Twelve years ago, New Jersey conservative political consultant Rick Shaftan came the closest of anyone I knew to predicting the way the presidential election would go down. Shaftan projected a 269 tie between Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush.
The Garden State election guru was only two electoral votes off from calling the race on the nose.
The two presidential elections that followed the much litigated and debated contest were relatively decisive by the current standard. Going into the 2012 election, the prospect of a 269 split between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is a very strong possibility due to the competitive nature of the race, the reshuffled electoral vote state allocations after the 2010 census and the particular battleground states still in play.
To get to that point, let’s first allocate the base electoral votes to the candidates.
President Obama is certain to carry California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State for 191 electoral votes.
Now let’s also add the states leaning to the president, the Democratic “critical three” of Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which raises Obama’s electoral vote total to 237, which is 33 shy from reaching the magic number of 270.
The reason why it is necessary to concede these states that have recently become competitive in the polls to Obama is that if he loses one of those, then the election will be essentially over. A Romney victory probably means the Republican will win most if not all of the other states that have been toss ups for the past month.
On the red side of the political ledger, Romney is heavily favored to win Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin for a total of 191 electoral votes.
The momentum is also breaking to Romney in his “critical three” of North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, and if the ex-Bain Capital executive were to win those as well his base, Romney’s total would be 248, only 22 short of winning the presidency.
A loss by Romney in one of the aforementioned three would be as fatal politically as an Obama loss in either Pennsylvania or Michigan and it is highly unlikely that a candidate will score in the other camps “critical three” without having swept his own necessary troika.
The remaining states that will be contested by both parties up until the close of voting are Ohio (18), Wisconsin (10), Nevada (6), Colorado (9), New Hampshire (4) and Iowa (6).
There are several combinations of the six critical states and six true battleground states that can produce a convergence of the major parties at 269 electoral votes a piece, though only one where the “criticals” remain with their likely winner.
If Romney wins his base states and his three critical states plus Colorado, Nevada and Iowa while President Obama carries his base and three criticals and Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin then both candidates would end the night in a tie.
This assumes that Nebraska and Maine’s electoral votes (which are allocated two at-large for the overall state winner and then apportioned by congressional district winner) deliver their votes to a single candidate.
If November 6th results in an electoral college tie, the next milestone on the road to choosing a president is the December 17th meetings of the “elected” electors in their respective state capitols where a faithless elector defecting from one side to the other becomes a possibility and thus hands the presidency to someone that day.
However if an elector goes “third party”, reducing a candidate’s total, that would not result in the other candidate winning since someone needs to win a majority of the electoral votes.
If the electors stay true, the path to the White House winds into January 2013 when the electoral votes are officially counted and that’s where the legacy of the Adams-Jefferson-Burr election kicks in, the Twelfth Amendment.
The election for president then moves to the US House of Representatives where each state delegation would vote as a single unit for a presidential candidate from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes.
Here is where a faithless elector can come into play since even a lone vote would make that person, regardless if he or she was an actual candidate in the general election, open to consideration. However, with the partisan composition of Congress, the faithless elector’s “write in” is unlikely to secure a single vote in the final stage of the process.
As there are more red states than blue states, one would think that this would be all but certainly produce a Republican president. And while on the surface this would play out, the details are worth taking a look at.
If the state delegations in the next US House of Representatives resemble those that sat in this Congress, then the vote would be a landslide for the GOP candidate. Republicans currently have a majority in 33 state delegations in the US House of Representatives while Democrats have a majority in only 16. Minnesota’s ten-member delegation is split 4-4 between the parties.
Some of those “red delegations” hail from blue states like Pennsylvania and Illinois. On the other side of the aisle, North Carolina is the only Republican state whose delegation to the US House of Representatives has a majority Democratic composition.
Technically if the US House of Representatives cannot reach a decision (which is possible since we have an even number of states but unlikely in this situation), the person elected vice-president would become president.
The United States Senate would select the Vice-President from the two candidates who received the most electoral votes.
To win the vice-presidency in “extra innings” the GOP must have attained an actual majority in the senate elections since a 50-50 split would allow Joe Biden, as senate president, to cast the deciding ballot for himself as vice-president.
In the event of 269 electoral vote tie and a divided Congress, America, for the first time since 1796, would have two people elected president and vice-president from competing tickets (as opposed to parties), a scenario that would make for a better movie than administration.