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Reliving Florida 2000 and the Butterfly Effect


We’re still in the post-primary lull before the campaign begins to heat up and before the trial of Donald J. Trump. Here are some quick notes to end the week.

Former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman died this week 82 years old. He was Al Gore’s vice presidential candidate in 2000, when Gore-Lieberman came within 600 votes of Florida to win the White House.

We will never know what would have happened if the Supreme Court had allowed the recount to continue.But I think people don’t always realize that we probably did know that Mr. Gore would have won Florida, and thus the presidency, if not for notorious Palm Beach County’s “Butterfly Ballot.”

If you don’t remember – and it’s been a while – butterfly ballots are pretty unusual. Candidates are listed on both sides of the ballot, and voters cast their votes by punching a corresponding hole in the middle. What makes it so unusual is that the order of the candidates on the ballot differs from the corresponding punch-hole logic: George W. Bush and Mr. Al Gore are the first two candidates listed on the left, but they are the same as the first and second The name corresponds to the third hole on the hole punch. The second hole corresponds to the first candidate on the right side of the ballot: paleoconservatives Pat Buchanan ran as the Reform Party candidate.

After the election, many voters in Palm Beach County claimed they had intended to vote for Mr. Gore but inadvertently voted for Mr. Buchanan. This is clear from the data. Mr. Buchanan fared far better in Palm Beach County than he did in Florida. In fact, Mr. Buchanan did better in Palm Beach County than any politically or demographically similar district in the country.

You can see this pattern clearly on this map, presented by Matthew IsbellDemocratic data strategist and consultant:

Mr. Buchanan also performed much better among Election Day voters (who used butterfly ballots) than among absentee voters, who did not use butterfly ballots, a pattern not seen elsewhere in the state. Mr. Buchanan’s support is also concentrated in Democratic areas, even though he is a deeply conservative candidate.

As far as the numbers go, the case was a slam dunk: At least 2,000 voters who had originally planned to vote for Gore-Lieberman ended up voting for Mr. Buchanan. All else being equal, this is enough to determine the outcome of the election.

Last week, I wrote that there were some signs that maybe, just maybe, President Biden’s approval ratings were rising following the State of the Union address.

Maybe not. It’s getting harder and harder to see signs of a Biden victory. All in all, the new poll shows that fox, CNBC and Quinnipiac It showed the presidential race was largely unchanged, with Trump still holding a slim lead nationally. The president’s approval ratings don’t appear to have improved significantly either.

As I wrote last week, this isn’t necessarily a surprise, nor is it terrible news for Mr. Biden. The State of the Union address usually doesn’t have much of an impact. And in one case, the speech still served him well, as he calmed concerns among Democratic elites about his ability to run a strong campaign.

That said, this is actually not just a State of the Union issue. Many factors for a possible Biden comeback have been in place over the past few months, from improving consumer confidence to a sense that the ultimate opponent will be Biden. The showdown with Trump. There are many ways for Biden to stage a comeback, but one is by turning those favorable conditions into gains in the polls. The end of primary season and the State of the Union address are good opportunities for Biden to start his campaign. achieve these results. This hasn’t happened yet.

Next chance: Book Court hearing on April 15 Donald J. Trump is accused of paying hush money to porn stars.

Florida in 2000 reminded us that every vote counts, but as I wrote earlier this week, many less engaged voters will undoubtedly choose to sit out this election. This has led some of you to ask if there are any early clues about turnout this fall. For example, Judy Pelowski asked:

In my opinion, voter turnout will be the biggest factor in winning this year’s election. Given the level of dissatisfaction with the candidates this year, do you have any indication that people won’t show up? If so, what is the low probability? turn out?

It’s too early to talk about final turnout, but every quick and easy early indicator suggests turnout may be lower than it was four years ago. To give a few examples:

  • Turnout for the primary and 2022 midterm elections was lower than the corresponding numbers four years ago.

  • Polls show fewer voters like the candidates than they did four years ago.

  • Our early polling finds that a smaller share of voters say they will “almost certainly vote” than at this stage four years ago.

Now the turnout in 2020 is very high for this era, so turnout may be down in November, but still quite high. But at this early stage, it’s hard to make a good case for turnout to match 2020.

Dave Wasserman, Cook Political Report Dig The new digitized archive highlights Cook’s analysis of key House races in each election year from 1984 to 2002.

With only one or two paragraphs per election, it’s very quick and easy to digest, and is also a great test to see if you’re a true political junkie. Perhaps best of all: One of the highlights happens to be from Mr. Wasserman’s childhood home district (then New Jersey’s 12th District) and thus has his own profile of 1998 campaign material.



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