The Maffei - Buerkle absentee count and recount has become a saga. Both sides are doing what they can to give themselves the best opportunity of winning in the final tally, and it's perfectly understandable that they do what the law permits to further their chances. Neither side has clean hands in this race or, for that matter, in almost any other race across the country that was remotely competitive.
However, an impression of the Maffei campaign's post-election behavior is arguably being built, which could come back to bite the candidate later on. Three recent things in particular come to mind.
--The calling of absentee voters to determine how they voted (see earlier posts, "Countdown with Dan Maffei" and "Playing the Recount and Playing with Fire"). All the available reports suggest that it's the Maffei campaign which has been doing this. Of course it's legal, and from an academic or theoretical perspective it brings up some interesting questions about the nature of the voting act--when the public aspect of it yields to the private aspect. But many people may view this move as crossing a line.
--The labeling of Onondaga County Election Commissioner Helen Kiggins as "an agent of the Buerkle campaign," and a subsequent effort to remove her from the count process, on the part of one of the campaign's lawyers (according to Michele Breidenbach's Post-Standard pieces on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday, Nov. 14). That seems like an attack on the referee, and probably off-base. In my recent Campbell Conversation interview with two political strategists, both my Democratic and Republican guest heatedly agreed that the Onondaga County commissioners are of the highest integrity.
--Maffei's own public absence. Breidenbach's Saturday article ends with the observation that Maffei himself has not made any public appearances since declaring victory on election night, and Mark Weiner makes the same observation in his Sunday Post-Standard Washington Notebook. It's been noticeable, particularly as Ann Marie Buerkle has appeared frequently, displaying the persona of the Happy Warrior.
In combination, these three things could create the impression of a hunkered-down, aggressive, and secretive end-game. Furthermore, the public narrative of the campaign is that all the votes should be accurately counted, but the appearance is more of a strategy organized around excluding votes. The concern here for the Democrats is that the campaign may be writing its own negative ad for 2012, regardless of the ultimate outcome of this election. The Republican candidate in 2012 might have a ready-made issue to trot out, as that election season will surely be as nasty as the most recent one.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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