There is a real possibility that we could see a repeat of the 2000 election next week, where one candidate wins the popular vote and the other wins the electoral college vote. Given the split between the national voter polls and the state-by-state polls, it would almost certainly be Romney winning the popular vote but Obama winning the election. How would the right respond to that? Steve Kornacki points out that the Bush campaign in 2000 was actually prepared for the opposite because the polls then showed the possibility that Bush would win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. He quotes a newspaper article from Nov. 1, 2000:
How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course.
In league with the campaign – which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College’s essential unfairness – a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. “We’d have ads, too,” says a Bush aide, “and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted.”Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. “You think ‘Democrats for Democracy’ would be a catchy term for them?” asks a Bush adviser.
Of course, they never bothered to make such arguments because the opposite happened. And it was the Democrats then arguing that the electoral college should be eliminated by constitutional amendment and the popular vote that should determine the outcome of the election. And if Romney wins the popular vote but loses the electoral vote, the two parties will switch sides and begin arguing the exact opposite of what they argued in 2000. The Republicans will roll out the strategy detailed above and the Democrats will be saying all the things the Republicans were saying 12 years ago.
I’ll go on the record here, before we know the outcome, that we should do away with the electoral college. Whatever decent arguments existed in its favor at the time of the Constitution no longer apply in the modern world of mass communication. And I don’t care which party it favors in any particular election.