Military Delivers Key Votes for Bush
Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
George W. Bush's decision to court the military vote paid off in a way the Republican presidential candidate himself could not have imagined.
When voting boards in Florida's 67 counties met after Election Day to count the hundreds of remaining overseas absentee ballots, Mr. Bush gained sufficient votes to offset the votes Vice President Al Gore racked up in two weeks of manual recounts.
In other words, the military vote delivered Florida, and possibly the presidency, to the Texas governor.
"Gov. Bush's campaign put much emphasis on getting the overseas military vote," said former Rep. Sonny Montgomery, Mississippi Democrat and co-chairman of the Republicans' veterans outreach committee. "They made a special effort to get the military vote, and people overseas knew what the governor's beliefs were as far as the military was concerned, and that he would support the military personnel overseas and have a strong defense."
During the campaign, Mr. Bush overtly pursued the 1.4 million active-duty military personnel by promising to rebuild a force he saw as degraded by budget cuts and too many foreign peacekeeping missions. He also vowed to "honor the military culture" - a not-so-subtle reference to retaining the military's ban on open homosexuality and the prohibition on women in land combat.
The Bush campaign also set up a committee of retired admirals and generals. The committee signaled men and women in uniform that their former commanders vouched for the one-time Air National Guard fighter pilot who wants to be the next commander-in-chief. It also did not hurt that Mr. Bush campaigned in the company of Richard B. Cheney, his running mate and a former defense secretary, and Colin Powell, the popular former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Bush campaign officials believe they received a majority of the military vote worldwide as well as the veterans' vote in the United States. They say Mr. Bush accomplished this by divining the needs of veterans, military retirees and active-duty personnel, and then shaping policies for each group.
Asked how Mr. Bush fared with military people, Bill McLemore, former Army lieutenant colonel and Bush campaign volunteer, said: "All you have to do is observe what's happening right now. Just observe the absentee ballots that are coming into Florida that we're struggling to maintain right now." Democrats in Florida are contesting on technicalities scores of overseas ballots from the military.
The last ballots to be opened in Florida - those overseas absentee envelopes predominately sent by military voters - were crucial to Mr. …