A Romney win, an Obama victory

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The conventional wisdom is that these numbers will somehow converge on election day, but that view rests largely on outdated information about the way American states vote, the way politicians campaign, and the way individuals cast their ballots.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.



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49 Comments on “A Romney win, an Obama victory”

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  1. Anita says:

    Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has some strong words about this possibility, and I agree with him: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2012/10/spare_me_3.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Talking-Points-Memo+%28Talking+Points+Memo%3A+by+Joshua+Micah+Marshall%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    It’s the rules of the game, folks, and we all knew what they were before the race started. The winner of the Presidential election is the person who gets 270 votes in the Electoral College, period. Both campaigns have focused their strategy on this rock solid fact since day one, and have all their firepower pointed at the swing states. If that focus means that voter turnout is lower than it could have been in the uncontested states, they are perfectly happy to live with that consequence of their strategies.

    If we don’t want this to happen again, we need to pass a Constitutional amendment, or talk all of the state legislatures into passing laws that allocate electoral votes by popular vote rather than winner-take-all (note: there are a couple of states that have already taken that step). Good luck with that. Also, don’t expect elections to be any less messy if we do make those changes. In the end, election processes are strongly influenced by political operatives (the political parties run them for the most part) and are fraught with all the goal-seeking behaviors and human error that go along with most organized processes.

  2. mervel says:

    I think it’s fine it does not bother me if Obama would lose the popular vote and win the election.

    I think you gave some good reason’s in you examples Brian of why the electoral college has some advantages.

  3. Larry says:

    A couple of weeks ago not too many Democrats here were in favor of the EC, but I guess you’ll take a win any way you can get it, right Mervel? Me, I think the EC is a good system that balances competing interests. If it benefits Obama, c’est la vie.

  4. Larry says:

    If Brian’s scenario works out – and Obama loses the popular vote but is elected by the EC, it will be interesting to read the comments on it – if there are any!

  5. Newt says:

    If this happens I would feel a bit bad, but a lot worse had the 2000 election not gone to the popular loser, aided by the Supreme Court, racial voter exclusion, and other questionable, to say the least, actions by the Republicans in Florida.

    Perhaps, as Anita says, both sides having been seriously wounded by the process, we will change to a fairer system.

    FWIW, the HBO movie “Recount” about the 2000 election, shows the Gore people thinking at one time they were likely to win the electoral and lose the popular election, and putting out a release saying , in effect, “Oh, well.”

    Had it not been of the peculiarities of the Electoral College, it is likely, that the campaigns would have been different, and the outcome in the popular vote different. Not to say Obama would win the popular, but he might (assuming he does not now, which, BTW, Nate Silver says he is more still more likely to do).

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    “Would he be able to accomplish the things that you want done?”

    I guess we’ll see how the Senate and House votes go, and how often Boehner wants his car washed, and whether McConnell needs his dog walked.

    But an Obama victory will do the most important thing for the future of the US that I can think of, keep the choice of the next Supreme Court Justice out of Republican hands.

  7. Larry says:

    Never happy, are you Newt? Do you really think there were more irregularities in 2000 than in other years? Not likely. If Obama wins, 2012 will be the cleanest election on record. But then you’ll complain about the margin of victory

  8. TomL says:

    Brian, I don’t know where you get your info that Romney has a narrow lead in the national popular vote polls. Maybe for ‘likely voter’ models, but certainly not for registered voters. When I go over to the Nate Silver 538 blog, it shows the poll average today is Obama 50.3%, Romney 48.6% http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/author/nate-silver/.

    You can call that essentially a tie (I would), but NOT a Romney lead.

  9. JDM says:

    I would abide by the electoral vote.

    However, if Obama wins by voter fraud, that would not be good. We’re reading today about van loads of Somalian people being bussed in with Democratic interpreters, who are violating voting law by telling them how to vote (Democrat, of course).

