Could Obama “win ugly”? Yup.

(Disclaimer:  This one’s all about the horse race.)

I’ve been playing with political maps and the latest polling numbers and there is a new, fascinating scenario for the 2012 presidential race that looks more plausible today than it did a week ago.

I’m talking about the possibility that President Barack Obama might win a second term with a comfortable margin of Electoral College vote while actually losing the popular vote.

The mechanics of this are pretty simple.  Most states assign electoral college votes on a ‘winner take all’ basis.  So it doesn’t matter if you win, say, Ohio by a 1 point margin or a 10 point margin.  You still claim the whole prize.

As things stand now, the latest polls show Obama in a dead heat with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.  Some surveys actually show Romney taking a slight lead.

But in state-by-state match-ups, the president still holds a sizable advantage. Romney crushes Obama in a lot of the “red” states.  But in most of the “purple” battleground states, Obama holds moderate to big leads.

I’ve mapped out several different “roads to victory” for Obama.

And one of those maps has the Democrat getting walloped in the South, losing Virginia, North Carolina, and the “fringe south” states of Florida and Missouri — and still winning re-election.

I point to this scenario in particular, because so much GOP support is now concentrated in the South, and bundled into fewer and fewer states.

In theory, we could see Romney winning by huge margins in those conservative states, building an overall popular vote advantage, but failing to eke out wins in more crucial states like Ohio, New Mexico and Wisconsin, where he now trails badly.

The political consequences for Obama of this kind of “ugly” win would be significant.

He already faces a low rumble of conservative challenges to his legitimacy.  Imagine the mood if he were forced to govern a country where most voters chose the Republican alternative.

One silver lining of this painful scenario is that it might finally prompt a real effort at reforming an Electoral College system that has been dangerously broken for decades.

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12 Comments on “Could Obama “win ugly”? Yup.”

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  1. Peter Hahn says:

    Didn’t seem to hurt W.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Of course Obama will lose in the South. They are still angry about losing the Civil War. Sore losers remain sore losers.

  3. Paul says:

    Obama will win. $$$ = election win.

    He has too much money for Romney to probably pull it off.

  4. Kathy says:

    I predict Romney will win. Watch and see.

  5. Phil says:

    Your scenario, Brian, sounds like the Bill Clinton plan. Remember him, the only two-term president never to win the majority vote? He’s the guy the media call “popular.”

  6. Brian Mann says:

    Phil – The difference here is that while Clinton won a plurality (i.e. more votes than anyone else in the race) it’s possible that Obama could win a second term even if Romney wins more votes.

    It’s noteworthy that Obama actually did win a clear majority of votes in 2008, claiming a fairly astonishing 53% of the vote.

    Regarding Clinton’s overall popularity, it did ironically soar after his re-election, and after conservatives ratcheted up their attacks during the impeachment.

    Currently, Clinton ranks second in terms of the most popular ex-presidents of modern times, following Kennedy (1st) and Reagan (3rd).

    –Brian, NCPR

  7. mervel says:

    A win is a win and I think W’s first term win was pretty ugly.

    But I do think the winner take all plan is essentially undemocratic, you could still have electoral voting and you could still provide some protections for less populated areas, but winner take all I think should go.

    I think Clinton is popular as an Ex president because the 90’s were SWEET, people are have nostalgia for that time when our biggest national problem was the sexual antics of our president, we were not fighting two wars and in the middle of a depression.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    activist judges
    handed George Bush White House keys.
    Nader got the blame.

  9. PNElba says:

    Democrats accepted the ruling by the Supreme court that installed Bush as President. I don’t think Republicans would do the same if Obama did not win the popular vote.

  10. Mervel says:

    Do you really think so PNE?

    I don’t know how well we would survive another screwed up voting process, I hope whoever wins it is a clear victory.

    If a person really studies how votes are counted or not counted in the US and how we are actually pretty bad at the technology of running a national election; it is pretty depressing given how much we talk about democracy.

    Nothing is standardized, every state is a kind of an inefficient mess and we make no investment in the nuts and bolts of running a national election.

    Personally I think the federal government should have its own national elections with one standard ballot, one standard machine to count those ballots and a paid group of individuals, technocrats, to actually run the federal election.

  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    States’ Rights!!!!

  12. Mervel says:

    Of course any state that did not want to vote in the federal election could opt out.

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