Election 2012: Skip the Electoral College Math
It is a source of constant amusement to me that so many people obsess – as if fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube – over the various combinations of states that could get either President Obama or Mitt Romney to the magic number of 270 votes in the Electoral College. The guilty include pros at both ends of the political spectrum; people who ought to know better; and armchair analysts who seem to think that they can crack the magic code.
The simple fact is that our nation has had 56 presidential elections. In 53 of them (94.6 percent), the winner in the Electoral College also happened to be the one with the most popular votes. Of course, we all recall the 2000 presidential election in which Al Gore prevailed in the popular vote, while George W. Bush was the Electoral College victor.
But few remember that the previous divergence between popular and electoral votes was 112 years earlier, in 1888. Incumbent Grover Cleveland was the popular-vote winner. However, challenger Benjamin Harrison carried the Electoral College and was declared the winner. The only other time that happened was in 1876, when Samuel Tilden prevailed in the popular vote but Rutherford B. Hayes won the Electoral College vote and the presidency.
Two points to keep in mind: First, the chances are about 94.6 percent the same person will win both the electoral and popular votes. People are expending a lot of time and energy trying to figure out something with about a 1-in-20 chance of happening.
But second, close races are just
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