new votes for Mr. Gore and giving him a 107-vote victory margin.
So the claim that Al Gore would have won under a full, manual recount with a uniform standard isn’t false, isn’t a lie, and isn’t really all that misleading unless you’re making an argument about fraud or willing to consider what the two consortia actually said about scenarios. But Krugman does just that, charging that the discrepancy between the manual recount findings and the official tally was due to some kind of fraud on the part of Katherine Harris and her fellow Republicans.
In fact, the main reason the Gore failed to get the kind of recount that would have shifted the official tally toward him was his failure to ask for it. Gore’s strategy, as the New York Times reports and we all knew at the time, was simply to seek recounts in the four counties where he believed he had the best chance of winning:
But what if the recounts had gone forward, as Mr. Gore and his lawyers had demanded?
The consortium asked all 67 counties what standard they would have used and what ballots they would have manually recounted. Combining that information with the detailed ballot examination found that Mr. Bush would have won the election, by 493 votes if two of the three coders agreed on what was on the ballot; by 389 counting only those ballots on which all three agreed.
The US Supreme Court stepped in because the Florida Supreme Court denied Mr. Gore’s request for selective recounts and replaced it with an order for statewide recounts with diverse standards, a recipe for fraud.
So the 2000 election wasn’t “stolen” as Krugman and Gumbel and their fellow Democrats maintain, it was botched by a too-clever legal strategy in Florida combined with Gore’s failure to win his home state.
This is classic Krugman, lying by putting a small truth in place of a big truth. His claim of fraud isn’t supported by the recount, because its basic finding is that the courts didn’t determine the outcome as much as varying standards and Gore’s insistence on a partial recount did.
Democrats would do well to stop complaining about stolen elections and start running some people for office who the people want to vote for.
The other media consortium was much less charitable toward Gore on the standards question:
George W. Bush would have won a hand count of Florida’s disputed ballots if the standard advocated by Al Gore had been used, the first full study of the ballots reveals. Bush would have won by 1,665 votes — more than triple his official 537-vote margin — if every dimple, hanging chad and mark on the ballots had been counted as votes, a USA TODAY/Miami Herald/Knight Ridder study shows. The study is the first comprehensive review of the 61,195 “undervote” ballots that were at the center of Florida’s disputed presidential election.
Brain terminal has a somewhat less nuanced report on this whole mess.