The looming importance of the electoral college

This election has turned into a “base” election in which the turnout of the party base will be the deciding factor.


With the presidential debate season drawing to an end, campaign emphasis will soon shift to getting out the vote.

It is estimated that by Nov. 6, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of eligible voters will have done so since early voting began at the beginning of October. The influence of the first debate, which challenger Mitt Romney clearly won, has turned what seemed like a sure bet for Obama’s re-election into a tightly fought race that will come down to a small number of key states.

Popular vote polls are generally within the margin of error.  It is likely the final result on Nov. 6 could be close to an even split. However, a president is chosen by the Electoral College and here we are reminded of the most dramatic outcome in U.S. history: the Gore-Bush election of 2000. As we all recall, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush became president when the Supreme Court of the United States decided to end the recount saga in Florida, thereby awarding the 27 electoral votes of that state to the Republican challenger.

A similar scenario could emerge in which the popular vote total may not translate into the Electoral College outcome.  The general consensus is that Barack Obama clearly won the second debate, and has kept his lead in a key battleground state – Ohio – as well as maintaining his edge in other swing states to pull off an Electoral College majority (270 votes ).

It seems the outcome in three states that could decide the next President are Ohio, Florida, Virginia. Latest polls give Ohio to Obama and Florida to Romney. Virginia is a toss up.  Obama will likely win such small swing states as Iowa, Nevada and Wisconsin, which could make Ohio the deciding state for the presidency.

This election has turned into a “base” election in which the turnout of the party base will be the deciding factor.  A “wave” election where independents break for one candidate seems less and less likely.

For non-Americans, winning the Electoral College seems an awkward way to choose arguably the most important leader on the planet. But it is in the U.S. Constitution, and America remains the oldest and most stable democracy in the world and in history.

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The looming importance of the electoral college

  1. This is indeed going to be an interesting finish. With both candidates well-funded and only a small number of states in play, I expect voters in those states are going to be super-saturated with election advertising. It will be intriguing to see whether this has the effect of boosting turnout or repulsing everyone subjected to it. It will also be interesting to see whether either campaign starts spending money in their opponent’s territory (e.g. Republicans spending in Pennsylvania, as they’ve already started doing) – signaling some measure of confidence.

    Also of interest (in my view – perhaps not in Parisella’s) is the current Rasmussen swing-state poll here: link

    …which shows a 4% lead for Romney in the 11 swingiest swing states. Of particular note is that this same poll showed a 53%-46% lead for Obama in the last election…which was pretty much his popular vote result nationwide. However, I completely agree with Parisella that this race is probably going to come down to Ohio – whichever candidate wins that state will probably win the election, popular vote notwithstanding.

    • Let’s look a little closer at the latest PPP Ohio poll that supposedly has Obama leading 49-48.

      Independents: Romney leads 54-39
      Obama approval, underwater at 48%/50%
      Romney approval…49%/47%, a 30 point shift since February.

      Oh…Did I mention this was a D+8 sample? Ohio was D+5 in 2008.

      And did I mention this was PPP, the most democratic-friendly pollster?

      I don’t think it’s tied. I think Romney’s winning, and his lead is growing.

      UPDATE: More analysis on why I think Ohio is almost, if not already, in the bag for Romney.

      • What is surprising to me is how Ohio has been more difficult to flip to Romney’s column.

        Obama won Virginia, NH and Colorado by a bigger margin than Ohio, yet those three have flipped already according to polling.

        Meanwhile, Romney has gained just a few points in Ohio according to polling, while he’s gained 10 in Michigan, 10 in Wisconsin, 5 in Pennsylvania, 7 in Iowa, 10 in Nevada, etc.

        Ohio has been more resistant than any other state. It may be easier to flip Wisconsin, which gives Romney a path to victory without Ohio.

    • I live in one of the “battleground” States and the political ads on TV, radio, telephone and the internet are unceasing. I am a commited Republican and even I am saying ENOUGH ALREADY – LET’S GET THE DAMN THING OVER WITH. I talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, small business, big business and employees of both and without provocation the election seems to come into the conversation alot of the time. What I am hearing is that most people think we are on the wrong track and need a change. It feels like the mood is nowhere as close as most polls suggest. Admittedly, I live in a very strong Republican county but I sense that most people are fed up with it all and really are looking for leadership.

      • My condolences to you then. From what little I’ve seen, you’re unlikely to get it no matter which one wins.

  2. By what measure is stabililty assessed? After all, the U.S. has had a civil war.

    • What year was the civil war again?

      There are few countries whose constitutional order dates from that time.

      • Longest period without a civil war may indeed be the indicator, and America might be winner using such a measure. I don’t see an authority stating that this is the accepted standard, and if Parisella was using his own criteria he should have made it clear the yardstick he employed.