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Hillary Clinton: Czarina of Recounts?

This thoughtful article from The American Prospect attempts to turn the innumerable Clinton postmortems on their head by talking about some of the more favorable ways that Clinton’s campaign might changed the American political scene. But none of the writers invoke what I think I’ll remember the most about the Hillary Clinton campaign, which is her no-holds-barred, street-brawling style.

This was by no means uniformly a positive. Clearly, the campaign’s fighting spirit appeared to get the better of it in the last week of the campaign, first when Harold Ickes looked ridiculous by arguing Carl Levin at the RBC meeting, and then on Tuesday night, when Clinton’s speech not only failed to strike the right tone but missed the entire octave. More broadly, I think you can argue that Clinton’s lack of restraint at various points in the campaign might have cost her the nomination.

In other contexts, however, a no-holds-barred approach could be quite helpful. For example, what if there were another recount in Florida? (Our simulation model thinks there’s a 6-7 percent chance that the outcome of the election could hinge on a recount in Florida or somewhere else). As the HBO movie makes clear, a recount is a dirty, dirty affair, where the first side to blink tends to get run over. In a game with those rules, are there any politicians you’d rather have in your corner than the Clintons?

So one potential post-primary role for the Clintons would be for them to serve as Czar and Czarina of Vote Counting and Voter Suppression. This would segue into leading the Democrats’ recount team if and when one became necessary. I can think of several potential synergies here. Firstly, it might transform some of the angst that Clinton supporters had about both the popular vote count and the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations and give it a constructive outlet. Secondly, because voter suppression problems tend to be more concentrated among minority groups, it could give the Clintons a bridge to start repairing their image with the African-American community.

And thirdly, they’d probably be pretty good at it. By no means would they be doing most of the dirty work on voter suppression — that falls mainly to unions and activists and state and local politicians. But to give these activities more of a public face, and to increase their bandwidth share in the American political consciousness, is another part of the strategy. If the Clintons were able to raise the profile of voter suppression questions ahead of time, that would provide for an optical advantage if there actually were a recount later.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.