Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Four Days Out: Electoral Math

Four Days Out: Electoral Math

Photograph via Flickr by winnie's human

Three days ago, I started this three-part series on electoral math updates. (I’ll have Part 3 on Election Day!) As you’re about to see, little has changed since then, but I not only have a new scenario for you, I have a deeper look into the 269-269 tie. Please read Part 1 to catch up on how I arrived at the following categories.

Rock Hard Floor{{1}}

Projection: SAME as Tuesday: Obama 201, Romney 191 (11 states, 146 electoral votes, remaining)

States remaining, in order of weight: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4){{2}}

Likely Floor{{3}}

Projection: SAME: Obama 237, Romney 206 (8 states, 95 electoral votes, remaining)

Rock Hard Floor states awarded: Pennsylvania and Michigan to Obama. North Carolina to Romney.

States remaining: Florida (29), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10){{4}}, Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4)

If the Election Were Today{{5}}

Projection: SAME: Obama 281, Romney 235 (2 states, 22 electoral votes, too close to call)

Likely Floor stated awarded: Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire for Obama. Florida for Romney.

States remaining: Virginia (13), Colorado (9)

Slight changes{{6}}:

Iowa fell from a Tuesday Obama lead of almost 3 to 2 even.{{7}}

Virginia moved from tied to a 0.5 point Romney lead.

Colorado moved from tied to a 0.9 point Obama lead.

Analysis: Obama’s 281—which wins the Electoral College—seems to be crystallizing. There’s been very little movement in the polls since Tuesday.{{8}} This begs the following questions: Are polls solidifying? Are Virginia and Colorado the only truly swing-able states remaining? If so, the election is over. If Romney took both Virginia and Colorado, it’d be Obama 281, Romney 257.{{9}}

Scenario of the Day: The Ohio Surprise

Starting point: Return to the “Likely Floor.” Obama 237, Romney 206, eight states remaining.

Remaining states: Florida (29), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4)

Premise: The Ohio pollsters have erred. Romney is in much better shape in the Buckeye State than we thought.

Logic: Conservatives clamor that the Ohio polls unfairly favor Democrats. I gave it some serious thought in Monday’s column. Ultimately, both sides are spinning crazy yarn in an effort to use these polls to rally their side and assuage the fears of their respective bases. My advice, here, is to toe the independent line and keep saying, “We’ll see on Tuesday.” The beauty of this argument is that unlike so many disagreements from the two sides, this one can and actually will be resolved.

That being said, since Part 1 and, so far, Part 2 of my Electoral Math columns gave Democrats the argument, let’s indulge the Republicans here. After all, Ohio could very well be red on November 6. What if it is?

Results: If we give Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to Romney, our “Likely Floor” evolves into Obama 237, Romney 224 with seven states remaining. Obama is seemingly still in control. Let’s not forget, however, that Romney is also leading the Florida polls and should be considered the favorite to win the state. Florida’s 29 electorals push him up to a 253-237 lead with six states in play: Virginia (13 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4).

I’d say that at that point, it’s a 50/50 election. Romney is closer to 270, but Obama is leading most of the remaining states in current polling.{{10}} With many different combinations for the remaining six states, let’s try to eliminate some variables.

Of the remaining states, Wisconsin is the safest to call.{{11}} If we give it to Obama, Romney still has a 253-247 lead. Obama also has leads of over 2 in Iowa and Nevada; giving him both states of 6 brings him to a 259-253 lead with only Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire remaining.

Romney averages a half-point edge in Virginia. If the south holds for the Republicans and the challenger, as the old adage says, closes better than the incumbent, Romney probably won’t lose that slim lead. Giving Romney Virginia brings him to a 266-259 lead. If he then wins either Colorado or New Hampshire, he wins the presidency outright. The President would need to sweep both to be re-elected.

My, how the electoral math changes if Romney wins Ohio!

Addendum: Revisiting the 269-269 tie

Please allow a note on the 269-269 tie scenario that I painted on Tuesday. A couple readers emailed me asking, “What then?” For an answer, we dust off the U.S. Constitution—specifically, the Twelfth Amendment.

