There was a time -- in the year 2000 -- when Republicans were able to win the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote. Now, they can’t win either, so they’re trying to solve the problem by changing the way electoral votes are distributed.
Legislators in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia -- four states Obama carried where Republicans control the legislature -- are discussing new laws to distribute electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district. The Virginia law would give candidates one electoral vote for each district won, then allocate two votes to the candidate who wins the most districts.
Obama carried Virginia in 2012, winning all 13 of its electoral votes. But he only won four of the state’s congressional districts. If the Republican plan had been in place, Mitt Romney would have won nine electoral votes, to Obama’s four.
Republicans used their gains in 2010 to redraw congressional maps in their favor. The map is so tilted toward the GOP that the party won 234 seats to the Democrats’ 201, despite winning only 48.2 percent of the popular vote for Congress.
Democratic votes are concentrated in urban districts -- which Republicans see as both a problem, and an opportunity. As a poster on the conservative website freerepublic.com put it, “This is a great idea for Ohio. There is far too much clout in the major metro areas (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton), and all of that clout is on the side of the socialists, voted by the entitlement class. Proportional allotment would be a great way to get some voice back to the conservative districts.”
The Electoral College is supposed to prevent big cities from outvoting small states, but in modern America, it obviously requires further refinements.
There are six Obama states in which Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature -- Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. (There are no Romney states controlled by Democrats.) If Republicans in each state had adopted this scheme, would Mitt Romney have won the election? Here’s how it would have changed the allocation of electoral votes.
This would have transferred 45 electoral votes from Obama to Romney, reducing his total from 332 to 287 -- still enough to win the presidency.
Rigging the Electoral College isn’t going to work. Republicans may have to resort to more drastic measures -- such as expanding their base beyond suburban and small-town whites, and running on a platform that appeals to a majority of Americans.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.