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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 12/28/2010

The early line on 2012

By Jonathan Bernstein

I think Nate Silver's round-up of Barack Obama's reelection prospects is pretty good.  The conclusion sounds right -- that Obama is in reasonably good shape, but that it's a mistake to extrapolate from 1982 and 1994 and conclude that just because Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton followed up midterm debacles with landslides, Obama is sure to do so. 

He's right to focus on the economy as the biggest factor in a president's reelection chances -- and I think the evidence is stronger than Silver believes that economic growth, and not absolute levels of unemployment, is the key factor; see, for example, here.  He's also right that the economy isn't the only thing that matters.  If we think of Obama's approval rating as the key variable in determining whether he'll win in 2012, then we can in turn think of the economy as the most important, but not the only, factor in his approval rating.

All that said, I do have a couple of nits to pick with Silver's analysis. 

One is that, while he's correct that Obama's approval ratings have been, as he puts it, "stuck" in a narrow range for some time now, it's a mistake to conclude that, "Given how hardened partisan attitudes have become, it may be that Mr. Obama's approval ratings are liable to fluctuate within a relatively narrow range."  Does Silver really think that partisanship has increased significantly from the 1990s, when Bill Clinton ranged from a low of 37 percent to a nicely symmetrical high of 73 percent?  Has it increased from the next decade, when George W. Bush managed to range from a record high of 90 percent to a near-record low of 25 percent?  It's true that Bush never had as long a period of stasis as Obama is currently experiencing, but when events change, we're likely to get movement in approval, just as we did in the past. 

A second caveat is about GOP presidential candidates.  I don't want to say that it's impossible for a party to nominate a relatively weak candidate -- Barry Goldwater and George McGovern were, in fact, weak candidates.  But it's also important to remember that any candidate who survives the nomination process will both look a lot stronger than he or she looks now and will also, at least to some extent, have proved to actually be stronger than he or she looks now.  I'll stick with what I've been calling Beaudrot's Rule: "The first rule of 2012 General election polling is DO NOT TALK ABOUT GENERAL ELECTION POLLING UNTIL THE GENERAL."  To me, that doesn't mean not to talk about general election probabilities; it just means that approval is going to be more useful than head-to-head polling because it's impossible to assess how an out-party candidate will be seen as the nominee in advance. 

All that said, I come down about where Silver does: the 58 percent chance he quotes from Intrade sounds like a reasonable price to me.  Just remember, any bets that you make against that line should (mostly) be based on your optimism or pessimism about the economy.

Jonathan Bernstein writes about American politics, political institutions and democracy at A Plain Blog About Politics, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

By Jonathan Bernstein  | December 28, 2010; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  2012  
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Next: Democracy, deficits, and 'preemptive fiscal adjustment'

Comments

"any candidate who survives the nomination process will both look a lot stronger than he or she looks now and will also, at least to some extent, have proved to actually be stronger than he or she looks now"

I don't agree with this, though the argument would probably be about semantics, what strength really means, what looks mean and so on. Suffice it to say, the historical record contains many examples of candidates damaged if not destroyed by their party's nomination process.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 28, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Don't confuse the substitute teacher with facts, Shrink, that he may not be old enough to recall.

It is fair to assume that an R challenger will have a 40% commitment from the public and that s/he only would need to pick up 10% plus 1 vote to win. Major party challengers in America do not start from zero.

I will agree, that all else equal, the state of the economy and the perception of its movement will dominate the trials of the nominees to move ten percent+1 votes. That seems obvious to me.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 28, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Nate Silver putting Obama's chances that far above 50% at this point seem to take into account, somewhat, Silver's progressive disposition.

I mean, how realistic is it to really believe that Obama can hold OH, FL, NC, VA & PA like he did in 2008?

Those states all have turned nearly ALL GOP in their state gov'ts since 2008.

If those states also vote GOP for prez in 2012, then it does not matter who the GOP runs, Obama loses.

Posted by: kromerm | December 28, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Nate's personal political beliefs are one thing: can anyone show where his actual predictions were seriously off?

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 28, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

kromerm writes
"Nate Silver putting Obama's chances that far above 50% at this point seem to take into account, somewhat, Silver's progressive disposition."

Perhaps its not a point worth making, but the 58% figure was not Silver's, but the number set by the market - at Intrade. And we all know that markets know all...


shrink writes
"the historical record contains many examples of candidates damaged if not destroyed by their party's nomination process."

It seems to me the most recent examples are of incumbents challenged by their own party.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 28, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Any democrat who wants Obama re-elected is IRRESPONSIBLE with this nation


It is horrifying how anyone could abuse their right to vote in such a way


Obama has done virtually nothing for the economy and he has stated that his agenda is more important to him than taking care of JOBS


So one must wonder


One must wonder what these people are thinking and why they want to force an incompetent person on their fellow citizens


First, the democrats should be ALL REGISTERED

Then ALL democrats should get MONTHLY BILLS for Obama's debts - including their children - until Obama's debts are paid off.

I AM NOT PAYING FOR OBAMA'S DEFICITS


DEMOCRATS YOU PAY


IF YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA, pay his debts


LEAVE THE REST OF US OUT OF IT

DON'T EXPECT TO VOTE FOR OBAMA AND HAVE SOMEONE ELSE PAY THE BILL

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

'It is fair to assume that an R challenger will have a 40% commitment from the public"

The general public of either party? Why would you necessarily assume that? Sarah Palin, for instance, who is the most popular among the R base and could conceivably win the nomination [should she choose to run, a big if] is immensely unpopular among the general population. Even in alaska, her positives are only at 33% and her negative almost 2/3 of voters polled.

Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Everytime RFR posts something I get this horrifying image of a giantic, pudgy, red-faced, bald infant clad only in a diaper, sitting at a computer and pounding the keys with this fists, while shrieking at the top of his lungs.

