Yes the Electoral College is a strange way to electing presidents, but it’s safe to ignore it until fall of 2016.
With the 2014 midterm elections safely behind us and very little prospect of any sort of productive work coming out of Washington anytime soon, a lot of figures in the political media have moved on to 2016 speculation. This makes sense, after all the race for 2016 started after Ohio was called on election night back in 2012. But unfortunately a whole lot of pundit types are trying to game out electoral math already.
As Jonathan Bernstein pointed out, this doesn’t make any sense:
Unless you’re making resource allocation plans for a campaign, the best thing to do from now until about October 2016 is to assume the popular vote, not the electoral one, is all that matters. In almost every case, this is the truth, 2000 notwithstanding.
What changes election to election is the popular margin, with most states moving mostly with this national swing. That is, when Democrats went from losing the popular vote by 2.4 percent in 2004 to winning it by 7.2 percent in 2008, they also improved by similar margins in most states. So whichever party does well in 2016 will almost certainly win the electoral college, too.
Pundits go wrong when they look at past elections and project state results forward. But a true electoral-college advantage would give a party a significant edge even if the overall national vote was dead even.
In other words you can safely ignore counting to 270 until fall of 2016.
Instead it would be much more helpful if our political media focused on things like policy changes at the state level and looked at the GOP contenders for 2016. There’s always a chance that the Electoral College could matter in two years just like it did in 2000, but it’s a really small chance and there’s no way to tell if it will until the Fall of 2016 anyway.
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