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I was listening to the BBC late Saturday night. There was a lot of talk about our election. But they didn’t comprehend the nuance. They played down the wins by Cruz, saying that he only won in two small states, while Trump won in two big states.

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That’s true, of course, however, as reader “NativeCalifornian” noted on our “Rundown” page, Cruz won 64 delegates, to Trump’s 49—gaining 15.

Although Trump is way ahead in the national polls, picking a nominee is not a national matter. We vote state-by-state. Just as our November election will be decided state-by-state in the Electoral College. That’s why George Bush “won” in 2000, even though Al Gore won the popular count by more than a half-million votes.

Democrats have been grousing about that ever since. However, they may not have a case. Nate Silver notes that Bush played the system in 2000, to win Electoral College votes, not popular votes:

So Mr. Gore would have won the election if not for the Electoral College, right?

Actually, not so fast.

Presidential campaigns strive to maximize their chances of winning the Electoral College. They devote more resources — advertising dollars, field offices, candidate visits, and so forth — to states that might be decisive in determining its outcome.

We can see some tangible effects of this in 2008, when Barack Obama — who had much more money and much better field operations than John McCain — over-performed in swing states relative to non-competitive ones.

Nate Silver’s point is that if it were not for the Electoral College, Bush would have focused more on big states, like California and New York, trying to win voters—not states. So Bush may have won the popular vote with a different strategy.

Rubio is using a similar strategy this year. He is focusing on the big states at the end, so his people are not that worried about losing most of the smaller states early.

But all the states matter. That’s the upside of the Electoral College and the state primary system. Otherwise, candidates would ignore most of the geographic country. After all, most of our population is in cities, and in just 11 states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, and New Jersey.

So candidates have to decide what kind of people live in which states, and therefore, which states are more likely to vote for his or her chosen issues. (Which is also why Cruz says one thing in one state, and something completely different in another.)

But beyond the focus on states, we also have the question of whether a state has a primary or a caucus. A primary is a private ballot, so individuals have to be won over. Cruz does better in caucus states, since people hash it out, and therefore, it’s easier to argue and convince caucus members to vote your way.

Then, there’s the issue of proportional vs. “winner-take-all” states. We noted that Rubio is trying to work that angle, but there’s a whole different issue. . .

The GOP has set up the system so that the early states are proportional. So even if a candidate runs away with the number of states, he may only have a small lead in the delegate count. That way, if a candidate rises whom they don’t like, they would have time to beat him or her down, and if swayed, the later winner-take-all states will give large blocks of delegates to the candidate of their choice, leaving none for an upstart.

Because of that, Trump is only slightly in the lead in the delegate count, despite winning many more states, and having a commanding lead in the national polls. If the GOP establishment can succeed in scaring people away from Trump, he could still easily lose the nomination.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Most of our population is NOT in cities

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

    One-sixth of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities, and they voted 63% Democratic in 2004.

    One-sixth lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and rural America voted 60% Republican.

    The remaining four-sixths live in the suburbs, which divide almost exactly equally.

    A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

      • One-sixth of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities, and they voted 63% Democratic in 2004
        .

          • 85% of the population of the United States lives in places with a population of less than 365,000 (the population of Arlington, Texas).

            Moreover, the population of the nation’s 50 biggest cities is declining. In 2000, the 50 biggest cities together accounted for 19% of the nation’s population (compared to 15% in 2010).

            • The point is that you seem to believe big cities are bigger than they are, and that they are more Democratic than they are. And you don’t understand how real-world political campaigns are run.

              Candidates for governor and other offices in elections in which every vote is equal, and the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes, campaign wherever there are voters.

              In a successful nationwide election for President candidates could not afford to ignore rural areas. Now they can and do.

              None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.

              The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

              Support for a national popular vote is strong in rural states

            • And you think it’s not a “city” if the population is less than a third of a million.

              My home town has 75,000 population, and votes reliably Democratic. The city 23 miles to the east has a population of 50,000, and is even more Democratic.

              It is simply not true that only the largest cities are Democratic, and only the emptiest of areas are Republican.

            • thats why the % was 60% population republican in average in all rural (emptiest) cities. Your home town and the other city of the east constitute the 40% democratic portion. Simple math, the guy didnt say it was 100% in cities like yours.

            • It has to do with definition.

              The main thing Toto objected to was my assertion that “most of us” live in cities. So I pointed to the U.S. Census (providing a link), which I consider a fairly reliable source, which said 80.7% of us DO live in cities. That qualifies as “most of us,” I should think.

              Then, if you read Toto’s various posts (devoid of any documentation or sources, by the way), you’ll see that the implication is that ONLY the top most populous cities vote Democratic, which is why I disputed that, with local references to smaller cities.

            • @GoetheB:disqus: You want to define what is a “city” and then claim that all cities vote democrat. But urban doesn’t necessarily mean “cities”. Furthermore, this article is NOT EVEN about “urban” versus “rural.” So your point is frankly… Pointless!

            • Again, I didn’t “define” city–the Census did. And I never claimed that “all” cities vote Democratic. Toto claimed that ONLY big cities vote Democratic, and I simply disagreed with that claim, providing evidence.

              You’ll have to provide a source for your claim that “urban” doesn’t mean “cities.”

              As for this article not being about urban vs. rural, you are exactly right. The page was hijacked by a reader, which is fine. In fact, we did another page, giving Toto credit for bringing up the issue.

    • Yes, they do. An MSA defines a city area. Just because the political divisions are called different “cities” doesn’t mean that, say, Lakewood/Denver/Aurora/Littleton are different “cities”. You walk across the block into a different political division; you are still in the same city.

  2. All the states do NOT matter with the current state-by-state winner-take-all Electoral College

    Candidates ignore most of the geographic country — 38 states and 80% of voters.

