Sunday, March 20, 2016

That's Not How the Electoral College Works

That's not how The Force works! - Han Solo to rookie hero Finn in The Force Awakens

And remember kids, Han was the Skeptic in the original trilogy.

I'm just quoting this because one of the less sane proposals floating out there by the Far Right media hacks - currently terrified that a Trump candidacy will kill the GOP in the general election - is the idea that a Third Party campaign by a "more sincere movement conservative" would split enough votes between Trump, likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE that it would send the results into the House of Representatives for Congress to settle who wins.

That's how the election works, by the by. It's not by Popular count, it's by who wins which states, and the states send Electors depending on the number of Congresspersons (varies) and Senators (+2) they have. Wyoming sends 3 Electors, Florida sends 29, California sends 55. Whomever gets the majority of Electors (divide the total by two, then add 1, that's (538 / 2) = 269 +1 = 270, hence ) wins outright. If no one crosses 270 total, it goes to the House and the House chooses between the top three Electoral getters.

That means the third-party person HAS to win a state to get considered. That's something to bring up later.

You see, there's still that key point of "who wins each state." Because the people - like Erick Erickson, hello again - floating this third-party savior idea do not seem to understand how that is going to play out in a three-way race.

The Third Party Republican Rescue Squad (or TPRRS) seem to think that they can split the existing Red States between Trump and their INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE. And that somehow in the process they can take away enough Blue States from Hillary, even though she'll be campaigning most likely on Obama's legacy and HE won those states with majority counts.

(This is probably because Erickson and his ilk are convinced Trump will take away liberal/moderate voters from Hillary. After all, they're still convinced that Trump is No True Conservative.)

So, just to even start this conversation, we have to ignore the fact that Obama won a majority of states (29 of them) in 2012, and that he won them in head-to-head voter turnouts by getting more voters in each state to show for him instead of Romney. We have to ignore the fact that all Hillary (or Bernie) has to do to win in 2016 is win the same states Obama won in 2012 (which is likely) and it doesn't even matter if Trump and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE splits the remaining Red States. We have to ignore the fact that Obama in 2012 got 332 Electoral votes, easily clearing the 270 hurdle and avoiding the House of Representatives altogether.

This is how insane Erickson and the TPRRS plan already is.

If we go in to examine the evidence a little closer, let's for example look at how Florida in 2012 voted. Obama got 4,235,000-plus votes: Romney got 4,162,000-plus votes. Let's assume that Hillary will get the same voters as Obama (4.2 million roughly), but here comes Trump and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE fighting over the 4.1 million Romney got. Let's figure Trump gets the 45 percent of the Republican primary voters he got just now, so INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE get the 55 percent
(let's figure in the independent NPA voters who will vote Republican into this mix at 50-50 to keep things simple). Thing is, these two candidates will be fighting over a PERCENTAGE of the Romney vote, which in toto was STILL LESS than Obama's (and likely Hillary's). 55 percent of 4.1 million is 2.25 million voters for INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE and Trump gets the remaining 1.8 million.

Here's the thing: HILLARY STILL WINS FLORIDA with her 4.2 million votes over INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE's 2.25 million. And it's Winner-Take-All for Electoral College: Hillary gets all 29 Electors.

Now that's in the Blue States that Obama won. By this math, it's obvious that Hillary's going to win Obama's states. THAT'S PRETTY MUCH THE ELECTION RIGHT THERE. We don't even have to see what happens in the Red States. But just for sh-ts and giggles, let's take a look.

For example, North Carolina. It was a close race there with Romney getting 50 percent of the voters at 2.2 million and Obama getting 48 percent at 2.1 million. So Hillary can come in and get the same 2.1 million. But now here comes Trump and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE splitting up Mitt's results. Trump got 40 percent of the primary voters, but considering this is a state with his voting base in force (poor White males lacking college education) so let's give him the Cruz vote (37 percent) for a 77 percent total... OF ROMNEY'S NUMBERS. That gives Trump 1.69 million... while Hillary gets that 2.1 million. Guess who wins ALL of North Carolina's Electors in this scenario? Two hints: It won't be Trump, and it won't be INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE. Hillary will actually increase her Electoral College win with this move.

Let's bring in Texas. This is the state that Erickson's pining his hopes on that the INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE can win and thus send the Electoral College into overtime at the House. In 2012 that was a huge win for Romney getting 57 percent turnout at 4.5 million-plus over Obama's 41 percent with 3.3 million. The GOP primary there this 2016 decisively went against Trump (who got 26 percent) while Ted Cruz (whom Erickson does not view as the GOP SAVIOR) got 43 percent. So let's keep Trump at 26 percent while INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE gets 74 percent of Romney's total. That's just over 3.4 million voters... which DOES clear the count that Hillary would get from Obama's voters at 3.3 million. The GOP SAVIOR wins Texas... but there's no guarantee he'll win the other Red States that had decisive Romney wins (anything over 55 percent of the total turnout), because Trump can garner half of those (like Tennessee and West Virginia and South Carolina).

And don't forget, Hillary's still winning all the Obama Blue States from 2012 in any three-way race like this. Which means this is STILL a moot point because she'll be pretty much winning the whole kit and caboodle. It won't matter if a Third Party candidate wins a state away from Trump, because as long as Hillary wins what Obama won this will never get to the House.

