As the frenzied race for the White House comes down to the wire, tens of thousands of partisan lawyers are mobilizing under the radar in battleground states, all steeling for one terrifying scenario: a recount that could decide the presidency. Their objective is to head off a repeat of the Gore-Bush fiasco 12 years ago in which Al Gore won the popular vote and George W. Bush captured the Electoral College and ultimately the presidency.“They are all bracing for Florida in 2000 — everyone wants to be in position so as not to be disadvantaged by a court decision in a tie,” says Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “This [is] a preventive strategy. They are largely in search of problems that don’t yet exist. It’s like the Cold War and nuclear capability. You want to have what the other guy has. ”
And that adds up to [a] lot. At least 5,000 lawyers in Florida alone have volunteered to serve as poll watchers for the Obama campaign “voter protection” program on Election Day — and that’s just the Democrats. There is similar intensity on the Republican side.
“Let’s be clear — there are very large numbers of lawyers already deployed — and ready to be deployed with hair-trigger swiftness,” says Robert Kelner, a GOP election law expert who worked on the Florida recount. “The slightest discrepancy or hint that legitimate voting is being impeded anywhere will prompt an overwhelming legal show of force. Since the Gore-Bush recount, everyone is on very high alert.”