As we enter the last week of this crazy presidential election cycle—on the cusp of Halloween-America finds itself possibly facing some really disturbing outcomes…some more monstrous than others. Added into the mix is a really unexpected ‘October Surprise’ wild card…Mother Nature, in the form of Hurricane Sandy, one of the largest storms ever to hit so late in a calendar year.
As reported this morning by politico.com, there are four “freak” scenarios, which would present all sorts of controversy and—perhaps—make political history in 2012. While most nationwide polls are showing that the race is either ‘neck-and-neck’ or with Romney or Obama holding narrow leads, it appears that the Romney ‘momittum’ has stalled out, so that neither candidate is yet assured of amassing over 50% of the popular vote, while a very small sliver of voters has still not made up their minds.
With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the East Coast, the campaigns are treading ever so lightly on the trail, while millions of Americans may soon be treading water from the storm surge. President Obama cancelled a scheduled campaign event in critical swing-state Florida, to return to Washington and oversee FEMA’s preparations and response to the coming storm, leaving former president Bill Clinton, his most powerful surrogate, to carry on there in his behalf.
Meanwhile a new POLITICO/George Washington University Tracking Poll, shows the President leading 48%-47% nationwide, regaining a healthy 11% lead among women and leading by 53%-45% among the 15% of the electorate who have already cast their ballot. Team Obama has stressed the critical importance of early voting and it is uncertain yet how the hurricane might impact that effort.
As for the ‘freaky scenarios,’ perhaps the most likely is not the most fantastic, or even historically groundbreaking. That would entail the President winning reelection by obtaining the minimum 270 Electoral Votes…yet losing the nationwide popular vote. That has actually already happened four times in U.S. history, most recently—of course—in 2000, when Al Gore won over 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush…an election that was ultimately decided by 537 votes in Florida and the 5-4 Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore, which put a stop to any further recount in Florida.
Then in 2004, we narrowly missed a fifth example of that scenario. Had there been a swing of only 60,000 votes in Ohio, Senator John Kerry would have won that state’s then 20-Electoral Votes and captured the White House…while losing the nationwide vote by 3 million votes!
A less likely—but similar—scenario would be Mitt Romney winning the Electoral Vote but Obama winning the popular vote. Given the dynamics of the Electoral College and Obama’s consistent lead in nearly all of the five to nine swing states (depending on which polls you’re watching)…it is an unlikely outcome. As reported in the politico.com piece, Steve Lombardo, a pollster for Romney in 2008, stated,
“There’s no chance that it’s going to be the other way, that Romney wins electoral and Obama wins the popular vote. I think the greatest likelihood is that Obama wins both [the popular and electoral vote], but there’s a chance that Romney wins the popular and could lose the electoral.”
Another, second scenario, would entail a virtual replay of the 2000 election, which entails disputed election totals and court challenges on a variety of grounds, especially the suppression of votes in states critical to achieving the necessary 270 Electoral Votes, or even possible voter disenfranchisement due to weather or power outages and outright fraud at the polls.
In that eventuality, it is not inconceivable that the 2012 Presidential Election could again be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. One wonders how that might play out, considering the dynamics of the five to four Republican majority which still exists as it did in 2000.
Then, there is the third and one of the most historically noteworthy scenarios to ponder. Could we actually witness a 269-269 Electoral Vote tie for the first time in our history? In the event of a tie, Mitt Romney would have a decided edge.
Briefly—if the electors in the Electoral College cannot determine a winner—per The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, each state gets one vote, as determined by the majority vote of each state’s congressional delegation in the newly elected House of Representatives. Inasmuch as there are more expected Republican Red States than Democratic Blue State, it is doubtful that President Obama would prevail…even in the event he were to win the nationwide popular vote.
Perhaps the closest historical example we’ve had of anything similar was in the election of 1876, when Democrat Samuel J. Tilden won a clear popular vote majority…but, neither he nor the eventual winner, Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, gained a clear Electoral Vote majority. The matter did not end up in court, but rather – a political deal was struck to give Hayes the presidency.
Although there have been 3 other examples where the candidate who received the most votes did not win the presidency, 1876 was the only time in our history—thus far—when the candidate who received a clear majority of the votes cast did not win. The other—earlier—cases involved more than two candidates (from third political parties), which resulted in the loser gaining a popular vote plurality – but not a clear majority of the popular vote total.
And finally, a fourth scenario…perhaps the most fantastic of all…would be through the machinations of the 12th Amendment relative to the Vice Presidency. The U.S. Senate would have the responsibility of choosing the next Vice President in the event of a 269-269 Electoral Vote deadlock. Again, the selection would be made by the newly elected Senate, which—along with the House—is sworn in on January 3rd versus the new president’s term, beginning January 20th. Weren’t our Founders clever (or mischievous)?
Here—incredibly—we could actually see the craziest scenario since our very first election, when John Adams became Vice President by finishing finishing second in electoral votes (1788-89) to George Washington. Historical footnote: While our total population then was just under 4 million, less than 39,000 Americans actually voted for our first president!
Assuming that the Democrats retain their Senate majority (which appears likely), Mitt Romney could be chosen president by the House, while Joe Biden is selected by the Senate! And in the event of a 50-50 tie, you ask? Why then Uncle Joe gets to cast the deciding vote as sitting Vice President, since he also serves as President of the Senate…his only constitutionally defined duty (other that to succeed the president upon death or incapacitation). I really don’t know whether to leave you with “BOO” or “Trick or Treat.” Is this a great country or what?
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