The campaigning and vote counting are complete. The winners have been decided. And, the 2018 election cycle is now in our rearview mirrors, two weeks after it should have been. The only thing left is a brief meeting to be held Tuesday morning by the state canvassing board to certify the results. Any candidate who wishes to challenge the results will then have 10 days.
This year’s election brought back flashbacks of the 2000 presidential recount in Florida as both sides brought in their high-powered lawyers to challenge the vote counts and the state’s voting laws, fighting for control of the the top two seats on the ballot in Florida this year — the races for U.S. Senate and governor.
But, many believe the legal wrangling over this year’s election had less to do about 2018 as it did about 2020. Brad Todd, a senior adviser for Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, made that point last week during an interview on CNN.
“Plenty of candidates have conceded with margins of less than this,” Todd said. “I think Bill Nelson and the Democrats are suing to throw out election law because they think they need to get rid of the election laws to defeat President Trump in 2020. It’s all about 2020.”
Democrats pushed for recounts and fought election laws in a fight to overcome a lead in the U.S. Senate contest that most logical observers considered to be insurmountable, while Republicans made claims of voter fraud.
“The legal and political skirmishing in the state, Republicans and Democrats say, has been an ominous dry run for messaging and tactics about fraud and vote-stealing that threaten to further undermine confidence in the electoral system,” the New York Times wrote in a story published Sunday.
Florida emerged from the 2018 midterms with a fortified reputation as the nation’s most competitive battleground, a state whose political culture most closely reflects the slashing political style of its adopted son, President Trump — with candidates focused on energizing voters with visceral, at times over-the-top, messages.
That approach is “not a good long-term strategy for the party or for the country,” said Miami-area Representative Carlos Curbelo, one of two Republican House members in Florida to lose their seats to Democrats.
“A lot of Republicans are happy because we had successful statewide candidates, but those races were very, very close, and we lost some races too, especially in South Florida,” Curbelo told the Times. “As for 2020, I’m really worried that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”
Even Florida’s other U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who usually is a voice of reason, got caught up in the political rhetoric when he said that Democrats were sending lawyers to Florida “to steal” the election.
“I don’t remember Marco using this tone before, I don’t know what triggered him,” said former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Al Cardenas.
A professor of election law at Ohio State University had an ominous warning about what could lie ahead in 2020. He says what we saw happen in Florida this year could be a foreshadowing of what is to come.
“If what’s going on now is transposed to a presidential election, it would tax our system in a way that is much greater than what happened in 2000,” said Edward Foley, one of the country’s pre-eminent scholars on recounts, told the Times. “As much as there was fighting in 2000, the rhetoric did not get as caustic as what we’ve seen in Florida this year — the allegations of stealing and rigging.”
A story published by Washington Post says “there was much more at stake in the nation’s biggest presidential swing state: the rules of engagement for 2020.”
“The recount was a stress test of the Florida electoral system,” said Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florda, who is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump. “If you were the Trump 2020 campaign, wouldn’t you have concerns right now about what the terrain here will look like?’’