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Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 - Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

Electoral college: Why not one man or woman, one vote like in Mexico?

By David Gaddis Smith,

     barack obamamitt romney Many Mexicans are interested in the U.S. electoral college, which will elect the next U.S. president. While many Mexicans have been disappointed with President Barack Obama's general inaction on immigration reform, they generally do not like Republican candidate Mitt Romney's position that Mexicans in the United States should self-deport themselves.

     Mexicans wonder why the United States does not use the one-man, one-vote system employed in Mexico and almost all democracies around the world. Many cannot understand how a candidate with the most votes can lose an election. The electoral college also gives greater weight to small states, a situation that currently favors Republicans.

     Still, there are positives to the electoral college.

     • It helps prevent the rise of a multitude of national parties that could hamstring governments (think Italy), even though in recent years the U.S. two-party system has also become bogged down.

     • It reduces legal challenges to elections, if there are any, to one or two states. Analyst George Will pointed out on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that if there were an extremely close popular vote, the results from precincts everywhere in the country could be contested, tying down the country, if the president were elected by popular vote.

     Arguments about the popular vote that are not necessarily correct:

      Many have complained loudly that Vice President Al Gore should not have lost the election to George W. Bush in 2000 because Gore won the popular vote. But if the goal of the campaign had been to gain the popular vote, would master Republican strategist Karl Rove have concentrated on winning key states like Florida? No, he would have come up with a different strategy to win the most votes nationwide, running up the score in Texas and other states that are not in play in the electoral college. Rove very easily might have gotten many more votes for Bush than Democratic strategist Donna Brazile did for Gore if the rules of the game had been different.

     If votes are roughly divided 50-50, does it really matter which candidate wins?

     Often, when two candidates win the same number of votes in an election, the winner is selected by a coin toss or drawing a card. In some ways, the electoral college provides a form of a game of chance in a close election. Voting is an inexact science, and during an election, large numbers of votes are often miscounted or invalidated. If two candidates both have roughly the same number of votes at a nationwide level, what does it really matter which candidate wins? Why not let the electoral college decide the matter? This argument falls a little into the George Will legal challenges category listed above.

     Could Mexico, or Mexican-Americans, be a decisive factor in the elections? If not this year, could Latinos tilt the electoral college to the Democrats in the future if Republicans don't alter their approach?

     Some analysts have claimed that a Republican presidential candidate must get 40% of the Latino vote to win nationwide. If they are right, then it does not appear that Romney can be elected. However, other scholars say a Republican candidate can still get enough of the white vote to offset losses among minorities that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Some of those same scholars do say, however, that coming demographic changes likely will mean that Republicans will have to greatly increase their share of the Latino vote if they want to win the presidency. Mexico does not appear to be much of a time coverfactor in the election overall; the country was not even mentioned in the presidential debate on foreign policy.
Update, Nov. 2: New York Times analyst David Brooks said on the "PBS Newshour" that if Republicans do not change their approach to Latinos, Texas could become a swing state in eight years.
Update, Nov. 4: The National Journal's Ronald Brownstein said on ABC's "This Week" that Republicans won in 2004 by expanding the electorate, with that electorate being 77% white. This time, the bad news for Romney is that the electorate will only be 72-74% white, and those minority votes very well may be the difference, even if Romney boosts GOP turnout.
     February analysis of Time cover story saying Latinos will choose the next president.
     Immigration analyst Roberto Suro discusses Republicans and nativism.
     April: Romney deficit in Latino preferences puts him in bad position, NBC analyst says.
     September: Romney, whose father was born in Mexico, jokes he might have better chance of winning greater percentage of the Latino vote and the presidency if grandparents had been Mexican.     

     Polls and predictions:

     Rasmussen is only major pollster that has Romney leading in most swing states in recent polls

