From guest columnist, The Hippie Conservative
Every since the Founding Fathers first formed the original Constitutional Convention and wrote Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, the Electoral College has been at the center of voting rights debates. It’s nearly impossible to get through a Political Science class without it being brought up and its supporters and detractors are as committed to their opinions as any debate between pro-abortion fanatics and religious groups. In the contentious 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush it reached a fever pitch. With 543,895 votes (FEC) pushing Al Gore to the lead in the popular vote, Democrats votes were nullified by the evil Electoral College for the fourth time in U.S. history. (Nixon vs. Kennedy has been debated by historians and would have been five by some claims.) Since that election, it has been hard to find a single remaining Democrat that believes in the Electoral College system.
That could soon change.
The general thinking in Dem circles is that the popular vote is the fairest vote. They believe the Electoral system is antiquated and defies the will of the people. Concerns that large sections of the U.S. would be unrepresented and that populous Dem strongholds in cities would rule the elections is dismissed out-of-hand in favor of….how should I put this…winning. In this piece, I’m going to demonstrate how it’s possible that President Obama could very well end up being our fifth President to ride the E.C. to a win despite losing the popular vote. Here’s how it plays out.
To follow this scenario, you’ll need two tools, the Realclearpolitics.com electoral map for the 2012 Presidential race and the New York Times clickable election results map from 2008. By clicking each state on the RCP map, you’ll get the current polls and by cursing over the states on the NYT map you’ll get the state by state results from the 2008 election. Sound fun? OK, I admit, it’s a little work, but you can always just take my word and follow along. These figures are as of 9/14/12. That’s slightly after the Dem convention and should actually show a little favoritism towards Obama.
There can be no doubt, (unless you only follow FOX or MSNBC) that this will be a very tight race, barring any real surprises. However, one thing is instantly clear, President Obama’s support has fallen off significantly since 2008. I’m sorry people, but that is simply the truth. (I know, I know, I’m an evil right winger who is trying to discourage Obama voters, sigh. Please just ignore that I voted for him in 2008.)The reasons are many, but for now let’s focus on the numbers that count, the Electoral College numbers. As of this moment in time, the RCP has President Obama ahead by 221 to Romney’s 191. My own electoral map, without toss-ups, has a few keys states like Michigan and Florida deciding the election. Every recent election has focused on these sorts of key states and we’ll get to them, but let’s start by demonstrating how the largest electoral states are faring for Obama.
Obviously, the top two Democrat states, California and New York, will go to Obama. He will sweep in Cal’s 55 votes and N.Y.’s 29, but as we look at the polls it’s clear he has lost many votes even in his greatest stronghold. California in 2008 went 61% (I’m going to round these numbers for simplicities sake) for Obama, but now RCP has him at 54%. A loss of 7 percent, or approx. 521,000 votes. That alone is nearly the spread in Bush’s disputed 2000 win. Obama, however has a lot of room considering that he won 2008 by over 8 million votes, so let’s continue. New York gave Obama 62% of the vote in 2008, RCP now has him at 58%, a loss of 4% or another 175,000 votes. That’s just in the two states who LOVE him, it gets much worse in the states that don’t. However, none of that matters to the E.C., Obama will sweep both. Texas is the second biggest prize in the E.C. with 38 votes and Republicans generally win that state hands down. In the 2008 election McCain beat out Obama in Texas 56% to 44%, a spread of 12%. The RCP has Romney ahead at this point by 15%, a gain of 3% for the Reps and a loss of another 240,000 votes for Obama. We’re now at a loss of 930,000 votes for Obama with 47 states remaining.
It’s also worth mentioning here that all states do not allocate all their electoral votes the same, some are “winner take all” (48 states) and some are proportional (Maine and Nebraska). It’s also worth mentioning that there has been a move by the Dems to change the numbers for Obama by changing the way some states allocate their E.C. votes. For example, California, under Dem Governor Jerry Brown changed in 2011 to a “winner take all” state. Obviously that benefits Obama and California is the biggest prize of all states.
Now, let’s move on down the list.
Florida-Obama down by 80,000 votes
Pennsylvania-Obama down by 171,000 votes
Illinois-Obama down by 530,000
Ohio-Obama down by 52,000
Michigan-Obama down by 290,000
I won’t bore you any further with the exact numbers for all 50 states, but you get the idea. Many states polls are down by 15% for Obama and Republican states are up by 7% on average for Romney. A 7% drop from 2008 would put President Obama behind in popular vote, but again, none of that will matter in the E.C..
It’s plain to see that President Obama is seriously losing voters and yet he is still favored to win all the states listed above and will take away all of their E.C. votes. At the same time, Republicans will sweep the “fly over” states by healthy and typical margins. So the math goes like this; Romney sweeps small E.C. states by large margins while Obama squeaks out victories in large E.C. states. Although RCP has Obama up by about 3 percentage points nationally post convention, you can expect that number to even out as it was prior to the convention. Given an even poll match, historically Democrats lose the popular vote, particularly with incumbents. The reason is due to oversampling of Dems due to the habit of pollsters locating and sampling close to major metropolitan cities. This season, they are also using turnout figures from 2008 that I don’t believe will reflect the reduced enthusiasm in the Democrats and increased enthusiasm in the Republican Party. Add in the fact that undecided people tend to go against the incumbent and you can see President Obama’s problem. (If you asked your boss if you would still have a job next year and he/she said “undecided” how would you view that?) Adding up all the states and factoring in a 3% necessary advantage to Obama to offset his advantage in common polling bias (which explains why most of you thought that Bush would lose in 2004) an even split would leave Obama hundreds of thousands of popular votes short if not millions and still the E.C. winner. The race is still very close and I would be a fool to guess it at this point. I’ll let you know my prediction in late October. However, my advice to Democrats is this; don’t bring up the Electoral College and the Bush 2000 victory for a while, the E.C. may well end up being your new best friend too. H.C.
The Hippie Conservative blogs at http://thehippieconservative.blogspot.com/