It’s almost a year away now, but it might be useful and sobering
to remember what will be the numbers that really count on
Election Day, 2016.
Those number s won’t be demographic figures, pre-election polls,
exit polls or even the actual popular vote. The numbers that will
count will be the numbers in the electoral college. There is a total
of 538 electors from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Each state is allotted two electoral votes for their two U.S.
senators plus one electoral vote for each of their members in the
U.S. house. The District of Columbia has no voting members of
Congress, but has been allotted three electoral votes.
In order to be elected president of the United States, a
candidate must receive 270 electoral votes, or a simple majority.
If no candidate receives 270 electoral votes, the election goes to
the U.S. house of representatives where each member of that body
votes for their choice by a majority vote. By law, they need not
follow the popular vote in their state. By custom, they vote for the
candidate of their own political party.
Technically, any elector might vote for any candidate he or she
chooses, but almost always electors vote for the candidate who
receives the most popular votes in their states. Two states now
have a variance on this, and divide their electoral votes by
congressional district. (A national movement which is gaining
steam now in the states would in effect eliminate the electoral
vote in favor of the popular vote, but this will have no impact in
So what does the landscape of the electoral college vote look like
The electoral college numbers currently are up in the air. The
conventional wisdom is that its totals are very similar to the
actual totals in 2012 when Barack Obama was re-elected
president with 332 electoral votes to 206 for Mitt Romney.
It would appear, however, that the results of the 2016 electoral
college might be more divergent than conventional wisdom now
suggests. In the traditional scenario, the only states which might
change sides in 2016 are Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado
and Nevada (all won by the Democrats), and North Carolina,
Missouri and Indiana (all won by the Republicans). This scenario
suggests an advantage for the Democratic ticket.
Another scenario, now perhaps as likely as the conventional one,
has an expanded list of battleground states, and adds Wisconsin,
Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Mexico.
Each of these states cast their electoral votes for Democrat
Obama in 2012. If they become competitive in 2016, it strongly
suggests a Republican advantage in the presidential election.
The current poll weakness of Democratic frontrunner Hillary
Clinton supports this scenario. Even in very “blue” (Democratic)
Minnesota, a major recent poll has her trailing most of the GOP
Of course, these scenarios can change, but we are now only two
months from actual voting (in the Iowa caucus), and both fields
are shrinking (although the GOP field remains overlarge).
Recent international events have so far not helped either
President Obama or those Democrats who wish to succeed him.
The economy remains fragile. On the other hand, Republicans
continue to dally with inexperienced presidential candidates,
and risk throwing away the critical votes of independents.
What has remained constant so far in this cycle is the strong
winds of electoral unrest among voters on all sides. This will be
the key to which direction the political hurricane, now forming,
goes when it hits land only a few weeks from now.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.