Winning the popular vote but losing the election

Polls now show Mitt Romney leading the popular vote, but President Obama still has the advantage in the electoral college (see today’s post on that subject).  Which raises the prospect of Romney winning the most votes, but Obama getting re-elected anyway by carrying states with the most electoral votes.  Some experts say there is a 50-50 chance of that happening.  That would be the 5th time in history this has happened–mostly recently, when George W. Bush won his first election–and the first time for an incumbent.  See Romney, Obama could split popular and electoral college vote, polls suggest – The Washington Post.

The electoral vote picture


 RCP Poll AverageElectoral Votes
Swing-State Votes4466
Leaning/Likely State Votes237191
Total Overall Votes281257


Swing-State Map, List & Polls –

That’s where things stand, according to data from the Real Clear Politics average of the nation’s polls, as put together by Politico.

Notice that if Romney takes Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes, Obama will still get the 271 he needs to be re-elected.  If Romney wins Ohio, though, that state’s 18 electoral votes would give him 275 and the election.  You can do the math on other possible winning combinations. (E.g., Wisconsin plus any other state would win it for Romney.)  But, again, in all of those pivotal states, Obama is leading.

The third-party candidates

The third-party candidates also had a debate.  Here are highlights:

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, earned the loudest applause during the debate’s opening moments. He railed against the domestic and foreign policy proposals both major party candidates have put forth, and called for the legalization of marijuana.

“In no category is marijuana more dangerous than alcohol,” said Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico who also wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and do away with income and corporate taxes in favor of an expenditure tax.

Johnson also railed against the length of the war in Afghanistan. “I thought initially that was totally warranted,” he said, before adding that we should “have gotten out of Afghanistan 11 years ago.”

The former governor saved perhaps his most memorable line of the night for the end of the debate, when he declared, “Wasting your vote is voting for somebody that you don’t believe in. That’s wasting your vote. I’m asking everybody here, I’m asking everybody watching this nationwide to waste your vote on me.”

Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, a former Virginia congressman and hard-line anti-immigration candidate, proposed a moratorium on green card admissions into the United States until unemployment falls below five percent nationally. He earned only a smattering of cheers when he pitched his plan.

Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson rounded out the lineup on stage. Stein, who ran for governor of Massachusetts against Romney in 2002, called for free public higher education. “Let’s bail out the students,” she declared.

The candidates largely kept things cordial with each other during the debate, but there were disagreements from time to time. Goode was at odds with Johnson’s call to legalize marijuana. Stein and Anderson disagreed with Johnson and Goode on education spending.

The debate was moderated by former CNN host Larry King and presented by the nonpartisan Free and Equal Elections Foundation. Individuals submitted the questions via social media. The issues ranged from drugs, to the economy, foreign policy, and civil rights.

via Third-party presidential candidates rail against Obama and Romney at debate (VIDEO).

Hmmm.  Are any of you voting for any of these candidates?  Or do they make the mainstream candidates look good?

A tie in the Electoral College?

One possibility in the election:  Both candidates get 269 electoral votes, resulting in a tie.  From Napp Nazworth:

In a Thursday blog post, University of Virginia political scientists Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley point out that a tie in the electoral college, 269-269, is a real possibility.

For the Electoral College to end in a tie, Romney would win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia. Obama would win Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Given recent polls, this scenario is not hard to imagine. It shows each candidate winning states where polls show them polling slightly better than their opponent, with one exception — Nevada. Sabato, Kondik and Skelley point out that of all the states on the 269-269 map, Romney winning Nevada is the least likely.

According to Article II, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution, if the Electoral College is tied, the newly elected House of Representatives will choose the president with each state delegation getting one vote.

Given current projections for the U.S. House races, Kondik predicts that in a tie race Romney would become president. He would receive the votes of at least 29 state delegations, while Obama would receive the votes of at least 15 state delegations, and six state delegations would either be tied or too close to call.

via Presidential Race: Electoral College Outcome Could Be 269-269.

Theoretically, with an even 50 states, under those rules the House could also split 25 to 25.  We need to admit a 51st state fast.

Is voter fraud a problem, or not?

Democrats are calling attempts, usually led by Republicans, to try to prevent voter fraud as racist attempts to suppress the vote.  Democrats complain that voter ID laws and similar proposals are tackling a non-existent problem.  But John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky say that the issue is more complicated than that:

Voter fraud is so rare that “you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than find a case of prosecutorial voter fraud,” asserts the liberal Advancement Project. An August study by News 21, a group of journalism students, claimed that to find only 10 prosecutions of in-person voter impersonation nationwide since the year 2000.

