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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay. Let's assume that somehow or other Al Gore pulls out a victory in Florida. Republicans have made it clear that they have a fall-back plan: try to Floridize the vote-counts in Wisconsin, Iowa, and possibly Oregon. If the Bushies can flip those states into their column, they figure, they may not need Florida, especially if they can hold on to New Mexico which has now flipped over to Bush by a handful of votes.

Is this likely to work? Don't bet on it. Here's why: Iowa and Wisconsin are progressive, reformist, clean-election states. You're just much less likely to find the kind of craziness you're seeing in Florida in either of these states. Possible; but not likely.

Has Karl Rove screwed George W. a second time? Think back to that long ago time before last Tuesday's election. The Bush campaign was following a strategy based on Rove's 'band wagon' theory of election finishes. According to Rove, toward the end of an election voters look to see who's winning and often decide to vote for that candidate. So projecting an image of confidence may be even more important than whether the polls actually give any cause for optimism. You just need to look like you're winning, and the voters will take it from there. At least that's Rove's theory.

That's why in the week before the election Rove was telling reporters that Bush was going to win by 6%-7% of the vote and had him going to states like New Jersey and California, ones he hadn't a prayer of winning. As we now know, Bush not only didn't win big, he didn't win at all -- at least in the popular vote. Bush would have done a lot better focusing on Florida and not taking that victory lap in the final days.

After the election it seems like they did the same thing over again. The Bush plan -- which I gaurentee you came from Rove -- was to just look like you're the president-elect and everyone will believe you. It was just a post-election of Rove's confidence game.

But Bush and Rove committed the cardinal sin of politics: they fell for their own spin. They really thought it was all over. And because of that they didn't take advantage of the opportunity to request recounts in areas where it could have helped them. Bush may still pull this out. But if he does he'll do so by having a friendly Secretary of State in Florida use her power to prevent an accurate vote count in several key counties. Can you say 'legitimacy problems.'

I'm hoping the Bush operation puts Rove in charge of their legal strategy. Actually, come to think of it, maybe they have?

As if things couldn't get any weirder, did you notice the name of the lawyer who made the Republicans' unsuccessful arguments before that federal judge today? That would be Ted Olson, a man Washingtonians often refer to as a 'Washington super-lawyer.' Who is Ted Olson? Well, that would be the same one knee-deep in the Arkansas Project, which in league with the American Spectator spent a ton of money digging dirt on Bill Clinton in Arkansas. And, yes, he's also the husband of Barbara Olson, author of Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (which, in case you're wondering, is not a flattering portrayal) and former investigator for Dan Burton and a bunch of other House committees.

Of course, Olson (Ted, that is) is also the Olson from Morrison v. Olson, the supreme court case which upheld the constitutinality of the Independent Counsel statute. Olson was against it. Come to think of it, we Dems now think he and Scalia were right. So maybe chalk one up in his favor.

But anyway, back to my story.

Republicans and most A-list pundits are running around saying Al Gore's got to get Jesse Jackson out of Florida before anything can get settled. Jesse Jackson? What about Ted Olson? Olson is about as brass-tacks, down-in-the-dirt a partisan as you can find. I could say worse things; but I'll leave it at that. I think we can assume the Republicans have set aside the high-road strategy they were pursuing at the end of last week.

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