Political Depresssion Ophelia Still Blows
Twelve votes. Yeah, the Ford family can spin it any way they want. Ophelia can bluster that she'd kick Roland's ass in a general election, but the fact is the bloom is off the rose. The GOP is already, sensibly, contesting the election due to its closeness, but under the pretext of irregularities with an election machine cartridge from a North Memphis precinct. They already laid some groundwork with their press release alleging vote fraud in the early voting period, so that helps them.
You can read some local blog reactions from LeftWingCracker, who sees this as a harbinger of bad times ahead for Young Master Harold in his Senate run. Fishkite notes that even with turn out the vote efforts (including an Olympian push by Republicans), turnout was still a depressing six percent, meaning this was a battle of the bases, which is further bad news for Democrats. AlphaPatriot has a good roundup. Thaddeus Matthews blusters and flails; I had hoped for more from him and his network of contacts. And Jackson Baker has the first-person, on-the-spot reporting that covers events.
The big question this morning is "What does it all mean?" Well, as I noted above, it means the Fords have a lot of work ahead of themselves. It means renewed vigor in certain quarters of Democratic Shelby County now that the Fords are staggering. It means tough times for Harold.
It's good to see the Shelby Count and State Republicans at least press the issues of recount and fraud, though if they follow through remains to be seen. If turnout had been higher, I'd be impressed at how well Roland did. But with three percent of the voting population voting Republican, I don't think it means more than that the party turned out the base quite well. If someone did some polling to see what percentage of District 29 blacks voted Republican, then those numbers would tell the tale.
I think, if the present results stand, Ophelia will be the gift that keeps on giving. As the heir-successor to disgraced, resigned John Ford she will be under enormous scrutiny. Even though she made efforts to stay below the media radar, her infrequent appearances demonstrated an unprepared, ill-informed, volatile, loose cannon. She clearly knows little about politics, other than learning by Ford osmosis, and knows less about media behavior. Ophelia doesn't seem to know anything about the issues she will face in the Senate. She will prove to be an endless source of fodder for Republicans in their Senate challenge to Harold Ford.
The folks in District 29 will suffer, too. I'd like to know how much of her brother's staff stays on to work with her. I'd love to hear how much of the heavy lifting they do for her. I'll be watching the Nashville papers and blogs for news of her missteps and gaffes. I'm guessing she walks into the Capitol Bunker with an overlarge sense of self-importance and entitlement (believing the measure of respect and fear that John Ford had will be hers by inheritance) that will quickly get her slapped down. Someone stick a microphone on Senator Steve Cohen; he should be entertaining.
Now, as for the issue of the "missing cartridge," I think -- uncharacteristically enough -- that it's being overblown! Really. I can't go into the details (right now), but I have some knowledge of Shelby County election process and some of the people involved. Yes, hanky-panky could be a factor. After all, there are Fords involved and it's high stakes here.
But it's also quite likely, to me, that mere forgetfullness and lack of due diligence on the part of the precinct captain for that voting precinct was the most likely culprit. Most precinct captains are elderly retirees who have been doing this for years. Back in the '04 elections, certain procedures were changed (related to provisional voting; a real bugaboo). Even on a low-turnout day (one hundred voters at that station, is the report I heard), I can honestly see error still creeping in.
I'm not sure how far that precinct is from the Shelby County Election Commission office downtown, but when the precinct captain turned in his/her election station materials there (which would have been around 7:45 or later) it would have taken a while to discover and investigate the missing cartridge. Then, a County trooper would have been dispatched back to the precinct building, probably with the captain and another official or two. If the building was locked by someone else, they have to find and roust that person and get them back to the precinct to open it for them. Then there's the ride back downtown. All that takes a while, even at police speeds.
I know. Most of you readers are stunned at me. It's OK. I'm surprised too. We shouldn't dismiss Ford/Democrat shenanigans (I don't) but we should first clear simple error, which I believe to be the likelier explanation in the cartridge situation. The GOP and the Roland campaign already claim to have found some seven instances (if I recall correctly) of early voter fraud. That makes the margin of victory only five votes. I'm pretty sure there are at least five more problematic votes to be found. Start and keep plugging away.
INSTANT UPDATE: Bumper Sticker Politix also has some thoughts.
News over the radio says that a stray provisional ballot was found to have a valid Ophelia vote, making her victory total 13. The State's Attorney General has declined the Tennessee Republican Party's call to "seize" the Shelby Co. voting machines. I guess they go to the County Election Commission now and press their case with Greg Duckett and the commissioners.