A three-way race is not going to guarantee the Electors get thrown to the House to resolve anything: the only way that happens is if Trump AND the INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE both take away the voting numbers from Hillary. But how likely is that?

If you can picture Trump taking away voters from the Democrats using his anti-Immigrant, anti-government stances, you're crazier than I am. If you can picture Trump taking away moderate voters from Democrats on the simple fact he's a Total Newb at politics, you're crazier than that. If you can picture Erick Erickson's GOP SAVIOR (the "movement conservative" whoever that will be) working that same twisted magic to win away the necessary votes, you're the Mayor of Crazytown.

As Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog points out - via Josh Marshall - there is no real difference between Trump and the projected INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE when it comes to the issues. As Marshall noted:

It would be one thing if there were a moderate or establishment independent bid (though it is a dubious proposition that the 'establishment' is really 'moderate', even in the context of the GOP politics). That would provide a very clear contrast with Trump. But if you run a 'movement conservative' against Trump, it gets pretty hard to see where you can find any real points of contrast on any significant issues.
So, hardline on illegal immigration? No real difference.
Hardline on terrorism, needing to say "Islamic terrorism", creeping Sharia or any of the rest. No real difference.
Huge, huge tax cut? Same.
Obamacare terrible? Same.
Generalized opposition to 'political correctness'? Check.
Abortion? Check.
Hating on Obama as feckless, exotic loser? Check...
Marshall notes only one major difference between Trump and the Republican Establishment, and that's on trade. Granted, there may be a significant number of Far Left Democrats who might - might! - switch to Trump on that issue alone. But Trump is so offensive on so many other issues that most self-respecting Progressive Dems will not take that risk (they certainly won't switch to a "movement conservative" whose trade positions are equal or worse than Hillary's).

Essentially, there's no sane reason ANYONE who voted for Obama will switch to either Trump or Erickson's unicorn "movement conservative". You'll get just Hillary standing there holding Obama's legacy while Trump and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE fight over chicken bones. Those two will just be hammering each other into tiny little pieces.

This is essentially a rehash of the 1992 Election, when Bush the Elder running as the Establishment Republican candidate contended more with the upstart proto-Populist Right-leaning Ross Perot, and split votes with him while Bill Clinton (nowhere near 50 percent Popular vote) kept enough Democratic/Left votes to win enough states and the Electoral College.

Now, granted, we're basing this all on 2012 numbers and turnouts. For all we know, the numbers will be different this November. But the polling so far does not suggest any significant switches from Obama's 2012 states over to the Republicans' side. Given the way a three-way race works out - 1992, 1968, 1912 - the winner is going to be the one who stands on the sidelines and lets the two big bulls pummel each other into cow meat.

And the thing is, both bulls this 2016 cycle are not that big to begin with. Both Trump and INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE are both fighting over Second Place behind Hillary at this point. All that will be at stake in the end is who avoids being in Third.

And just what does Erickson think is going to happen if the miracle occurs, if he and his TPRRS people throw enough states to their Third Party INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE to force it to the House?

It's not going to be pretty.

The math currently points to the Democratic candidate getting the Popular vote, which may still happen in a contested Electoral College count. Trump's Popular vote will likely put him in Second Place in that scenario, with the INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE sitting at Third. If the GOP-lead House opts to put the Third Place guy over both Popular vote winners, it will be a huge insult to a vast majority of voters both Left and Right. Think Democrats are still sore about Dubya winning in 2000 with fewer Popular votes all because of a contested Electoral count for Florida? This will be a thousand times more sickening to them.

And that's not the biggest fallout from that possible move. The Republican Party will split forever (I normally won't argue that point as I believe our system favors two parties, but this is Serious Business).

The Trump faction will NEVER forgive the Republican Establishment for their betrayal. The Democrats will be pissed as well, but the end result is going to be brutal for the Republicans in 2018 when the midterms roll around. Trump's voters will clearly refuse to vote for ANY Republican candidate at any level - and may well run successful Third Party candidates of their own (did anyone hold onto Perot's Reform Party trademarks?).

It probably won't even be 2018 when the damage strikes. If Erickson and the Establishment prop up any third party challenger to Trump this summer, those voters will know right now that the Republican Party bigwigs are setting them up to fall. Betrayed right here and now, Trump's voters will have NO REASON to vote for ANY Republican candidate. Out of sheer spite, they could sit out the key Senate races and even refuse to vote for the Republican House candidates. If Erickson's TPRRS do pull off the House maneuver, it's going to be with a Lame-Duck Republican House in December 2016 that can likely go to the Democrats (even against the massive gerrymandering that favors the GOP right now) the following January 2017... meaning that Erickson's INSERT GOP SAVIOR HERE is going to be sitting in the White House all alone against a Democratic-controlled Senate and House. And even though they are Democrats who believe in a working government, they are NOT going to be in a forgiving mood.

It's still a a Lose-Lose scenario for Erickson. Then again, that happens to him a lot for what I've seen how he works...


dinthebeast said...

Yeah, if they run a third party candidate and shoot themselves in the foot with it, they'll just use it as an excuse to reject the legitimacy of the winner, like they did with Bill Clinton.

-Doug in Oakland

Paul Wartenberg said...

They'd argue against the legitimacy of a Democratic President who'd win with 60 percent of the popular vote and 45 states. All because no Republican Conservative can ever accept defeat in their Zero-Sum "we create the reality" mindset.