Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pundits Should Still Ignore The Electoral College

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar is the latest analyst to take on the "Obama must win Ohio" thing; he's focused on Virginia, instead. I'll keep this short, and just repeat what I said last time this came up: this is the wrong way to look at presidential elections twenty months, or even six months, out. Most presidential elections are won by at least three percentage points in the overall vote, and if that's the case, then state-by-state analysis doesn't matter.

What's more, for the most part, what's good for Barack Obama nationally is going to be good for him in Virginia, or Ohio, or New Mexico, or for that matter Rhode Island and Utah. To the extent that Obama's choices are going to affect voting in 2012, there's really no reason to believe he can carefully calibrate his policies so that they land where it's going to be electorally optimal, no reason to believe that in practical policy terms he's choosing between Virginia and Ohio. At this point, there's just no reason to think about the 2012 presidential race in terms of states and the electoral college.


  1. I'd agree with you that calibrating policies based on states is pretty silly.

    But a lot of politics isn't about policy -- it is about advance, and getting the know the locals. There are very few things your local county councilman can do, but if he can get on your the line with the President, wow. That is a biggie.

    And that was always what the Ohio discussion was about. Cleveland vs. Charlotte as convention site. given Tim Kaine, who is a colossal fool, picked Charlotte you have to think it it the wrong choice.

  2. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives already agree that only 14 states and their voters will matter under the current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states. Candidates will not care about 72% of the voters-- voters in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. 2012 campaigning would be even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004. In 2008, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    Now, policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    By 2012, The National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn't be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states that have a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). Then, 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).

    Most voters don't care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was counted and mattered to their candidate.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO - 68%, FL - 78%, IA 7-5%,, MI - 73%, MO - 70%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM-- 76%, NC - 74%, OH - 70%, PA - 78%, VA - 74%, and WI - 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK - 70%, DC - 76%, DE - 75%, ID - 77%, ME - 77%, MT - 72%, NE 74%, NH - 69%, NV - 72%, NM - 76%, OK - 81%, RI - 74%, SD - 71%, UT - 70%, VT - 75%, WV - 81%, and WY - 69%; in Southern and border states: AR - 80%,, KY- 80%, MS - 77%, MO - 70%, NC - 74%, OK - 81%, SC - 71%, VA - 74%, and WV - 81%; and in other states polled: CA - 70%, CT - 74%, MA - 73%, MN - 75%, NY - 79%, OR - 76%, and WA - 77%.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA . The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, and WA. These 7 states possess 74 electoral votes — 27% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

  3. States can matter a lot in the final days of a close election, as campaigns study poll numbers and decide where to deploy resources. But you're right that it would be silly for a president to try and pump the economy in specific states, even if that were possible. There's no reason to choose between Ohio and Virginia until October 2012.

  4. I think if Obama has good turnout, he'll win VA and OH. Turnout! GOP is attempting to pass Voter "Suppression" laws in GOP gov states, especially Students. Actually said that they shouldn't be voting & picking the prez because they don't have good judgment. They can fight & die for the GOP in the military, but shouldn't vote.

  5. While I certainly agree that it's silly to be fighting state-by-state this far in advance, and that anyway good policy for the nation is good policy for Ohio, let me suggest that to the extent that the location of a convention is helpful for winning that location's state, it is more strategic to go to Charlotte than Cleveland because it broadens the battleground.

    Ohio will always be in play; North Carolina not so much. If the Republicans have to play defensive ball in the Southeast, they have less energy to play in the Midwest and elsewhere. Likewise, actively fighting over the Southeast gives Democratic Party locals in that area a chance to make a difference; Ohio locals ALREADY know that they are key players.

    Ideally, the Democrats would contest all 50 states because their strength is in numbers. The party of the people (and corporatists) benefits from a geographically wider contest, whereas the part of money (and corporatists) benefits from gaming the system down to a couple hundred votes in a few counties.


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