    The Ohio state legislature voted not to have a definitive form of proof of citizenship before voting. The lame excuse of not disenfranchising voters is out-of-date. It is now clear the intent of such laws is to allow cheating in close elections.

    These things will come up if a close election is won by voter fraud and cheating.

    A plane went down in Afghanistan carrying ballots from service men and women. They had better figure out a way to get those ballots redistributed and safely back here and counted. If Obama benefits from them not voting, that would also not be good for him.

    It matters less on the popular vote vs the electoral vote, and more on the ability of every one who is a citizen, and can prove it, to have their vote counted. One person, one vote.

    You have to 1) be a citizen 2) prove your a citizen 3) be alive on voting day 4) one vote per person

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I think the most troubling thing about the 2000 election was not that Bush won the electoral vote while Gore won the popular vote, it was that the Supreme Court interfered in the election process – a role the Constitution did not give them.

  11. Pete Klein says:

    As I look at the political maps with all the red states and blue states, one thing impresses me. Not one of the red states would I ever want to live in. In fact, for the most part, I wouldn’t even want to visit them.

  12. Newt says:

    I don’t know if there were more irregularities in Florida 2000 than other elections, but, unlike any election is modern American history, they were both significant, and they allowed the popular loser to win . Not to mention, KNHL’s comment about the unprecedented interference of the Supreme Court that STOPPED THE RECOUNT and likely prevented an accurate determination.

  13. Newt says:

    And I said “modern American history. The Tilden-Hayes fiasco of 1876 does not count.

  14. Larry says:

    The Supreme Court didn’t “interfere”, they decided the issues placed before them. That you don’t like or agree with their decision I can understand, but the constant carping about the results is nonsense. Get over it, already! Liberals seem to have difficulty accepting that things occasionally go against them. By they way, something I have never understood is if Gore was so popular why did he not give the American people an opportunity to elect him in 2004? It would have been an interesting referendum on 2000.

  15. Larry says:

    “Not one of the red states would I ever want to live in. In fact, for the most part, I wouldn’t even want to visit them.”

    That could be the prize winner. It’s right up there with “don’t bother to vote” for sheer inanity.

  16. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, the Supreme Court chooses to hear or to not hear cases. If there is a case before them it is because they want to decide it and they could easily have told the petitioners to finish the recount before bringing cases to the judiciary which is not given a role in the electoral process by the Constitution.

  17. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Let’s not forget the proud role our local congressman played in the re-count process. Remember him? John Sweeney? That Doheny guy sort of reminds me of him.

  18. Larry says:

    If I remember correctly, the recount would not have been finished by the date set for certifying the results. Correct? Wasn’t the Supreme Court case about whether or not the recount should be conducted in violation of existing state law? Seems a reasonable basis for hearing a case of such importance.

  19. Pete Klein says:

    Larry, I do intend to vote. In fact, I will vote.
    I’m just suggesting the red states seem to have a majority of very backward people. They say they want their country back but what I hear is them saying is, “I want to go back to the past.”
    Most of the innovation and development takes place in the blue states.
    Here’s a joke for you. While the red states are always complaining about the federal government, they are the ones most dependent upon money from the federal government.
    According to a recent story in Mother Jones, “Red states were more likely to get a bigger cut of federal spending. Of the 22 states that went to McCain in 2008, 86 percent received more federal spending than they paid in taxes in 2010. In contrast, 55 percent of the states that went to Obama received more federal spending than they paid in taxes. Republican states, on average, received $1.46 in federal spending for every tax dollar paid; Democratic states, on average, received $1.16.”

  20. Larry says:

    “I’m just suggesting the red states seem to have a majority of very backward people.”

    Another contender for the prize!

  21. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Seems like a reasonable basis for saying “count faster and get the out of state obstructionists out of the way of a legitimate re-count.”

