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.