The June vote on whether or not the United Kingdom would leave the Common Market was a straightforward yes or no vote. For weeks the talking heads, the sages, the experts, the pollsters offered opinions, read the polling tea leaves; and, although the vote would be close predicted the vote: 52-48 to stay in the Common Market – whoops!! The Brits voted 52-48 to leave the Common Market. Prime Minister Cameron resigned and the economic future of the UK hangs in the balance.
The US presidential election is 63 days away and our election is far more complex.
Does the candidate with the most votes win?
If you were in my Social Studies class you know the answer is: not necessarily. Other nations either have a “most votes win” presidential system or a parliamentary system in which the party (or coalition of parties) with the most members in the parliament elect the prime minister. Although we vote for candidates we are actually choosing electors that “formally” elect the president in early December.
In the Electoral College system each state has electors equal to the number of representatives plus the two senators; the House of Representatives have 435 members, plus 100 for the Senate and three for the District of Columbia. The winner needs 270 electoral votes. Except for Maine and Nebraska states have winner take all elections – the winner receives all of state’s electoral votes no matter the closeness of the election within the state; Maine and Nebraska divide the votes proportionally.
California has 55 electoral votes, Texas 38, New York and Florida 29 and Alaska, Delaware and others have the minimum of 3.
In 1824 in a four-way race no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes, pursuant to the Constitution the election was decided by the House of Representatives and Andrew Jackson, although he received the most votes lost to John Quincy Adams. (Jackson won in 1828 and 1832)
The 1876 election was extremely close, in the most corrupt election in our history a commission declared the winner in three states electing Hayes although Tilden won the popular votes.
Harrison, in 1888 easily won the electoral votes however Cleveland narrowly won the popular votes.
Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by half a million votes, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that disputed votes should be recounted however the US Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote overturned the Florida court effectively declaring Bush President by the narrowest of margins.
On November 8th there will be 51 elections – the fifty states plus the District of Columbia.
Each camp has a map – the road to 270 electoral votes, the Democratic states, the Republican states and the states that will decide the election. Campaigns allocate resources, dollars for TV ads, dollars for Get Out the Vote (GOTV) on-the-ground foot soldiers, and each state campaign is tailored to the local issues in each state. The Clinton camp tailoring their messages to women, younger voters, Afro-Americans and Latinos and union members while the Trump camp to white males, older voters, evangelicals and disaffected voters.
While the pollsters give Clinton the lead the question haunting pollsters is whether there are Trump voters hiding in the weeds. Less than 10% of polling phone calls receive a reply and are the respondors answering honestly? Then there is the land line versus cell phone issue: older voters still have land lines, younger voters do not.
As I wrote a few days ago the pollsters were wrong in the Brexit vote and the reasons can be just as applicable in the presidential. The intense scrutiny of the media during the spring campaigns have waned, the media is no longer carrying the election 24/7, they are allocating far fewer resources, and, the general populace is tiring of the seemingly endless campaign.
The first debate on September 26th will place the race in the foreground – three debates, three opportunities to face the American public. The contrasting styles will be fascinating. The first and third debates will be the traditional moderator debates and the second a town hall format.
The pollsters, the talking heads, give Clinton a lead, whether expressed as a percent changes of winning (currently 86-14 Clinton) or the more common percent comparing candidate to candidate (Clinton leads in the high single digits).
Are there voters who are still undecided?
Will the Bernie voters come to the polls for Clinton?
Will the younger voters flock to the polls as they did in 08 and 12?
Will women and minority voters vote for Clinton in unparalleled numbers?
Will white males and older voters come to the polls in large numbers for Trump?
In the Brexit election “leave” voters were under the radar, the pollsters simply missed the leave voters or perhaps the leave voters avoided participating in the polling process.
Is the same phenomenon possible in our presidential election?
What is both fascinating and deeply disturbing is the lack of issues – the Clinton campaign has tried to make the campaign issue oriented, the Trump campaign has avoided engaging in the traditional issue debates.
Voters may very well decide on who they dislike least.
Probably since the day of the Obama victory the Republican strategy has been to denigrate Obama, some attacks on policy (Affordable Care Act), others just plain racist (he’s a Muslim born outside of the USA). Whether we abhor it or not, negatively campaigning resonates with the public.
The motto of the New York Post, if it bleeds it leads!!
I was listening to someone disgusted at the headlines in the Post, as they were buying the paper. A Post employee told me the most outrageous stories receive the highest number of “clicks,” online reads.
Are we getting the type of election and news coverage we desire?
Tomorrow: I promise, back to discussing education.