Anger as conservative pollster Rasmussen appears to back overturning election result

<p>President Donald Trump walking out to speak in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Washington. Walking behind Trump is Vice President Mike Pence. </p> ((AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

President Donald Trump walking out to speak in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Washington. Walking behind Trump is Vice President Mike Pence.

((AP Photo/Susan Walsh))

Legal experts and commentators are crying foul after Rasmussen Reports, a conservative-leaning polling firm, quoted a line attributed to Joseph Stalin and linked to right-wing commentary arguing vice president Mike Pence could still try to overturn the legitimate presidential election results.

On Sunday, Rasmussen Reports, once described as the president’s “favourite pollster,” tweeted out a thread from conservative blogger, gaming media executive, and self-described “internet supervillainAlexander Macris. It detailed a dubious theory about how the vice president, who will ceremonially certify the election results before a joint session of Congress on 6 January, could overturn the process and give the Trump administration a win.

It began with a quote, likely apocryphal, from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, which read, “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

And it went on to outline an election theory experts said was bogus, but which has been gaining traction in conservative circles since the election.

“The Vice President is not supposed to control the outcome of the process for counting the electoral votes from the states,” Edward Foley, a law professor at the Ohio State University, told The Hill. “The Vice President chairs the joint session, but does not decide what electoral votes to count.”

The president, upon learning of Mr Pence’s role, reportedly pushed for him to do something to postpone the inevitable. But the Washington Post reported that Mr Pence has already told House Republicans and others pushing to overturn the results that he plans to honour his constitutional duty and won’t create any unnecessary drama. He is reportedly planning an overseas trip soon after.

Despite his assurances, commentators online were dismayed that the Rasmussen post invoked the notorious dictator and outlined how to overturn the election.

“Rasmussen Reports is telling Mike Pence to take some tips from Josef Stalin on how to steal an election,” wrote Matthew Sheffield, a self-described “former conservative” writer. “This is the absolute state of American conservatism.”

Brendan Keefe, a reporter based in Georgia, the focus of so much of the president’s unfounded election conspiracy theories, said that to honour this sort of thinking would mean, “At that point, democracy would cease to exist.”

Others, like Mother Jones editor Clara Jefferey, contrasted the Rasmussen tweets with the common right-wing canard that liberals are becoming increasingly totalitarian or intolerant.

“Crazy how @Rasmussen_Poll quoted Stalin, amirite?” she tweeted, in response to a post from former UN ambassador and Trump ally Nikki Haley warning about the Democratic party’s supposedly socialist turn.

Rasmussen, which political data journalism site 538 once rated as a middling “C+” pollster, responded to the uproar in another tweet.

“The usual partisan hacks are feigning upset that our analysis & commentary piece from Alexander Macris yesterday included a top quote from Stalin,” Rasmussen wrote on Monday. “Well it does. The hacks don’t want you to READ that commentary. They’d much rather finger us as Staninists. What a sad bunch.”

Rasmussen did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

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