Two Ways Trump Can Win Without 270
Previously, we discussed possible options for the Republican Party. One was to rally around its nominee, as always. Two was to throw caution to the wind, and pick someone other than the “presumptive nominee.” Three was to run a third-party candidate, knowing they’d lose, but the “conservative establishment” would maintain its control on the party’s identity.
Now, Politico has come up with a new, or really old, fourth option.
Unlikely as it may be as an actual solution this year, history tells us there is indeed another possibility for winning the general [election] as a party and managing to dump Trump. The strategy involves running not one, but three candidates—this year, say Trump, Cruz and Kasich—in the general election in November.
It’s farfetched, but it’s a scenario that is allowed by the Constitution, and in theory could be done with a tweak to the party’s bylaws. The goal is to block the Democratic nominee from winning an electoral majority by running the Republican candidate in each state most able to win there. If the Democratic candidate were held short of 270 electoral votes, the outright majority, then the House of Representatives would be asked to choose the president from the top three vote-getters, regardless of what party they are from. If the House stays under GOP control, it would almost certainly select a Republican as president.
Historically, it has been tried: The Whigs ran three candidates against Democrat Martin Van Buren in 1836.
In this scenario, it wouldn’t be a matter of “dumping” Trump. In fact, the other two candidates wouldn’t have to even run “against” him. It would be a matter of dividing up the map, as Cruz tried to do with Kasich—divide and conquer. In this scenario, Hillary would have to run against three different Republicans, and not be able to craft one, unified message.
Could running Trump in the states where he has a better chance of beating Clinton than Cruz, running Cruz in the states where he has a better chance of beating Clinton than Trump, and running Kasich in Ohio (where Cruz and Trump lose to Clinton) be a winning maneuver?
Why would Trump go for this? Because there would be a rule that the top vote-getting Republican would become president. Right now, that looks like Trump, so why would Cruz or Kasich participate?
Cruz could also have a path to victory. For example, if Cruz were to win other swing states, like Colorado or New Hampshire (where he is favored), then Cruz’s electoral votes would be greater than Trump’s. And, in this scenario, Cruz would be chosen by the Republican House as the general election victor.
Trump, if nothing else, is an iconoclast. If he thought he would have trouble defeating Hillary outright, he might go along with this subterfuge. Think of it, he could stand out as unique in history. And, of course, Cruz still says he’d love to get back in the race if there were any path to winning. Meanwhile, Kasich loved to say that he was the only Republican who out-polls Hillary, so he might go for it, too.
This entire idea rests on winning “states,” not “votes.” It’s about finding ways to keep Hillary below the 270 electoral votes needed. But there’s another way.
People think someone has to win 270, but that’s not so. There is not a total of 539 electors. There are only 538. So it is entirely possible for neither candidate to win the 270 needed to become president. Here’s a map to play with from 270ToWin.
The map shows the “blue” states and the “red” states, where the parties are expected to win. It also shows “beige” swing states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
Of those ten states, let’s say Trump takes half—Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, and North Carolina. OR just four—Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa—and flip New Mexico. Either would give him 269 electoral votes, which would only leave 269 for Hillary. Having neither candidate receiving the required majority of at least 270, the election would be thrown into the House of Representatives to decide.
Which party do you think the Republican-controlled (246-188) House would choose?