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RFK Jr. on Election 2004:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has turned his attention from the environment to the 2004 election, with predictable results. In this Rolling Stone article, Kennedy argues that Republicans used dirty tricks to steal the 2004 presidential election. The article cites a wide variety of sources, but Kennedy's claim ultimately rests on the discrepancy between exit polls and the reported results — and that is a thin reed upon which to base his claim.

Election law experts are not convinced by Kennedy's account. Ohio State's Dan Tokaji is sympathetic to some of Kennedy's arguments, and believes the 2004 election offers many important lessons for election reform, but finds the argument that Kerry won "strains credulity." Salon's Farhad Manjoo is far less generous, finding Kennedy's "argument is filled with distortions and blatant omissions." Bob Bauer concurs, concluding Kennedy's "case does not stand up to even casual scrutiny," and may even set back the case for "progressive election reform."

While Kennedy is focusing on a new issue, it appears his penchant for overstatement and exaggeration remains. As I've documented time and again (and again, again, again, and again), Kennedy's attacks on the Bush Administration's environmental record were error-filled and overwrought. This is not a defense of Bush's environmental policies, for it is a record worth criticizing on many fronts. But any critique should be based on factually accurate accounts — and Kennedy's were not. Kennedy may be aiming at a new target, but his accuracy remains poor.

UPDATE: More on RFK Jr's election 2004 claims here, here, and here.

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More on RFK Jr. & Election 2004:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. defends his Rolling Stone article, and Salon's Farhad Manjoo responds here. Also Salon's Joan Walsh answers those who've criticized the magazine for publishing Manjoo's article in the first place.

Meanwhile, Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal dissects Kennedy's reliance upon exit poll data here, and finds it wanting.

While it covers many topics involving alleged suppression and fraud in Ohio, the article disappoints in its discussion of the exit poll controversy, because on that aspect of the controversy Kennedy manages to dredge up nearly every long-ago discredited distortion or half-truth on this subject without any acknowledgement of contrary arguments or the weaknesses in his argument. It is as if the exit poll debate of the last eighteen months never happened.
Blumenthal promises to post Part II of his critique shortly.

UPDATE: RCP's Tom Bevan weighs in on RFK Jr's "incredble shrinking credibility":

Last Friday RFK, Jr. asserted on CNN, "There's no legitimate dispute that there was a massive, concerted, deliberate effort by high level-Republican Party officials to fix the election in Ohio. And the press has not covered this issue." This is a grotesque lie unsupported by even a shred of credible evidence, yet Kennedy is out on national cable television spewing it as gospel truth.

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RFK Jr. & Election 2004 (Continued):

Robert F. Kennedy Jr's analysis of the 2004 presidential election results has been subject to withering criticism, but it continues to get positive attention, such as in this (subscription-only) New York Times column by Bob Herbert. Election law expert Bob Bauer is not impressed.

Meanwhile, Democratic pollster Marc Blumenthal continues his dissection of Kennedy's claims at Mystery Pollster, here and here.

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The Origins of RFK Jr's Election Story:

Today's NYT profiles Robert F. Kennedy Jr., covering his environmental activism and his recent foray into electoral politics. Among other things, it contains this account of what inspired his Rolling Stone article alleging Republicans "stole" the 2004 Presidential election.

Mr. Kennedy spent Christmas skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the home of Ms. David and her husband, Larry David, the "Seinfeld" creator and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" protagonist. Mr. David urged him to read a book on the 2004 election by the news media critic Mark Crispin Miller.

Mr. Kennedy did, and a few days later he was skiing with the Rolling Stone publisher, Jann S. Wenner, an old friend and Sun Valley homeowner. Mr. Kennedy suggested that Mr. Wenner commission a story on the "stolen election." Mr. Wenner said he would, provided Mr. Kennedy wrote it. He had written a much-discussed and much-challenged story for Rolling Stone last year linking childhood vaccines and a rise in autism.

After some hesitation, Mr. Kennedy said, he agreed to write the election article. Since it was posted on Rolling Stone's Web site on June 1, the Web has been ablog with a split between those who believe this is the biggest unreported story ever and those who think it's old news, discredited long ago. Mr. Kennedy said it's hard to prove that any election had been "stolen."

"If you're looking for proof and certitude, you're not going to find it," he said. Either way, Mr. Kennedy said he is committed to stoking the outrage of 2004, wherever it leads. "This is going to remain one of my central concerns for a while," he said, adding, "America should be indignant." But is it, beyond certain liberal airwaves and blogs? Congress has not exactly been rocked with speeches on the matter or with calls for investigations.

In a phone interview, Mr. Wenner said that John Kerry, the big loser in 2004, "does not question the validity of the piece," hardly a signal of outrage.

Senator Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and a longtime advocate of electoral reform, called the article "tremendously compelling." But not compelling enough to talk about it: Mr. Dodd's comments were relayed in a statement from his office.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire comments on the NYT story here.

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