     If the Rasmussen Reports polls are anywhere close to correct, Romney very well may be the next president. Rasmussen has Romney leading in the swing states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire and tied in Wisconsin and Ohio, with Obama ahead only in Nevada. Rasmussen, whose polls were quite accurate in 2004 in 2008, says its surveys show likely voters. Others say that while Rasmussen has been quite accurate in the past, it has a Republican bias. Nate Silver of the New York Times blog has written that Rasmussen has had a Republican lean of about 1.3%. The lead Rasmussen shows for Romney is an outlier in New Hampshire, and Rasmussen is an outlier in seeing a tie in Wisconsin and Ohio. Rasmussen also is an outlier in seeing a larger Romney lead in Colorado than other polls that also have Romney ahead. Rasmussen says Romney could lose Ohio and still win the election by taking Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa or New Hampshire in addition to Florida and Virginia. Nationwide, Rasmussen had the candidates tied at 48% Friday, after having had Romney ahead for some time. Update, Nov. 5: Rasmussen has Romney ahead, 49-48, in Monday tracking poll.
     It was unclear whether some polls were factoring in what pollster Nick Panagakis calls the Incumbent Rule, or anti-incumbent break, where he found that in 80% of races, undecideds broke against the incumbent.
      Gallup, which suspended polling because of Hurricane Sandy, had been showing Romney with a large nationwide lead. It says voter turnout likely to be lower than 2004 and 2008, which could help Romney.
RealClearPolitics electoral map.
Update, Nov. 4: George Will, on ABC's "This Week," cited the Gallup polls as part of his reason for predicting a big Romney electoral college victory.
Update, Nov. 5: Last Gallup tracking poll gives Romney only a 1-point lead nationally, 50-49, over Obama.
Update, Nov. 5: Last Rasmussen poll gives Obama 2-point lead in New Hampshire. Nov. 6: Obama won by 5. takes issue with Rasmussen

       Silver of has Obama winning with more than 300 electoral votes. He says the anti-incumbent rule has not been much of a factor in recent years and may mean little if Obama goes into Election Day with close to 50% of the vote in swing states. Silver has Obama likely to win Ohio and Virginia, and says Romney no longer has momentum in the polls he had after the first debate, and that the momentum actually stopped Oct. 12.
Update, Nov. 4: Former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd said on ABC's "This Week" that he thought that before Hurricane Sandy (see below), he thought Obama would win the electoral college vote but lose the popular vote. He said that he now thinks Obama will win both.

     Allan Lichtman's 13 keys predicted Obama win a year ago

     American University scholar Allan Lichtman stands by his 13-keys scenario where he predicted an Obama victory a year ago, reports. Lichtman has been right in picking the popular vote winner since 1984. However, in 2000, although Al Gore won the popular vote, George W. Bush won the presidency.

     7-eleven coffee poll7-Eleven coffee cup poll

     The 7-Eleven coffee cup poll has been accurate in the past. This year it has Obama leading by a huge margin, and even has him winning in strongly Republican Texas and Utah. Romney is only winning in Idaho and West Virginia, while Wisconsin and Vermont are tossups. A number of states that are going to vote Republican are not participating in the poll: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. Democratic-leaning states Hawaii and Minnesota also are not participating.

      The X-factor

      An event that may have helped George W. Bush win the 2000 election over Vice President Al Gore was the Oct. 12 al-Qaeda suicide bombing against the U.S. destroyer Cole in Adan, Yemen, that killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 39. This may have moved just enough votes to the Republican column in Florida to give Bush the election. Then again, the revelation of Bush's 1976 drunken-driving charge just before the election almost gave Gore the presidency.
      This year, the Sept. 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya appears to have swung votes to Romney. But Obama's reaction to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy appears to be giving the president a boost. Some Republicans on the Sunday, Nov. 4 talk shows said they thought the hurricane had frozen Romney's momentum (if there was such a momentum: see Silver item above.). Former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd's point of view.
Update, Nov. 4: "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace dedicates first six minutes of his interview with Obama adviser David Axelrod to the Benghazi incident. Wallace later extended an invitation for Obama to be interviewed for the first time this campaign season on Fox.

    Electoral college endgame at a glance.

     History of electoral college: Joshua Spivak explains the history behind the electoral college in the Los Angeles Times.
     Letter to editor in response to Spivak's piece.

     A look at Ohio's electoral votes and what effect, if any, Mexico or Mexican-Americans might have on the election there.


     A story in Frontera newspaper about the electoral college (PDF) (it mistakenly has Obama ahead in North Carolina)
     Update, Nov. 4: Obama adviser David Plouffe said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he still had hopes of winning the state). Nov. 6: Romney wins North Carolina by 2 points.


       Added accurate predictions: The stock market, and Emory University's Alan Abramowitz

       The stock market also is being used to predict elections, and it was doing well enough to more or less forecast an Obama victory this year, according to the study "Social Mood, Stock Market Performance and U.S. Presidential Elections." The study was done by Robert Prechter and Deepak Goel of the Socionomics Institute, Wayne Parker of Emory University and Matthew Lampert of the University of Cambridge. Story, NBC.

        Also doing well this year was the “Time for Change” model of Emory University professor Alan Abramowitz. He projected that Obama would get 50.6% of the national two-party popular vote. It is 51.2% now and likely to rise as more votes are counted.

        Also, see Allan Lichtman prediction above.