If so, it would be quite a twist on the president’s strategy of getting perfectly valid votes tossed out if they happen to arrive by mail after November 3. He previewed that strategy in a tweet this morning, which was as interesting for what it didn’t say as what it did.

For months over the summer, Trump’s core argument against mail-in ballots was that their provenance is unclear and therefore they’re prone to fraud. Lately, though, his rhetoric has shifted towards complaining about election-night uncertainty. It’s no longer a matter of scrutinizing each individual mail ballot to see which might be forgeries. It’s a matter of wanting to summarily exclude thousands of ballots that were mailed before polls closed but didn’t arrive until after Election Day.

Even though that might include plenty of military ballots too.

The tweet above exemplifies the pivot. “Mail votes can be forged!” might get you a few ballots tossed out here and there because poll workers can’t match the signatures up to their satisfaction or whatever. But “mail votes create uncertainty!” theoretically could get many, many votes tossed en masse. And since Democrats favor voting by mail to a much greater extent than Republicans do, getting those votes tossed likely benefits Trump. Most things Democrats call “voter suppression,” like long poll lines or insisting on voter ID, are gross exaggerations. But wanting legal votes trashed because you’re desperate for a way to reduce your opponent’s margins by any means necessary does fit the description. French is right:

But what if it backfires? Nate Silver’s been wondering lately if our assumptions about mail-in ballots are wrong. There’s no doubt that Democrats are far more likely to vote by mail than Republicans, but only ballots that arrive *after Election Day* are at high risk of being torpedoed by a court. How sure should we be that those particular mail votes will trend blue? Not very sure, says Silver, who’s been beating the drum about this on Twitter for two weeks:

Ever since the panic this summer over slowdowns in Postal Service delivery, Democrats have been howling at their voters to send their mail ballots in ASAP. (And it’s a good thing for their sake that they did, as there *are* USPS delays right now in swing states.) Between those warnings and the massive burst of early voting this year, it may be that most Dems who were planning on voting by mail have already sent their ballots. If so, the partisan mix of stragglers who drop their votes in the mail on Monday may be much more even than anyone expects.

He doubled down on his point about the partisan composition of mail-in votes this afternoon, with evidence from Florida. The early trend in mail ballots in that state showed a strongly Democratic group, but as time’s gone by the partisan balance has evened out.

Getting the late-arriving votes tossed just might not be the gamechanger for the president that he thinks it’ll be. And even if, contra Silver, there’s a strong Democratic tilt to that batch of late-arriving votes, the race would need to be exceptionally close for it to matter. There aren’t many late-arriving ballots to begin with, Silver noted elsewhere recently, pointing to the fact that just one percent of mail votes cast in Pennsylvania’s primary this year were delivered after Election Day. If, say, a third of all ballots next week in PA are mail votes, and if one percent of those ballots arrive late and are thrown out via a court ruling, and if Biden leads by 20 points among that disqualified group, he’d lose six-tenths of a percentage point from his overall margin.

Trump will end up having to argue — and is already arguing, per the tweet up top — not just that it’s illicit to count mail ballots that arrive after Election Day but that it’s ilicit to count ANY ballots after Election Day, including ones that arrived weeks before and were properly filled out. He’s not trying to stop the stop the votes that came in late, he’s trying to stop vote-counting altogether after election night. He wants to gaslight the country into believing that there’s something untoward about poll workers needing more than a day to tally all the votes they’ve received even though that happens in every election, including during his big win in 2016. (This thread is a nice reminder of how long it takes in America for votes to be counted and elections to be certified. The projections that networks make on election night have nothing to do with the official process.) And as I pointed out a few days ago, the only reason Pennsylvania’s counting will need to extend beyond Election Day is because Republicans there are blocking poll workers from starting their count early. They’re deliberately trying to cast a cloud of suspicion over mail ballots by delaying the count so that it pushes past November 3 instead of letting the count begin sooner so that we know for sure who won that evening. It may be the most cynical thing I’ve ever seen in politics. They’re willing to engineer chaos, uncertainty, and ferociously bitter partisan division simply to give Trump a bogus face-saving excuse that he was “cheated” if he loses.