Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) in Orlando on Oct. 8. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Opinions editor

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s apparent victory over incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was one of Democrats’ bigger disappointments on Election Day. But the margin was close enough to trigger an automatic recount, and since Tuesday, Scott’s lead has narrowed from 56,000 votes to just more than 12,000 votes. So, in a preview of the toxicity Scott (if he wins) will bring to Washington, he deployed a standard GOP response when Democrats gain votes: accuse them of voter fraud.

“Sen. Nelson is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Scott told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” Naturally, Wallace asked if Scott had “any hard evidence” of fraud. Scott had no answer, other than stammering that two counties “came up with 93,000 votes after election night. We still don’t know how they came up with that.” Scott didn’t mention that Florida election law allows counting until the Saturday after Election Day. He also didn’t mention that Florida’s Department of State and Department of Law Enforcement both have said they have not received any allegations of fraud.

One irony here is that Scott has been governor for eight years, which means he’s had the ability to fix Florida’s election system that he now implies is broken. In particular, conservative voices have criticized Broward County election supervisor Brenda Snipes for lack of transparency in the vote-counting process. But there’s a long record of voting difficulties and election law violations under Snipes’s tenure, going back more than a decade. (Because of that, additional Department of State staffers had already been assigned to Broward County on Election Day.) So it’s a little rich for Scott and his allies to complain about Snipes now — when, again, there’s no hard evidence of fraud — even though Scott could have suspended her for legitimate reasons years ago.

Another irony: Scott is familiar with fraud. In 1997, the U.S. government announced it was investigating health-care company Columbia/HCA, of which Scott was CEO, to see whether it had falsely billed the federal government and states for Medicare, Medicaid and other programs’ expenses. Scott resigned several months after the investigation became public; according to Politifact, “Company executives said had Scott remained CEO, the entire chain could have been in jeopardy.” The company ended up paying $1.7 billion in fines, at the time a record for a Medicare fraud, and still one of the largest penalties in history.

If Scott wants an example of how to behave with late-counted ballots, he can just look to Arizona. There, late votes have expanded Republican Martha McSally’s deficit in her U.S. Senate race with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. But McSally, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and other Republican state officials have refused to fan fraud claims or other conspiracy theories. Lest anyone doubted this is a deliberate campaign to undermine the legitimacy of election results, Politico reported Friday, “Top officials with the White House and Republican National Committee, who’ve been prodding the McSally campaign to amp up its efforts, have expressed frustration that the Arizona congresswoman hasn’t tried to drive a message that there’s something amiss with the vote count.”

But rather than reject conspiracy theories that undermine faith in the electoral system, Scott has opted for slime. “I’m going to be going to D.C., and I’m going to do exactly what I did in Florida, try to change the direction of the country, like we tried to change the direction of Florida,” Scott said Sunday. His behavior since Tuesday has proved that his version of “change” won’t be better for the country.