• Did the Florida Hurricanes Cost Kerry the Election?

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    How
    is it that from 2000 to 2004 Florida went from counting chads on
    individual votes to becoming a "decisive" victory for
    President Bush? Republicans
    were prepared to blast George Soros
    and others for spending
    a fortune on changing minds if Bush lost to John Kerry, but some
    well-placed federal funds in the sunshine state may just have tipped
    the scale in Bush's favor.

    It
    has been said that those who do not remember the past are condemned
    to repeat it. The
    White House website biography of Grover Cleveland
    , 22nd
    (and 24th) President of the United States, mentions that
    Cleveland took a principled position against offering federal disaster
    aid:

    “President
    Grover Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors
    to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to
    distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he
    wrote: ‘Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of
    paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness
    of our national character. . . .'”

    Cleveland's
    re-election bid in 1888 was one of the tightest elections of the
    19th century
    . In the end, he won the popular vote,
    but lost in the Electoral College to Benjamin Harrison. While Cleveland
    carried Texas, with such a narrow margin of victory or defeat, an
    issue such as the denial of federal disaster relief could have easily
    been a deciding factor in the election.

    But,
    as Cleveland pointed out to his party leaders, “What is the use
    of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

    Fast
    forward to the 20th Century and George W. Bush's father.
    Disaster relief actually became an issue during his campaign, and
    in Florida no less. In August 1992 Hurricane Andrew hit Florida
    and the Bush Administration came under fire for its slow response
    to offer assistance. There is less of a sense that this was motivated
    by principled politics, but the result was the same: President Bush
    lost the election.

    His
    son would not make the same mistake. According
    to an article shortly after the disaster
    , “Even before Hurricane
    Charley struck, the second Bush White House was poised to act. Hours
    after Hurricane Charley made landfall, federal aid was flowing."

    On
    an individual level, people from all walks of life donated their
    time, money and resources to aid those in need. But when aid flows
    from the federal government, especially in an election year, the
    danger of an unspoken quid pro quo relationship develops. The Bush
    camp even openly admitted that their use of taxpayer dollars was
    in some ways an investment that might pay off come November.

    According
    to David Johnson, a Republican consultant and former state party
    executive director, “This cut through a lot of good Republican turf,
    and then I-4 – that’s a lot of swing voters."

    Florida
    has 27 Electoral College votes. As in 2000, this state alone could
    have determined the outcome in 2004. This election may have proved
    that money can indeed buy votes, but instead of the money coming
    out of the pockets of the rich, it came from taxpayers all across
    the country.

    November
    9, 2004

    Matthew
    Hisrich [send him
    mail
    ] is a policy analyst with The Buckeye Institute for Public
    Policy Solutions.

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