The political class in Washington DC is beginning to digest the increasingly plausible scenario where Barack Obama is the next president of the United States, despite losing the popular vote — perhaps by a significant margin.
Mitt Romney holds a stubborn, narrow lead in the popular vote polls. Barack Obama holds a stubborn, narrow lead in the electoral college math — a lead that rests in large measure on Ohio’s blue leaning voters, but also on persistent support in states like Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia.
The conventional wisdom is that these numbers will somehow converge on election day, but that view rests largely on outdated information about the way American states vote, the way politicians campaign, and the way individuals cast their ballots.
Here are the changes:
1. More states are truly lopsided in their voting. So Barack Obama could lose horribly in much of the South, where his most passionate opposition is concentrated, while winning narrowly in enough states to give him the electoral college.
2. The two campaigns appear to have changed the ground rules for how candidates turn out voters in high-focused states, using new networking strategies and digital media. Which means that — for example — you could see a really high turnout of Democratic voters in states like Colorado and Ohio and relatively lackluster Democratic showing in states like Connecticut and New York, where an Obama victory is still assured. So in theory Mitt Romney could win the country and lose those key battlegrounds.
3. Early voting is locking in sentiment and voting loyalty in ways that we don’t quite understand yet. It could well be that this a) helps the Democrats mobilize more of their base in key states while b) insulating Obama against some of the Republican tilt that has emerged in the final weeks of the campaign. Bluntly, a significant chunk of battleground voters may have gone to the polls before Romney moved ahead.
Again, a lot of experts expect this disconnect to evaporate in the final week, but I find their arguments unconvincing. Romney now leads by 5 points in the Gallup poll — a substantial margin. But polling in battlegrounds appears to show several states — particularly Colorado and Ohio — actually shifting more toward Obama.
So here’s my question to In Boxers: What would this mean? The US Constitution is clear that the guy who wins the Electoral College is the president.
Conservatives, would you see Obama as your legitimate commander in chief, duly chosen using the system designed by the Founding Fathers? Or not?
And those of you who tilt liberal: Does this affect your view of the next Obama term? Would he be able to accomplish the things that you want done?
As always, comments welcome.