  22. Newt says:

    Regarding Red State backwardness, I checked out a number of sites which had some telling points on this issue (6% fewer college grads, $6,000 lower avg. income), but this one tells the tale, and you’ve all seen it or similar ones before http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/04/poll-nearly-half-of-republican-voters-think-obama-wasnt-born-in-. In this one, 45% of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the US, and 22% are not sure (total of 67%) . And what political party dominates the red states? No one who comments here is stupid or ignorant, but anyone who believes this garbage is.

    .Northern Republicans ( Donald Trump excepted, maybe) never spout it, because most of them are reasonably intelligent. But, oh those good ole boys! I’d love to see what that “Obama not born here” would look like if it only counted Red State Republicans.
    Believing, after all this time, that Obama’s mom moved to Kenya to have him, and then snuck him back, or whatever they believe about it, is the perfect one question test for backwardness, and the Red States have it nailed.

  23. tootightmike says:

    Pete we visit those states sometimes just for the comic potential. I have family in Ohio (a swing state), and some of my relatives are as reasonable and progressive as you or me…but some of the more forceful and outspoken types! yikes! Bring your shovel! When we finally depart from the state of my birth, we howl and laugh ourselves red in the face at each re-told tale. My eldest son said, “JESUS DAD!! What the f*** was THAT?? It’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes.
    I imagine our Canadian visitors feel the same way when they visit us here.

  24. Walker says:

    “Another contender for the prize!”

    You know, Larry, that’s not exactly a telling argument. It’s merely a form of name-calling.

  25. Kathy says:

    Backward people?

    How offensive.

  26. JDM says:

    The overlooked fact in the 2000 election is that Gore didn’t lose the election by Florida.

    He didn’t need Florida had he carried his own home state of Tennessee.

    He didn’t need Florida had he carried Clinton’s home state of Arkansas.

  27. mervel says:

    Well a recount in Florida would not have mattered in that we can’t count votes accurately in the first place. Any close election is probably not correct but a matter of estimation due to the inherent inefficiencies of our national election system. I don’t think we will ever know who really won the 2000 election and I doubt if we will know who really wins this election if it is really close. So in that regard the Supreme Court has to step in there is no other choice until we get a truly consistent standardized election system that is easy to audit.

  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Yes JDM, or several other states, but there was no recount in those states.

    I find Larry’s position on the Supreme Court somewhat mystifying, though I’m sure he will straighten me out and assuage my feeble intellect. Why would a conservative want the court to take up a legal case where no harm had occurred? Why is he a proponent for the Judicial branch of government to take to themselves a role that was not assigned to them in the Constitution?

    You will remember that the Supreme Court ordered the recount to stop days before the supposed deadline for certifying the results.

  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Mervel, no! If the Supreme Court is to step in because there is no standardized election system you are in effect arguing that every single election we hold violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment which means that we have never had a valid election in this country since the 14th Amendment was enacted. Which is probably some small part of the reason that the Court was specific in stating that the ruling on Bush v Gore should have no applicability to any other case – ever.

    The Court pulled a fast one and they knew it.

  30. Larry says:

    Must be some of these comments were posted either during or after cocktail hour. How else to explain their bitterness and bigotry, to say nothing of their sheer absurdity? All you red state haters: I would blame it on alcohol if I were you; that’s a much more palatable excuse than what I suspect is really the truth.

  31. Newt says:

    Larry, there you go again.
    We disagree with you, and therefore we must be drunk.

  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Larry, that’s a new low, even for you.

  33. Newt says:

    Since at least one of us still on this case this morning, I’m going share something that kept coming back to me last night. And it is not particularly partisan. Brian’s point 2 says that one thing that might contribute to an Obama popular loss and electoral win is that fact the parties are concentrating all their resources only in battleground states. I can attest to the fact that there is no Obama campaign in NY, and we would see no TV adds for him or Romney were in not for the fact the Plattsburgh-Burlington viewing area gets spillover from ads directed to New Hampshire. I bet viewers in the western and southern parts of the NCPR see no presidential ads at all, lucky devils. I assume this is also true for the red states. You’re as likely to see a Romney or Obama ad in Mississippi as you are in California.

