Thursday, April 03, 2008

An 1877 scenario

I've been saying all along that this election was going to be another close one, and the numbers and the path for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama to 270 Electoral votes would be very different. This is what we could expect if the election were held today:

Obama vs. McCain
Base Obama: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NY, RI, VT, WA (168 electoral votes)
Lean Obama: NJ, MN, OR, WI (42)
Toss-up: CO, IA, MI, MO, NV, NM, NH, OH, PA, VA (112)
Lean McCain: AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, MT, NC (81)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, ID, IN, KS, KY, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (135)

Clinton vs. McCain
Base Clinton: CA, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT (172)
Lean Clinton: AR, MN, OR, WA, WI (44)
Toss-up: FL, IA, MI, NM, NH, OH, PA (101)
Lean McCain: CO, LA, MO, NV, VA (47)
Base McCain: AL, AK, AZ, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY (174)

Tim Russert broke down the numbers this morning on Today, and I must admit that I believe Russert is right on about how both Clinton and Obama would attempt to win the White House. Both of these candidates would pursue different strategies to victory, but the Clinton campaign's latest salvo about how Obama could not win a General Election is nothing more than a scare tactic. The reality is that victory is no more or less possible for either Clinton or Obama, but one may carry some different States than the other (Clinton, for example, is assuming that she will win Arkansas-I wouldn't count on that just yet). The one thing that is noteworthy is that many of the States Obama managed to win in the primary season will be written off by the Obama campaign in the General Election.

Those of you who think John McCain is going to get trounced in November may want to re-think that opinion, because much of McCain's electoral base is made up of people who simply refuse to vote for Clinton or Obama-and there are a great many such people. McCain is very beatable, but so are Clinton and Obama-all McCain needs to do is carry two or three toss-up States and either Democrat is likely beaten.

There is also a serious possibility of a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College. If that occurs, be prepared for the myriad of political ignoramuses, socialists, direct democracy advocates, and enemies of federalism and States' rights to once again demand the abolition of the constitutional method of electing our president. If such a thing were to happen, Tennesseans should be prepared for the dillution of their votes so that people in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles can elect the president and void our say-and don't expect to see many candidates here, either. Fortunately for us, the Constitution would have to be amended to allow for that, and I don't expect for the little old Red States to declare en masse "yes, we'd just love to screw ourselves!"

If a tie were to occur, that would throw the election into the House of Representatives. "Well Oatney, since the Democrats control the House, wouldn't that mean the Democrat would win under such a scenario?" The federal Constitution lays out the procedure the House would use to elect the president via the 12th Amendment:

But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

Each State delegation has one vote-members of the House do not choose individually. That means that in those States where the Republicans still comprise a majority of the House delegation, those States are most likely to vote for the Republican nominee. In addition, there would likely be immense pressure on House delegations to vote the way their State did regardless of their partisan composition, which means that it is very possible for the candidate who carries more States in November to win the election in the House-and that scenario favors John McCain.

It is quite possible for the Democratic nominee to win an election in the House as well, but if the Democrat wins he or she would likely have to strike a deal with House Republicans to do so. As the Compromise of 1877 settled the 1876 election in the House by ending Reconstruction in the South, a Democrat in 2009 attempting to win the election in the House under such a circumstance would have to aquiesce to some major Republican initiative or series of programs.

While it is still most likely that the November election will be settled before January, the present political climate makes a House election a possibility. While many ignorant people may decry this as some crisis and malfunction of the system, were this to happen people ought to be reminded that the Constitution has a procedure for just such a circumstance. Every century or so, Americans need an education in the Constitution-and regardless of who won in the end, it might be good for the country.

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