If state legislators worried about voter fraud are just imagining the problem, then it’s that much easier to block laws requiring voters to use photo ID to prove they are eligible voters. But that’s not quite the whole story. Evidence used to dismiss the problem turns out to be thin.

A large number of the nation’s 3,031 counties never provided data, and the News21 researchers report that they sent out only 2,000 queries. Nor did the study mention the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding voter ID laws, which found an “extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” if ID isn’t required. While voter impersonation is hard to detect, it is easy to commit. Earlier this year, James O’Keefe released a video of a 22-year-old undercover reporter who obtained Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot in Washington, D.C., and could easily have voted if he had chosen to.

Chaotic voter registration rolls make it too easy to commit voter fraud. A February study by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States found one in eight voter registrations were inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people were registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead.

Critics of voter ID laws also fail to note they are designed not just to stop voter impersonation but also multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Examples of fraud are plentiful. Three non-citizens were arrested in Iowa last month for voting illegally in the 2010 general election and 2011 city election. A Democratic nominee for Congress resigned in Maryland last month after allegations that she had voted in two states at the same time. A 2004 New York Daily News study found that 46,000 people were registered to vote in both New York City and Florida, and that 400 to 1,000 had voted in both states in the same election. Florida decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes.

via Column: Underestimating our voter fraud vulnerability.

What I want to know is, simply, this:  If there is no voter ID law, what is to prevent me from showing up at the polling place, telling the poll worker that I’m you, and taking your vote?  (When you show up, the poll workers will think you’ve already voted, and you might get charged with fraud!)  Policies need to prevent abuses, not just punish them after the abuse takes place.

Who profits from campaign spending?

The presidential campaign will cost some $4 billion.  We worry about so much spending and what special interests contribute so much money.  But another question, Michael Wolff points out, is who gets all of that money?  The answer:  Television stations, despite the way this flies in the face of modern marketing principles:

Presidential campaigns (and statewide races that ride the national political debate) are expensive in the extreme because they’re tactically focused on convincing the people who are the most difficult and, hence, most expensive to convince. And, arguably, the more money that is spent by both sides trying to convince the undecided helps keep them unconvinced — hence, requiring more resources in this illogical quest. The two main principles of marketing — not spending more than the sale is worth; focusing the most resources on the most susceptible buyers — are thrown out in presidential politics.

Billions are spent not only on the few, but on the diffident, bored, resistant and dumb. (If you haven’t made up your mind by this point, you probably aren’t capable of making up your mind.)

Who most directly benefits? Local television stations, and the large media companies that own them. (Among them is USA TODAY parent Gannett, which owns 23 television stations.) Also benefiting are the consultants who buy this media and whose fees are a reflection of the amount of media they buy. Politics is a large and lucrative business offering a clear payoff to a small set of players, who are almost never singled out in the debate about campaign finance reform.If rich men such as Sheldon Adelson ultimately earn some advantage from backing a winner, theirs is a vastly more indirect and uncertain gain than that of station owners and political operatives.

Curiously, nobody asks the most obvious question. Why do campaigns continue to buy, almost to the exclusion of all other media, local broadcast television? It is more costly and less efficient — that is, less targeted — than cable, digital, or even newspapers, all of which attract scant political dollars.

The answer is probably simple. Broadcast television, with its vast audience and quick reach, is not only the most expensive option (not least because its space is most limited), but its use most efficiently perpetuates a seesaw effect. One candidate’s media buy must be balanced by another candidate’s media buy. The strategic goal becomes about trying to raise more money to spend more money to achieve a minor edge.

The exact people each campaign should be spending less on end up, to the enrichment of media and consultants, getting vastly greater attention and dollars. The cheapening of the debate is an inevitable side-effect. It’s all about, in 1950s mass market advertising, repetition. It’s a beautiful, and old-fashioned (think selling soap in the 1950s), advertising loop — the more repetition, the more market share — benefiting media companies.

via Michael Wolff: Give campaign ads free TV time.

Wolff goes on to propose a solution:  Since television stations are publicly licensed, let’s require them to provide free air time for political campaigns.

What do you think of that?  It seems rather tyrannical to force companies to give away their products for free.  And wouldn’t free ads just continue the dysfunctional marketing strategies?  It would seem that the solution would be for one or perhaps both candidates to refuse to take the bait, to concentrate their spending on targeted advertising, online and elsewhere.