According to some, Mark Warner underperformed. According to others, Ed Gillespie exceeded expectations. Either way, the Virginia Senate race appears potentially headed to a Recount. [read_more]
First of all, congratulations to Ed Gillespie, his team, and the G-Force on finishing so strong! The campaign was nearly flawlessly executed (a minor exception being not anticipating and getting in front of news reports that Ed had withdrawn his ad buys just a few weeks out from the election). The strategy of staying below the opposition’s radar seemed to me, several weeks ago, to be a brilliant recognition of the realities of the very un-level playing field. You guys did a great job, and deserve to be applauded for flexing the Republican muscle in a way that surprised almost everyone.
Almost all observers never predicted Ed Gillespie would even come close to beating Mark Warner last night. All but one, if memory serves. So no one really expected that we’d find ourselves now in a similar situation to the days after last year’s close election, when a statewide race was close enough for a recount.
But here we are. As of the writing of this piece, Mark Warner has a roughly 17,000 vote lead over Ed Gillespie, with only a relative handful of precincts statewide not reporting.
Unfortunately, recounts tend to lead to Democratic-leaning jurisdictions magically “finding” uncounted votes, and to canvass practices that tend to favor Democratic-leaning jurisdictions. We also see evidence that more stupid voters who can’t complete the mentally arduous task of completing a ballot correctly tend to vote for the Democrat.
This is why, for example, Attorney General candidate Mark Obenshain started out with a majority of the votes in last year’s recount, but finished in second place.
Thus, Ed Gillespie’s 17,000 vote deficit seems an awfully tall mountain to climb. But we’re not yet at the decision point. Undertaking a recount is not a decision to be made lightly, as it entails significant costs to the parties and the taxpayers, and—if you’re a Repubican—yield uncertain results, at best.
But that’s a decision that Ed Gillespie will have to make soon, and one he should resist pressure to make prematurely. Let the canvass process work itself out. We saw enough reporting irregularities tonight to have very little faith that the reported results actually bear a close enough semblance to ultimate reality (e.g., initial reports of 0% of several precincts’ votes being recorded for Gillespie). We should have a clearer picture of the recount playing field by Friday unless, like last year, voters in certain jurisdictions are granted more time to get their acts together. As I said on this topic a year ago:
Not only does this unprecedented and entirely unnecessary departure from the rules constitute tremendous unfairness to other voters around the Commonwealth, it turned what should have been a low-key, objective examination of the facts in accordance with published rules into the opposite: a politically charged zoo that undermines the electorate’s confidence in the uniformity and fairness of the electoral process.
So, I hope Ed and his team have the patience to ensure the choice of the million people who voted for him isn’t discarded without making completely sure there isn’t another viable choice. At the same time, I hope the State Board of Elections this time also ensures that the procedures used to determine the actual, official vote aren’t so flawed that Ed’s choice becomes meaningless.