The concerted effort by Republicans in Washington and Florida to discredit the state’s recount as illegitimate and potentially rife with fraud reflects a cold political calculation: Treat the recount as the next phase of a campaign to secure the party’s majority and agenda in the Senate. That imperative — described by Republican lawyers, strategists and advisers involved in the effort — reflects the G.O.P.’s determination to tighten its hold on power in the narrowly divided Senate. The outcome of the Florida race will decide whether the party controls as many as 53 seats and has a freer hand to confirm Republican-backed judges with the vote of the man at the center of the recount, Gov. Rick Scott, who is trying to oust a three-term Democrat, Bill Nelson. With the Democrats capturing a Republican-held Senate seat in Arizona on Monday night, the recount fight in Florida becomes even more consequential.
Beyond the Senate majority, there is also the matter of morale. Any reversal of an election that Republicans believe they already won in a state as symbolically important as Florida — the country’s most competitive political battleground — would be a blow to a party that had a net loss of at least 32 House seats and six governorships. Everyone from donors to rank-and-file lawmakers is determined to keep Democrats from notching another victory.
Mr. Scott and his allies have tried to portray the Senate election as a fait accompli — he is currently ahead by about 13,000 votes — and the recount as a futile attempt to prolong the inevitable. Indeed, between 2000 and 2016, there were 4,687 statewide general elections and just 26 statewide recounts. Only three — or 0.06 percent of all statewide elections — reversed the initial result, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan group FairVote.
“This has been decisive,” Representative Brian Mast, a Florida Republican who represents parts of Palm Beach County, said on Monday. “I hope this can wrap up quickly.”