Politics Magazine

Mitt, His Party, and the Electoral College

Posted on the 18 May 2012 by Erictheblue

This post, by John Cassidy, concerning the state of the presidential race, was one of the "thirty interesting things to read" that slowed me down the other day.  The most recent CBS/New York Times poll shows Romney with a slight lead--three points, which is less than the poll's margin of error--over Obama.  Cassidy wants to know how worried we should be.  For those inclined to be sanguine, his analysis indicates that, while the race is close, Romney's path to 270 electoral votes is rutted and strewn with brambles.  The basic problem, as I argued here, is that eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia), possessing 242 electoral votes, have gone for the Democratic candidate in five elections in a row--and at this point it appears that Obama has a better chance in such purplish places as Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada than Romney does in any of "the blue eighteen."  That leaves Romney in the place of a poker player hoping to draw to an inside straight.

And it leaves people like me, who hate both the electoral college and the prospect of Republicans running the country, in the uncomfortable position of expecting a favor from a foe.  The flip side, however, may be that Republican support for the electoral college will wane.  For twelve years now the election of 2000, in which Al Gore defeated George Bush by more than half a million popular ballots but "lost" the election when the Supreme Court delivered Florida to Bush, has been the elephant in the room whenever the electoral college is debated.  Admitting that the candidate for whom the most voters vote should win has been too much like saying Gore, not Bush, should have been president--which is true, but it's not a conclusion allowed to Republicans.

Now, however, it's beginning to look as if the stew of geography, demographics, and the electoral college could actually work to the advantage of the Democrats.  True, one vote cast in red Wyoming weighs more than one cast in blue California--that's part of what's wrong with the electoral college. But several of the deepest-blue states--Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii (not to mention the District of Columbia)--are approximately as favored by the electoral colleage as are Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska.  Moreover, the Democratic voters in too many urban centers put too many big states out of reach for the Republicans:  New York, no way; Illinois, no way; California, no way; Pennsylvania, very difficult because of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; Michigan, very difficult because of Detroit.  It seems to me that these facts, together with the all-or-nothing allocation of electoral votes, should make the electoral college as it currently functions so unattractive to partisan Republicans that they might want to take another look at The National Popular Vote bill

If it's not clear that the electoral college favors one side or the other, then it can be judged on its merits, which would be its doom.

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