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Re: How Another Electoral Split Decision Could Divide America

Levan Ramishvili May 22, 2012 10:01 PM
Posted in group: Publius Report

Worst Political Advice Ever 
Writing for the Daily Beast, Michael Medved advises the Romney campaign to throw money away buying ads in states that he has little or no chance of carrying. Seriously:

Though the Romney campaign will naturally resist investing precious resources on lost-cause states with hugely expensive media markets (California, New York, and Illinois), they should overcome their reluctance.

Why? "To prevent the very real chance that Mitt Romney will win the Electoral College even while losing the popular vote badly to Barack Obama."

Medved's scenario is based on a scenario in which the election outcome is roughly the same as in 2008, except that Romney swings "as few as 650,000 votes to [John] McCain's totals in just six decisive states." In these circumstances, Obama would outpoll Romney nationwide by millions of votes even while losing the election.

"It's easy to imagine the national levels of rage, and impossible not to envision the president of the United States lending his voice to the angry chorus," Medved writes:

In the five weeks before Dec. 17, the day when electors formally assemble in their respective state capitals, the president could push electors to shift support to him--even if they defied state legislation requiring winner-take-all distribution of electoral votes to the victor in that state and ignored laws of 24 states threatening punishment to "faithless electors." The arguments would be fiery and, most likely, somewhat effective: insisting that basic fairness and democratic principle should trump any concern over the creaky, 19th-century relic known as the Electoral College.

We certainly wouldn't put it past Obama to be a bad loser, but this is far-fetched on many grounds. For one, the speculation about faithless electors is silly. Regardless of the national popular vote, electors are partisans of the party that prevailed in their state; they have no incentive to switch.

For another, presidential campaigns are national by nature, even though focused on particular states. If Romney wins, he will almost certainly improve on McCain's margins in most red states and cut into Obama's 2008 margins in most blue states as well as flipping some swing states. That's what Obama did in 2008 compared with 2004, which is why he managed to pick up some states (notably Indiana and North Carolina) that hadn't even been swing states four years earlier. (Oddly, Medved doesn't advise Romney to campaign hard in red states, even though a vote from a friendly state counts just as much toward a "popular-vote victory" as one from an unfriendly state.)

If Romney were to follow Medved's advice and campaign in states he can't win or doesn't need, he would also increase the possibility of the outcome Medved fears in reverse--i.e., that Obama wins the election while Romney "wins the popular vote." Popular-vote divergence or not, Romney would probably be a more gracious loser than Obama. But one suspects that's not why either man is running for president.