THE BLOG
12/01/2008 05:12 am ET Updated 5 days ago

Notes From The Swamp, Florida In The Final Days Of The Election 2 - Where's The Evil?

I spoke this morning with a woman who is organizing lawyers for early voting in Southern Florida. They're sending two shifts of lawyers to each poll. I asked if there was any evil going on. She said no, she hadn't seen much evil at the early voting centers. That's a big contrast from 2004, when Republicans would show up at early voting centers with signs saying, "Vote For Kerry! Support Gay Adoption!" But this year the evil is noticeably lacking. If there was voter intimidation in Southern Florida this person would know about it.

There has been a preemptive lawsuit filed in Dade County to stop the GOP from frivolous ballot challenges based on things like recent foreclosures. The Florida GOP said they have no intention of challenging based on foreclosures. The Florida GOP this year are like puppies on valium. They're so convinced they've lost it's seeming like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's like the Dallas Mavericks in the final game of the 2007 playoffs, like they just want to get it over with, but that didn't stop Baron Davis from slamming over Dirk Nowitzki, who is seven feet tall. The Democrats are energized, filling stadiums, waiting hours to vote. The Republicans are staying home, counting their money.

Speaking of Republicans, last night we had drinks with Roger Stone, the man responsible for the Brooks Brothers Riot in 2000 that shut down the recount. Scott Rothstein was nearby with his bodyguards, chomping on a fat cigar, laughing. Rothstein's law firm was upstairs and Roger Stone has a suite of offices attached to Rothstien's firm. Rothstein is the third largest McCain fundraiser in Florida. Recently Rothstein bought the restaurant in the building entryway. Now the waitresses all wear black corsets and martinis cost $9, it's like a high end version of hooters.

There was lots of kissing on the cheek and men whispering in one another's ears. The suits were expensive, but a bit shiny. One man was said to be the local crime boss. It made me think of Joan Didion's Miami, where "politics have consequences." I thought the real story here was Scott Rothstein. I'd like to spend a day with him.

Stone was surprisingly charismatic. He said he agreed with Governor Charlie Crist on extending early voting. "You can't be afraid of Democracy." He said high ranking Republicans were extremely upset by the move. He said there was no coordination between the state party and the McCain camp. He strongly supported McCain but clearly thought he had run a terrible campaign. "Why would you ask a lobbyist to run your campaign for president? What skills do they have that help you run a campaign?"

We asked if there was anything that could be done by the Republicans in the coming days. "There is no silver bullet," he said. He said you should begin criticizing your opponent early and then build over time, so in the final thirty days you don't sound shrill. He compared John McCain's campaign to John Kerry who, "Also thought once you said something you've said it and you can move on."

He blamed some of the apathy in Florida on McCain's decision not to pick Crist as his running mate. "A lot of enthusiasm drained out of the state Republican party."

The strange thing about Roger Stone is that he's not that far right, he's voting against the anti-gay marriage amendment for example. But he believes strongly in dirty tactics. In 2004 he was responsible for the signs in Philadelphia that read Kerry/Specter, as if John Kerry and Arlen Specter were on the same ticket.

Now he says he regrets the Brooks Brothers Riot. He feels responsible for electing George W. Bush president, which has been a disaster. He says he feels responsible for the soldiers that have died in the unnecessary war in Iraq. "All those dead soldiers are on me." So why did he do it? "I owed James Baker a favor," he said. "I had to do it."

Stone took us upstairs to his offices, filled with Nixon memorabilia. Stone thinks McCain will lose Florida by the same margin Kerry did. I asked him if he would vote for Obama over Bush and he wouldn't say. "I wish Gore had run this time."

Notes From The Swamp 1

- Stephen Elliott