    As a result, we see maybe 10% (30 million, and that is probably on the high side) of the population swamped with ads, calls, visits, and the like from campaigns, and the other 90% ignored. This must create, among those who are not political boffins like us, a condition where 10% of the country is over-the-top high information, receiving nearly fatal levels of it, and 90% is low-information….they get only what they see on NBC, Fox, or whatever, news, and what they hear at work, etc.

    So, whoever wins the electoral, he will be elected by people who have certainly gotten the most information (much of it distorted, but still) they could possibly get, while the majority has gotten little to no information. So, the swing state minority will, in rule over an underinformed majority living in regions where one side or the other (red or blue) has ideological and political dominance dominance. This certainly will contribute to continued . This, in turn, must contribute substantially to the tone of alienation, divisiveness, and the resulting political gridlock we have come to know and love so well.

    In a majority-rules election, information would have to be spread more or less evenly, your vote being just as important as some woman in Ohio’s. Again, maybe an Obama victory with a popular minority, and subsequent Republican outrage and despair would spur this reform.

    (Spoiler alert. In the following sentences depart of the above spirit of objectivity, and we see a return of the mean-spirited and snarky, if nevertheliss insightful commenter I normally present ).

    Oops, no an Obama electoral-only won’t bring reform to the electoral college via outrages Republicans . I forgot (must have been that 8th Jack Daniels I knocked down around 3:15 AM) until just now about demographic trends that are dooming the Grand Old White Folks’ Party, whether popularly or electorally. This is the red-staters last hurrah, and they know it. That is why they are fighting so fiercely to hold on. Well, maybe the new, black and brown majority will change the system anyway.

  34. Larry says:

    “I’m just suggesting the red states seem to have a majority of very backward people.”

    “Regarding Red State backwardness, I checked out a number of sites which had some telling points on this issue (6% fewer college grads, $6,000 lower avg. income),”

    “Most of the innovation and development takes place in the blue states.”

    “Here’s a joke for you. While the red states are always complaining about the federal government, they are the ones most dependent upon money from the federal government.”

    “Red states were more likely to get a bigger cut of federal spending.”

    “we visit those states sometimes just for the comic potential…. It’s hard to keep a straight face sometimes.”

    Pure venom, hatred and bigotry. But it’s all true, you’ll say. That’s the worst part: that you hate people based on differences in political ideology and think that your version of “truth” justifies it. We’ve experienced that sort of thought process (and its consequences) before and it’s just as disgusting and frightening as it ever was.

  35. Anita says:

    I’m uncomfortable when whole regions of our country are called “backward”. I’m also very uncomfortable that so many people still believe that Obama was not born in the U.S., despite his unprecedented release of his long-form birth certificate document. What do we call that?

  36. Walker says:

    “Pure venom, hatred and bigotry.”

    Name calling again, Larry. If you want to convince us of something, try showing that those statements aren’t true. Why not start with this one:

    “While the red states are always complaining about the federal government, they are the ones most dependent upon money from the federal government.”

  37. Walker says:

    “I’m uncomfortable when whole regions of our country are called ‘backward’.”

    You’re right, Anita. Certainly the Research Triangle in the Raleigh-Durham area is not backwards, and there are many other exceptions within the red states, just as there is plenty of backwardness spread throughout the blue states.

  38. Helen Fenwick says:

    Between the charges of “backward people” from someone living in Indian Lake in Hamilton County, the home of small minded rednecks, and the absolutely filthy and vile language in tootightmikes post I now remember why we stopped reading the posts on this site. Many of you people are disgusting. I only drop in on a borrowed computer once in a while, no more!

    Mr Mann, do you not edit such filthy posting? So much for my ever supporting NCPR again.