In the event that no presidential candidate reaches a majority of electoral votes, the election gets thrown to the new House of Representatives (“new” meaning the one just elected). In such a case, each state gets one vote; 26 votes, therefore, are needed for victory. All House members in each state would cast a vote, and a majority wins the state.{{12}}

In such a case, the Republicans are at a decided advantage. Think about it: the sole Wyoming House member would hold as much weight as all the congressmen of California combined. While popular and electoral votes are basically even among the parties, there are many more Republican states that otherwise wouldn’t weigh as much as the Democratic states. Thus, a 269-269 tie almost surely goes to Mitt Romney. In fact, it’s reasonable to argue that Romney starts with a 0.5 electoral vote lead before any states are called on Election Night.

Unless . . .

Sub-Scenario: A 269-269 Tie . . .  but Obama Wins Popular Vote.{{13}}

I can’t tell you how dramatic this would be.{{14}} It’s surely the most dramatic scenario possible, even more than one candidate winning the Electoral College and the other winning the popular vote. It’s also more dramatic than a 269-269 tie with Romney winning the popular vote, because the House tiebreaker shown above would simply stamp approval on the will of the American people.

But if Obama and Romney finish in an electoral tie and Obama wins the popular vote, wouldn’t the Republicans be under a significant amount of pressure to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote? I think they would be.

Moreover, the Twelfth Amendment also calls for a quorum in each state in order to cast their ballots. Couldn’t you see the Democrats, citing the popular vote, not show up to cast their ballots until Republicans promise to honor the will of the people?{{15}} And then couldn’t you see the Republicans “agreeing” before voting for Romney anyway? Delicious!

And, finally, the Twelfth Amendment also dictates that while the House picks the President, the Senate picks the Vice-President. The Senate will almost certainly still be controlled by the Democrats. No matter what happens with the popular vote, if we see a 269-269 tie, Joe Biden will win the vice-presidency. We could then have a Romney/Biden White House, which could be four years of politics not seen since Jefferson served under Adams.{{16}}

Far be it from me to offer a suggestion that moves us away from these scrumptious scenarios, but I’d propose a Constitutional Amendment that says that if the Electoral College finishes in a tie, the tiebreaker should be the national popular vote. It seems a little too obvious.

In the meantime, a pundit can dream.

Stay tuned to Construction’s political coverage. Much more is coming early next week, including another roundtable and my final edition of Electoral Math. See you then!

[[1]]States where candidates have average leads of 5+ points.[[1]]

[[2]]I’m not buying into Minnesota’s brief flirtation with Romney.[[2]]

[[3]]States where candidates have average leads of 3+ points.[[3]]

[[4]]Real Clear Politics shows that Wisconsin has risen from a sub-3 Obama lead to a 5-point Obama lead. However, two recent polls show a 3-point Obama edge and a flat tie. Therefore, I’m not yet comfortable making Paul Ryan’s state part of Obama’s “Likely Floor,” though it surely belongs in Obama’s column in the following category.[[4]]

[[5]]States where candidates have average lead of over 1 point.[[5]]

[[6]]Likely Floor states that have moved by 0.5 or more in either direction.[[6]]

[[7]]The Des Moines Register effect?[[7]]

[[8]]I’d keep an eye on Iowa, but alone it wouldn’t be enough to strip re-election.[[8]]

[[9]]If you’re looking to nab an early electoral guess in your office pool, this is not a bad one.[[9]]

[[10]]We must consider, however, that if the Ohio polls are off, so, too, might the rest be.[[10]]

[[11]]It has voted Democratic in every presidential election after being a part of Reagan’s 49-state bonanza in 1984. It even voted for Dukakis. That’s loyalty.[[11]]

[[12]]For example, the five U.S. House member of Connecticut each vote for one of the candidates. If three vote for Obama and two vote for Romney, Obama takes the state.[[12]]

[[13]]For the record, this scenario is one in a million. While I can see realistic narratives that give us a 269-269 tie or Obama winning the Electoral College and Romney winning the popular vote, I don’t see how Obama can win the popular vote while not winning the Electoral College. He looks much stronger electorally than nationally. If Romney, who currently lags electorally, surges to a 269-269 tie, then he almost certainly won the popular vote, probably convincingly.[[13]]

[[14]]But you know I’ll try.[[14]]

[[15]]Shades of Wisconsin state Democrats leaving the state to not allow the infamous union vote against Governor Walker and the Republicans.[[15]]

[[16]]I have so many questions about a Romney/Biden White House! Would Biden resign because he can’t work with a Republican president, or would he stay in order to break 50-50 Senate ties for the Democrats? Would he support the Romney Administration in any way? Would he run against Romney in four years while being his vice-president (a la Jefferson in 1800)? So many questions![[16]]