Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein’s call for a recount has won her headlines and money, both of which could prove beneficial to the politician and her party going forward.
Stein’s call for a recount in Wisconsin might have come as a surprise to some observers.
She won just 1 percent of the vote in the state and finished a distant fourth.
Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE, who won the national popular vote, finished a close second to Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE in the Badger State. But it wasn’t her party asking for the recount. It was Stein, who has repeatedly shown a willingness to step into the public limelight to battle with both major parties.
Stein hit the Clinton machine for piggy-backing on her recount efforts and for failing to take the threat of election hacking seriously.
Seen as largely an afterthought during the presidential race, Stein is receiving heavy news coverage from the media for her efforts. And by tapping into Democratic angst over Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton, she’s building a fundraising apparatus greater than she had before.
It’s highly unlikely that the recount will lead to any change in the election results, which is one reason that many Democrats have largely shrugged it off.
But Stein and her party still stand to gain.
“It’s politically smart for the Green Party to show they are an aggressive, progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The Democrats have largely ceded this progressive territory, so the Green Party can demonstrate that they are fighting for the spirit the progressive Democrats would embrace,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political scientist.
“It keeps their hopes alive for a longer period than the election.”
During a Monday night interview on Fox Business Network, Stein framed herself as the voice for the “frustrated, cynical and disappointed voters” who were “disgusted by the process of this election.”
And she’s hammered Clinton, whose campaign said it would participate in the recount if Stein filed one, on social media by labeling her too secretive to want the transparency provided by a recount.
It’s a similar strategy to what Stein deployed during the campaign, in which she sought to appeal to the progressives who backed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden must keep progressive promises or risk losing midterms Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds MORE (I-Vt.) during the Democratic primary and were uneasy about supporting Clinton.
Sanders has downplayed the effort in interviews, first telling CNN on Sunday that “no one expects there to be profound change” and then adding that “nobody cares” when repeatedly pressed to elaborate on the issue.
On top of increased coverage and staying in the spotlight, the most tangible benefit for Stein has been in fundraising.
The campaign set its initial fundraising target at $2 million to fund recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
After a flood of support, the campaign raised the goal to between $6 and $7 million, with excess funds going to future “election integrity efforts,” a broad definition that could give the party leeway.
By Monday, the campaign said it raised $6.5 million since fundraising began on Nov. 23 from 137,000 donors — far more than the $3 million she raised in the general election.
That support suggests to Tim Miller, a Republican strategist who worked on Jeb Bush’s Republican primary bid and did not support Trump, that her donors aren’t just Green Party loyalists, but “desperate and vulnerable” Democrats too.
“She caught onto this wave of frustration among grassroots liberals who are looking at undivided Republican government and are desperate for any way to change that,” Miller said.
One of the most powerful fundraising tools in politics is a donor list, and Democrats and Republicans spend tens of millions of dollars cultivating lists that vastly outgun any tools at the Green Party’s disposal.
Third parties receive increased federal election funding if they hit 5 percent in national elections, while many states give automatic ballot access for parties that hit a threshold. So expanding the party’s potential donor base with more disaffected Democrats and increasing visibility could help that push, especially at the local level.
“The Green Party will never win the presidency if they can’t win local offices. That’s how you build a party — from the ground up,” Rottinghaus said.
“Having an expanded fundraising base, even if its only 10 or 20 percent more than it was last election cycle, is investing in the party apparatus.”
But bringing in those disaffected Democrats could backfire if the recount concludes with no substantial surprise.
Stein has framed the recount as an integrity protection effort, floating the potential for widespread hacking but not declaring that it could end up with a Clinton White House.
But after New York Magazine reported that election experts told the Clinton campaign about potential discrepancies in those states, some recount supporters are likely using the recount as a vehicle for a final anti-Trump effort.
“Jill Stein is not trying to help Hillary Clinton, so anyone under the false impression that’s what she’s trying to do is being hoodwinked,” Miller said.
So if the recount ends at its most likely conclusion, there could be disappointment among those with whom Stein and her party are looking to curry favor.
Nicolas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian Party, criticized the recount as a “fundraising scam” because it won’t lead to any fundamental changes, which makes him view it as shortsighted.
“The big downside that I think both Dr. Stein and the Green Party by association could run into is it’s going to become obvious it’s a fundraising scam, and that’s going to affect their credibility going forward,” he said.
“If they are seen as too in line with the Democratic Party, that destroys their independent streak. If they are seen as being willing to jump on the bandwagon of the thing of the day to raise a lot of money, that will create donor distrust.”