Yesterday the Clinton campaign announced it would be sending lawyers to participate in the Jill Stein-led recount in Wisconsin, and any other states Stein manages to request a recount in. Meanwhile Donald Trump called it a scam on Twitter.
I spent a lot of time following the Franken-Coleman recount for a Senate seat in 2008; I even wrote a song about it. Possibly the most important thing I learned from that process is that it matters a lot how hard and how well a candidate’s lawyers work. In that recount nearly 7,000 ballots were challenged by representatives of one campaign or the other, and 1,325 ballots went to argument before the State Canvassing Board, and as I watched it on video I felt that Franken’s attorney had a distinct advantage. It probably didn’t change the result of that election, but it certainly moved the odds.
While the elections in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania may not end up close enough for individual-ballot arguments to matter, it’s possible that they will. And the fact that Clinton’s lawyers are gearing up while the Trump campaign is still blustering over the issue and refusing to engage seems to me like a significant advantage for Clinton.
If rumors that Trump was surprised to discover he had to staff the White House are true, he may also be unaware of the necessity for having his attorneys watching over the recount. And while Franken’s attorney had an advantage in 2008, Coleman’s attorney showed up and was competent. If the Trump campaign can’t manage that, it’s possible this election could move quite a distance in Clinton’s direction.
In a sense this is the first essential executive process that Trump is obligated to show up to with his full attention. Seeing how he mobilizes his representatives and attorneys for the recount should give us a good sense of how he’ll be able to handle the logistical duties of the Presidency.