Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The State of the Presidential Contest After Memorial Day

Might we be headed for a repeat of the 2000 election -- with the Republican winner of the electoral college losing the popular vote? The numbers today suggest that is entirely possible.

Realclearpolitics.com reports that, based on the average of recent polls, Senator Barack Obama would defeat Senator John McCain by 2.6% (though the most recent polls from Rasmussen and Gallup have McCain in the lead by 3% and 2% respectively). But Politico posits that, in the Electoral College, the contest may be McCain's to lose. Indeed, according to Politico, "many top GOP strategists believe he can defeat Barack Obama — and by a margin exceeding President Bush’s Electoral College victory in 2004." What gives?

Obama has the same problem that Gore had: he's hugely popular on the left and East coasts and in metropolitan areas, but hugely unpopular in the predominantly rural areas that comprise the vast majority of land in the United States.

Thus, in order to win, Obama has to target some of the red states where city dwellers are strong enough in numbers to outnumber country folk. For example, as Politico reports, Obama is campaigning in earnest this week in the western states of New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, which combine for only 19 electoral votes.

But those states are small potatoes to the one that, if Obama won it, would go far toward solving his electoral college problem: Ohio, which has 20 electoral votes. The Realclearpolitics.com average of polls has Obama up by 1.3% in Ohio, helped by his healthy 9% lead in the most recent SurveyUSA poll.

Other historically red states "in Obama’s top tier of potential pickups" include "Florida, Virginia, and Iowa," according to his campaign aides. McCain is currently ahead in Florida by an average of 8.3% and in Virginia by an average of 1.3%. Obama leads in Iowa by an average of 5.6%.

Don't expect Obama to pay any more attention to Kentucky this year, as it is safely in the Republican column. But Obama and McCain will likely spend a lot of time next door in the Buckeye State and anywhere else where there are potentially enough voters in large cities to turn a state from red to blue. And, of course, if that doesn't work, Obama's lawyers will be ready also.

1 comment:

joreko said...

The real issue is not how well Clinton, Obama, or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn’t have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state. Because of this rule, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. Two-thirds of the visits and money are focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money goes to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people are merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has been approved by 17 legislative chambers (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, California, and Vermont). It has been enacted into law in Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These states have 50 (19%) of the 270 electoral votes needed to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com