Tight 2012 Presidential Campaign Tilts Decision to Electoral College


President Obama’s re-election bid could benefit from a critical element of the U.S. Constitution—the vote of the Electoral College.

For Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney, as it has been in previous elections, the race is more than just one candidate’s quest to get the nod from a majority of the nation’s 170 million-plus registered voters. It is actually a contest to be first to amass 270 electoral votes, a majority of the 538 electors, the people who are selected to cast votes on behalf of a state’s electorate based on the outcome of the state popular vote, according to Article II of the U.S. Constitution.

The electors include one for each of the state’s congressional delegation and a total of three for Washington, D.C. Maryland, for example, has two U.S. senators and eight members of the House of Representatives and therefore 10 electors. After the popular vote is tallied, the electors of the party that wins cast their votes for the president and vice president. Collectively the electors are known as the Electoral College.

Right now, Obama is running even with GOP challenger Mitt Romney in the predicted popular vote but has a lead in the predicted electoral vote, according to many political analysts and pollsters.

“He may well lose the popular vote but he also may have figured out how to make the Electoral College work for him,” according to George Derek Musgrove, an assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Before a Hurricane Sandy-related super storm forced suspension of national polling Oct. 29, the Obama campaign was looking at mixed predictions. Associated Press’ analysts gave Obama a 271-206 electoral vote victory in data released Oct. 28. CNN estimated the Obama lead at 235 to 206 in electoral votes, with 95 votes unpredicted. The Huffington Post predicted Obama has a 253 to 206 electoral-vote edge.

Musgrove told the AFRO that Obama’s re-election strategy appears to have involved choosing the state’s whose electoral votes are most contested and critical to victory, like Ohio and Florida, where neither party has established a clear dominance.

If Obama holds on to the White House with an electoral and not a popular victory, there may be pressure to reform the Electoral College, Joseph McCormick, a retired political science professor from Howard University and former dean of academic affairs at Penn State University York.

“But that will mean a constitutional amendment,” McCormick said. “The Democrats will fight it and who knows where it will end.”

In most states, electors are selected by state party conventions and although not bound by law to vote for a particular candidate or ticket, many are forced to sign pledges indicating that they will be loyal to state party wishes, authorities said.

If neither Obama nor Romney receives the 270 electoral votes needed to become president, a Republican-led House of Representatives would pick the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate would select the vice president. The possible outcome of that scenario would have Romney as president and Joe Biden vice president.

The results of each presidential election are officials kept by the National Archives and Records Administration, the nation’s official federal records keeper.

Tight 2012 Presidential Campaign Tilts Decision to Electoral College

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