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 38+ states and their voters. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. 80% of states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    In 2012, more than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the then only ten competitive states. Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

    38 states were politically irrelevant.

    There are only expected to be 7 remaining swing states in 2016.

    Issues of importance to non-battleground states are of so little interest to presidential candidates that they don’t even bother to poll them.

    Over 87% of both Romney and Obama campaign offices were in just the then 12 swing states. The few campaign offices in the 38 remaining states were for fund-raising, volunteer phone calls, and arranging travel to battleground states.

    Since World War II, a shift of a few thousand votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

    • It is not feasible to visit all 50 states, nor in one’s best interest. This is politics 101, look what happened to poor old Nixon in the 1960 election.

      • The 1960 election was with state-by-state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes. There is no incentive for candidates to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win.

        The National Popular Vote bill would replace state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), in the enacting states, to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

        Of Course it is feasible to visit all 50 states in the months after the conventions.
        And it WOULD be in one’s best interest with the National Popular Vote bill in effect.

        Candidates have access to airplanes.
        There were 253 campaign events in 2012 in the months after the conventions.

        With National Popular Vote, every voter, every where, would matter equally. Candidates would reallocate their time, the money they raise, and their ad buys to no longer ignore 38+ states and voters.

        A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

        The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

        With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

        • You do know that it harmed his health right, unless you think health problems will not arise if one campaigns equally in all 50 states.

          • There is no reason to expect candidates would have harmed their health by reallocating the 253 campaign events during the months of the 2012 general election campaign, to include all 50 states, all within 11 hours from anywhere in the country. With the current system, candidates are continually traveling to and from and among the battleground states of Florida, New Hampshire, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada, Virginia, and Iowa. Flying over 80% of the states.

            • It is not as simple as that. Each state would require a different speech catered to what issues they are concerned about. You also would have spend equal amount of time in each state for a very short amount of time (June – November) and each time spent in the state has to be considerable as well.

              Also, do you think candidates would equally spend time in a small population area of around 10, as they do a larger population center such as DFW (which includes Plano, Irving, Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Garland)? Of course not, not that they now, but their voice becomes even less impactful. Hell a state with a small population like Wyoming would be ignored still. Not to mention that most suburbs are located right outside major cities, so a short drive to a campaign event is not going to bother them at all.

            • The point is that candidates for President of the United States should not spend more than 99% of their resources to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in only the 7 remaining swing states. It is indefensible. 80% of us are taken for granted.

              During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

              The point is that candidates for President of the United States should address issues of concern to each state, and give proportional attention to each state.
              Successful candidates for every other office in the country proportionally allocate their polling, organizing, and ad spending.

              In Ohio—the single state that received over a quarter (73 of 253) of all of the 2012 general-election campaign events (and a similar fraction of advertising expenditures), the candidates campaigned in various parts of the state essentially in proportion to its population.

              ? The 4 biggest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Ohio have 53.9% of the state’s population and received 52.1% of the state’s 73 campaign events in 2012—slightly less than their share of the population (but very close to their percentage of the population). They voted 54% Democratic.

              ? The 7 medium-sized metro areas have 23.6% of the state’s population and received 23.3% of the campaign events—almost exactly in proportion of their population. They voted 52% Democratic.

              ? The 53 remaining counties (that is, the rural counties lying outside the state’s 11 MSAs) have 22% of the state’s population and received 25% of the campaign events—slightly more than their share of the population (but very close to their percentage of the population). They voted 58% Republican

              In a nationwide election, as in statewide elections for governor and U.S. Senators, and elections for President in battleground states, candidates would campaign everywhere in proportion to the number of votes.

            • Again, you prove the very opposite. Individual states shouldn’t be on the RADAR of the federal government. If the federal government didn’t tax so much (25% of the GDP), the states could tax more and spend more according to the values of people in the individual states. As it is, there is little room left for the states to tax so they must lobby the federal government for funds. This isn’t the idea of limited government that this nation is supposed to have. It’s what this nation was founded on. The Constitution limits the government. The Bill of Rights lists rights we have that aren’t to be infringed. Free speech, etc.

            • A survey of Wyoming voters showed 69% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

              Support for a national popular vote in the other most rural states: VT–75%, ME–77%, WV–81%, MS–77%, SD–75%, AR–80%, MT–72%, KY–80%, NH–69%, IA–75%,SC–71%, NC–74%, TN–83%, OK–81%, AK–70%, ID–77%, WI–71%, MO–70%, and NE–74%.

              80% of us (including the 10 most rural states) that are politically irrelevant now, cannot become “less impactful.”

              The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

    • It isn’t right to say that most states aren’t politically relevant. They need the electoral votes from those states just as much as any. It’s just that a Republican knows they aren’t going to win California, so they don’t bother. California voted 60% for Obama, Washington and Oregon voted for Obama in higher percentages yet. One of them voted 70% for Obama. Similarly, there are states where Democrats won’t win. The concentration needs to be in the states that can realistically go either way. To do otherwise would be strategically unsound, not to mention a huge waste of money.

      That you talk of states which are battleground states receiving more grants and exemptions from laws proves nothing other than that government is just too involved in everything. Everyone is trying to suck at the government teat rather than being self sufficient. We need to get over this sense of entitlement in this country.

      • States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.

        During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

        The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 38+ states and their voters. 10 of the original 13 states are ignored now. 80% of states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

        The political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows, is that when and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

        With National Popular Vote,every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.

  3. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The National Popular Vote bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote.com

    • If that happened, you’d get even more of the ignoring of states that you think is so detrimental. The states on Atlantic and Pacific would be the only ones paid any attention to.

      • A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

        The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

        With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

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