POLITICS

The Ghost Of Florida's 2000 Recount Emerges, Haunting Voters Once More

No one wants a repeat, especially not Clinton supporters and Trump haters.

Ana Navarro, a well-known Republican strategist whose commentary for CNN this cycle has produced a handful of viral hits, announced on Monday that she would be voting for Hillary Clinton.

Navarro was never going to back Donald Trump, whom she has routinely derided as bigoted and misogynistic. The tension, if it existed, was over whether she would simply write in someone else’s name or cross the aisle for the Democrat. In the end, she chose to perform an act of defiance against her party’s nominee. And it wasn’t just because Navarro reflected back on her own immigrant experience. She is from Florida. And in Florida, elections are very, very close.

“I had hoped that a week before the election,” she wrote on CNN, “Trump would be losing Florida by a large enough margin that my vote wouldn’t matter. But darn it, my home state is too close to call. Florida could be the decisive state (again) as to who ultimately becomes the next president of the United States. I thought back to the 2000 election, which was decided by 537 votes in Florida. I thought about how I would feel if the same thing happened in 2016. I thought and I thought and I thought.... Then I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Let me rephrase that. I cast my vote against Donald Trump. I did it without joy or enthusiasm. I did it out of civic duty and love for our country.”

Now, it could very well be that Florida doesn’t end up being the decisive state on Tuesday. Clinton can get over 270 electoral votes without it ― though she is slightly favored to win the state. Still, Navarro’s point remains the same: every vote can matter and shouldn’t be wasted. And, by extension, every campaign decision to get out those votes ― from the ad dollars spent, to the neighborhoods canvassed, to the legal challenges filed ― can prove the difference between victory and defeat.

No one knows this better than Ron Klain. Back in 2000, Klain, then 39, was in Al Gore’s campaign office in Nashville, Tennessee, when word came down that things looked particularly tight in Florida.

“The idea that thousands of votes would affect a presidential election seemed far-fetched to almost any human being on the morning of Election Day 2000,” Klain recalled in an interview for the podcast series “Candidate Confessional” earlier this year.

He rushed to Tallahassee, Florida, that night, telling his wife he expected to be back by the weekend. He would remain there for 36 days, squarely at the vanguard of the most contentious, closest presidential election in U.S. history.

The account of what happened over those days is well-known. There were political challenges, spin wars and tense court battles. The memories still weigh on Klain. He is, he joked, the lawyer who lost the most important case in U.S. history.

“I’m not over it by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “I probably think about it several times a week still.”

But the experience also helped him grow, leading him to become less fearful in his professional life and more cognizant of the injustices ingrained in the way votes are registered and counted. He has moved on to other tasks ― one of the more recent ones was leading President Barack Obama’s response to the Ebola virus ― and seems primed for others, such as taking on a senior role in a Clinton White House.

The delicateness of American democracy remains firmly in his mind. Like Navarro, he recognizes how one vote, affected by one campaign decision or court case, can change history.  

“I’m often asked, ‘Well, should you have done it differently?’” he said. “My answer is, we lost, so of course we should have done it differently. It would be crazy to say, ‘Yeah, if I had to do it all over again I would do the same thing.’”

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