Land Mass Follies

Despite media and pollster predictions to the contrary, George W. Bush lost the nation's popular vote to Al Gore on November 7. But according to Republican howitzers Rush Limbaugh, David Horowitz, and others, he won something more important: the most land.

During the early stages of the Florida recount, both and Horowitz's Front Page Magazine ( displayed a graphic lifted from the November 9 issue of USA TODAY. It was a county-by-county breakdown of presidential election results, with Bush counties in red and Gore counties in blue. The map of the United States in the image was covered with vast swaths of red and tiny splotches of blue--an overwhelming cartographic victory for George W., who won 2,434 counties to Gore's 677.

Citing the total square miles won by each candidate--2,427,039 for Bush, 580,134 for Gore--to show that the Republican prevailed is an argument that probably wouldn't hold up very well even on the talk show circuit. But both Limbaugh's and Horowitz's Web sites suggested this land mass victory amounted to an electoral triumph for Bush. "This is George W. Bush's mandate," read Limbaugh's site."

If conservatives are going to place so much significance on geography, perhaps James K. Polk should replace Ronald Reagan in the Republican presidential pantheon. After all, Polk, a Democrat, acquired much of the Bush-supporting western United States during his single term in office. Taking this analysis a step further, maybe conservatives should advocate greater localization of the electoral college--one county, one vote, anyone?

Electoral votes are apportioned as they are for a reason: A state's population, not its square mileage, determines the size of its delegation to the electoral college. If conservatives' loony landmass analysis is taken to its logical extreme, Alaska--with its 570,374 square miles of territory, roughly one-sixth of all land in the United States--should be worth at least 90 electoral votes. (This might at least have the salutary effect of giving the nation its first Eskimo president.) Perhaps because Alaska's inclusion would expose the absurdity of the exercise, the 49th state is cleverly omitted from the maps displayed by Limbaugh and Horowitz.