When Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) appeared on Your World today, host Neil Cavuto asked surprisingly tough questions about Scott’s voter purge. It was uncharacteristic for Cavuto to be so skeptical toward any Republican governor, especially one that’s been in the cross-hairs of public scrutiny. It was even more uncharacteristic for a Fox News host not to cheerlead any and all efforts against voter fraud. But Cavuto’s questions suggested he (and the Republican Party) are worried that the voter purge could lose Florida for Mitt Romney.
Scott told Cavuto, “The debate’s over... We’ve found individuals that are registered to vote, they don’t have a right to vote, they’re non-citizens, and they voted. I have a job to defend the right of legitimate voters… We’ve been asking for the Dept. of Homeland Security database save for months, and they haven’t given it to us. So this afternoon, …the Florida Secretary of State’s office will be filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database. We want to have fair, honest elections in our state.”
Cavuto honed in on the lack of support for Scott. “Sixty seven election supervisors in your state won’t resume this purge. So what does that tell you?”
Scott responded, “We have 86 individuals that registered to vote that didn’t have the right to vote. We know 46 of ‘em did. We cannot afford to dilute the rights of citizens their vote.”
Cavuto wasn’t buying it. “Your critics, Governor, say since this purge list, you found not even a dozen who should be voting, 500 others were found to be actual citizens.” He suggested Scott may not be getting “enough bang for the bite.”
“I can understand where you’re coming from,” Cavuto said sympathetically, “But let’s say you’re found to be a citizen, you’re still on that list… you’re in a world of voting hurt?”
Scott answered, “There’s a due process… The Supervisor of Election in the County sends out a letter, you have an opportunity, 30 days to respond, after that, they have to put it in the paper, after that if you don’t respond, and you’re not on the rolls, when you go vote, you have a provisional vote… Not one person has been eliminated from the rolls that has a right to vote.”
Here’s where Cavuto revealed what was likely his biggest concern (and probably that of Fox and the Republican Party) “What alarms me is that even in your state, it seems like a lot of Republicans don’t have your back.” He cited Senator (and potential VP candidate) Marco Rubio's silence as evidence of lack of support.
Scott said, “My job is to enforce the laws.”
Cavuto said, “The ACLU and others predictably say that you’re targeting minorities, this violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and that this is setting up bad political news for up badly for you and your party in the fall.”
If Romney stays all the way over to the right, the way he’s been hunkering down through much of the primary season, then he has no hope of picking up the independent or moderate votes. The whole model of all the undecided votes going to him doesn’t work if his positions only appeal to the people on the far right. And he knows he won’t be getting the Ron Paul contingent, as they’re either going to vote for Gary Johnson as a protest vote, or they’re not going to vote for the top of the ticket.
If Romney moves back toward the center to try to pick up the independents and moderates and a few of the undecideds, then he alienates the hard right GOP voters who haven’t trusted or liked him from the beginning. Those are the voters who regularly refused to support him to the tune of 75% for most of the primaries. Those are the voters who were split by the various candidates and wound up split between Santorum and Gingrich, who each thought they were going to pick up those voters and instead cancelled each other out. The Etch-a-Sketch comment is still smarting in those voters’ ears. If Romney pulls that move, then he loses a percentage of voters that could be larger than the independents he’d gain.
In the meantime, Obama will have the support of Dems, even if it’s reluctant on some parts. The farther over to the right Romney stays, the more independents and undecideds will either go with Obama, make a protest vote, or simply not vote. Much of this election is already decided. The party-line voters for Dems and GOP have already chosen. The voters up for grabs are the independents and moderates in the middle, who are more likely to swing to the center than the far right. But Romney can’t get those voters without sacrificing his base, who will not be pleased at that move.
Romney is aware of these numbers, which is why he’s working very hard not to say anything until the convention. This is a good strategy for him, and it should result in his numbers remaining steady up to then. It’s in September when he has to come out and say something about what policies he will pursue, and when he will have to debate Obama face to face. Romney’s campaigning history back to his Senate run in the 1990s indicates that unless he’s suddenly become a brand new person in the last three months, that will be an unfortunate time for him.
Now, if the economy suddenly nose-dives over the summer, then yes, Romney has a better chance. But that’s not likely. The more likely scenario is the economy continuing to stammer and stutter along, creating jobs but at the same anemic pace due to all the uncertainty, the businesses refusing to put their money into the economy, and the GOP refusing to approve any measures to make anything better before the election. Which means that Romney will only be able to say that Obama hasn’t improved the economy enough – an argument that falls flat right away.
Knowing this, the Fox News bunch is choosing to find every phantom scandal and distraction they can. The Supreme Court rulings this summer will be huge news for that reason. Anything they can smear the president with will be fair game to them – the same strategy they’ve been using for his entire presidency. And it’s a sign of their desperation. Since they don’t have an alternative, they can only trumpet the old slogans and throw rocks.