    BTW- go Romney!

  39. Walker says:

    Newt, I think it is a stretch to call the content of the average campaign commercial “information”. Much of it is, in fact, disinformation.

  40. hermit thrush says:

    I’m just suggesting the red states seem to have a majority of very backward people.

    no matter what your political feelings are, that’s a completely inappropriate comment.

  41. Larry says:

    If I call you an idiot, Walker, THAT’S an example of name calling. Making sweeping negative generalities about large groups of people based on your perception of reality is bigotry. I don’t want to convince you of anything, nor should I have to. Hiding your hatred behind some twisted version of the “truth” doesn’t fool me.

  42. Walker says:

    Larry, the statement that “the red states are always complaining about the federal government, they are the ones most dependent upon money from the federal government” is not making sweeping negative generalities about large groups of people based on my perception of reality. It is a factual statement. Dispute it, if you think it is inaccurate.

    And you don’t have to be applying an attribute to a person to have it be name-calling. If I say that your statement above is idiotic, it is applying a pejorative name to it, but it fails to refute it.

  43. mervel says:

    There is no such thing as red states and blue states except that our minds need easy ways to categorize people.

    There are many other social and cultural factors that influence large segments of our country.

    For example red states being dependent on government money, is actually very misleading. Take Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, by definition poor people in Mississippi are going to get more food stamps for example. Who do those people vote for and who are they (the poor people in Mississippi that get food stamps?). Well Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans living within its borders of any state in the Union, in general they are poorer than the white people living in Mississippi and they uniformly vote Democratic. So who are you talking too when you say for example, the “red state” Mississippi is complaining a about federal programs? It is MUCH more complex than this simplistic idea of red state blue state, which did not even exist until about 25 years ago, I think CNN came up with the whole thing if I remember correctly.

  44. Marlo says:

    It just goes to show why we need to get rid of the Electoral College. It might’ve made sense back when the states were mini-republics, and when the electors actually had some independence, but it’s a ridiculous anachronism that someone who gets fewer votes can actually win.

    Abolishing it would force presidential candidates to work for ALL the votes, and address everyone’s concerns, rather than lavishing all the time and attention on a handful of swing states. Voters in New York would actually matter in a presidential election. It would also make third-party candidates more viable — the Electoral College creates a powerful incentive, particularly in battleground states, to vote for the lesser evil so you don’t end up swinging a whole state and maybe the election to the other guy.

    It might be a good thing if Obama does win while losing the popular vote, there will be a powerful push for reform afterwards. Right now, smaller, mostly Republican states have a good reason to oppose change, since it would lessen their influence. If a Democrat wins due to the Electoral College, it could make them want to address the anachronism that it is.

  45. Walker says:

    Well, Mervel, with winner-take-all and the electoral college, Mississippi’s 37.0% African American population might as well not exist, so long as the white population sticks together, as they apparently do.

  46. Marlo says:

    JDM, do you know anything else about those Somalians? Because every source I’ve been able to find is a right-wing blog that either cites another blog or an anonymous volunteer at the polls. And how the heck would that volunteer know what the interpreters were telling the Somalians anyway, unless they spoke Somali their self?

  47. mervel says:

    From a Presidential perspective you are at some level correct Walker, of course we know that the one presidential election is not determinative, not even close. We have the House, the Senate, we have local government, we have the judiciary, all of these are just as important as the President. Thus for example in Mississippi; who the Delta sends to congress from Mississippi IS important and does represent that 37% etc.

    I think the whole simplistic red state blue state paradigm that only describes one election for one elected office in the US is the problem and I agree it is made worse by the electoral college.

  48. Marlo says:

    Thanks PNE. So the only source is still those two anonymous (presumably Republican) volunteers who talked to Brenner and, I guess, know how to say “vote Brown all the way down” in Somali. (Is that sentence as rhythmic in Somali, do you think?)

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