Take It Like a Mandate

How you look at things.
Dec. 8 2000 3:00 AM

Take It Like a Mandate

(Continued from Page 1)

To recap: The candidate supported by the most voters has a mandate. All voters reside in states. Bush won the most states. Therefore, Bush has a mandate.

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6. More people intended to vote for Bush than for Gore. Having ridiculed the unfalsifiable Democratic claim that more people in Florida intended to vote for Gore than for Bush, Republicans turn around and claim that more people throughout the country intended to vote for Bush than for Gore. "Had the networks not called Florida early that night, [Gore] wouldn't have won the popular vote … and I think Bush would be above 300 electoral votes," Newt Gingrich asserted Tuesday. Imagine what "would have happened in Florida had some of the networks not called it for Gore," agreed Jack Kemp. "Imagine what happened in California and a lot of other states. I think the popular vote was too close to call."

To recap: A candidate who wins the popular vote or the Electoral College has a mandate. If hypothetical votes don't count, Bush won Florida and therefore the Electoral College. If hypothetical votes count, Bush won the popular vote. Therefore, Bush has a mandate.

7. Bush would have won the popular vote if he had tried. When asked on CBS whether his failure to win a plurality of the popular vote made his presidency less legitimate, Bush replied: "Had this been an election on who got the most popular votes, I suspect we might have had a little different strategy. For example, I might have spent more time in my own home state … maximizing the vote here. … My whole strategy was based on securing enough electoral votes to become the president." That claim doesn't square with Bush's travel schedule or his ad buys in the campaign's final weeks. As Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 3, Bush's "desire to affect the national figures, which influence news coverage, is one reason Republicans have spent so much money on campaign ads in Illinois and California, even as they acknowledge they are unlikely to win either."

On both sides, the election has been reduced to self-serving speculation. Gore thinks he won Florida because you intended to vote for him. Bush thinks he won a mandate because if he had intended to win your vote, he could have. In the latter case, you're supposed to accept two levels of mind-reading: Bush's revisionist account of his own strategy, and his intuition that if he had changed strategies, more non-voters would have cast ballots for him. Talk about divining the intent of the voter.