The 16 Percent

Like many a candidate before him, Mitt Romney is getting on a bus and driving from one place to another to campaign. For some inexplicable reason, this is supposed to be more down-to-earth and folksy than driving in a car or flying. I don't know if that's because in their public transportation form buses are lower-cost forms of travel than planes, cars, or trains, but if so that doesn't make a lot of sense, given that like all candidates Romney will be riding on a luxurious, tricked-out bus, and not just hopping on a Greyhound (now that would be something). Anyhow, Romney's little sojourn has been christened the "Believe in America: Every Town Counts" tour. So, will the tour be going to every town? Not exactly:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday announced a five-day bus tour through six battleground states, beginning with New Hampshire on Friday. The likely Republican nominee will meet with families and business owners in small towns in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan, where he will focus on what he calls President Obama's failed economic policies.

What if your town happens to be located in Oklahoma? Or California? Or New York, or Idaho, or Delaware? Aren't you part of "every town"? Nope—for the next five months, Mitt Romney couldn't care less about you, and neither could Barack Obama.

Sure, you've heard these cranky complaints about the distorting effect the electoral college has on campaigns before. But it never hurts to remind ourselves just how insane this system is, where if you live in a state that is closely divided between Democrats and Republicans, the presidential campaigns spend an extraordinary amount of time figuring out who you are and what you want them to say, while if you live in a state that is not closely divided, you and your neighbors get ignored. And as the race goes on, the number of places the candidates will be campaigning in will probably go down.

Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel recently said the presidential race could come down to as few as five states, and he could well be right. It's happened many times before that in the race's final weeks, one campaign's internal polling tells it that a state they had thought would be competitive is actually slipping away, and they pull their resources out. That will probably happen this time, too. Perhaps the Obama campaign will decide it doesn't have much chance to win North Carolina after all, or the Romney campaign will give up on Nevada. Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from seven to fifteen or so swing states, but the only ones that that are absolutely, positively guaranteed to be contested by both campaigns all the way to election day are probably Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and Iowa. You could even see one or two of those slipping out of the toss-up column.

But let's take the seven swingiest swing states, the ones that most forecasters rate as toss-ups at the moment. Those are Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. They make up 85 of the 538 electoral votes. Using 2011 census estimates, their combined population is just under 51 million, or 16.3 percent of the total population of the country. That means that five out of six of us doesn't live in one of the key swing states, so we're essentially non-participants in this election. "Every town counts" my ass.

Comments

Presidential elections don't have to be this way.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

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