Don't you?

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

fiona5-

Yep.

As soon as the Republicans pay for every cost that skyrocketed the deficit from 2000 to 2008 (when the Republicans had the checkbook), I'll pay my fair share of the rest.

Does RFR even acknowledge the fiscal irresponsibility of his fellow Republicans, or is it all (and always) the Democrats' fault?

Posted by: wiccan | December 28, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of everyone pointing back to Nate's predictions based on Intrade or current polling still misses this point ... The electoral math does NOT add up for an Obama or any Dem victory.

Clearly the GOP candidate will easily win NC, VA, FL, OH and probably PA.

The electoral votes are all that matters. Without those in the Dem category, ANY GOP candidate wins.

Posted by: kromerm | December 28, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Fiona

You are running on with your nonsense again


__________________________

Chris Matthews has become a birther


He just agreed with every reasonable American


http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/12/27/chris_matthews_why_doesnt_obama_just_release_the_birth_certificate.html


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

fiona5 at 2:22 PM


Personal attacks here are against the rules

At this point, there is no reason you should be allowed to continue to make comments

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

lol

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Wiccan

The current economic crisis is Bill Clinton's fault

Clinton deregulated derivatives

Clinton created the sub-prime mortgage program


Clinton made the Free Trade deals with China and Indonesia

Rahm Emmanuel was on the board of FREDDIE MAC

You have to be kidding

Start being responsible with your nation


If you do not love America the way it is, LEAVE, don't ruin it with Obama

Dont lash out at America

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

@kromerm - That's a pretty silly assertion just on the face of it. Electoral shifts stop just where you find it convenient?

Posted by: bernielatham | December 28, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse


Bernie


What is silly is you promising to leave


WHEN is that going to happen

You can bet Obama is not going to be allowed to CHEAT and have a 700 million dollar advantage this time

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I gather it's a pretty slow news day as putting one's finger to the wind this far out is a bit of fun but not terribly illuminating.

How about this one?

"Abstract
We explore the possibility that the US political system can usefully be characterized as oligarchic. Using a material-based definition drawn from Aristotle, we argue that oligarchy is not inconsistent with democracy; that oligarchs need not occupy formal office or conspire together or even engage extensively in politics in order to prevail; that great wealth can provide both the resources and the motivation to exert potent political influence. Data on the US distributions of income and wealth are used to construct several Material Power Indices, which suggest that the wealthiest Americans may exert vastly greater political influence than average citizens and that a very small group of the wealthiest (perhaps the top tenth of 1 percent) may have sufficient power to dominate policy in certain key areas. A brief review of the literature suggests possible mechanisms by which such influence could occur, through lobbying, the electoral process, opinion shaping, and the US Constitution itself."

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=AA86BC925EC88F1321E8CBA7723B90B1.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=6677116

Posted by: bernielatham | December 28, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

RFR-

So it is all (and always) the Democrats' fault.

"If you do not love America the way it is, LEAVE"

Backatcha, pal. You do not love America the way it is. When you leaving?

Posted by: wiccan | December 28, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

a very small group of the wealthiest (perhaps the top tenth of 1 percent) may have sufficient power to dominate policy in certain key areas.
------------------------------------------------------------
*May* have sufficient power? May?

Bwahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is this the ultimate understatement?

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 28, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

fiona5: "Everytime RFR posts something I get this horrifying image of a giantic, pudgy, red-faced, bald infant clad only in a diaper, sitting at a computer and pounding the keys with this fists, while shrieking at the top of his lungs. Don't you?"

I think you are the only regular or semi-regular poster who doesn't have RFR on "ignore" through the Troll Hunter.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | December 28, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

As I have noted before, and will note again, history has something to say here. And what it has to say is that incumbency, in the presidency, is power. And Obama is likely to win re-election without a credible primary or 3rd party challenger to muck it up.

Carter faces a primary challenger, and there is a 3rd party in the general (John Anderson, running on the Libertarian ticket--and I'd argue the fact of a 3rd party challenger hurts the incumbent, even if you'd think they'd be drawing voters from the other guy, as the 3rd party will run more against the incumbent, most of the time, than his fellow challenger). Carter lost. Gerald Ford faced a primary challenge. Lost in the general. George H.W. Bush faced a 3rd party challenge, and lost in the general. Gore, while not technically an incumbent, also faced a 3rd party challenger and just barely lost the electoral vote (by a hanging chad).

However, check the re-election campaigns of presidents who did not face primary or 3rd party challenges, and the incumbent usually wins a second term.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 28, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

'think you are the only regular or semi-regular poster who doesn't have RFR on "ignore" through the Troll Hunter. '

just haven't gotten around to it, because I have gotten used to scrolling through brigade, skipsailing, battleground, RFR, etc.... as shrink says, though, it's kind of amusing to watch their antics. yesterday brigade wnet on a rampage with 10 posts in a row fulfilling his goal in life -- which is schoolyard bully. the amount of energy spent on this effort is fascinating.

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Kevin.

Now to go off topic again, I know, I know, but this is interesting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"NEW YORK — Allstate says it has filed a federal lawsuit against Countrywide Financial Corp. over $700 million in toxic mortgage-backed securities the insurer bought in 2007, only to see their value decline rapidly.

The suit targets Countrywide, its former CEO Anthony Mozilo and other executives and Bank of America, which bought the mortgage giant in 2008.

The suit maintains that beginning in 2003, Countrywide abandoned its underwriting standards, misrepresented crucial information about the underlying mortgage loans and concealed material facts from Allstate and other investors.

The insurer says its claims are based on analysis of the loans underlying the mortgage-backed securities, internal Countrywide documents that have been made public, and complaints filed against Countrywide by the regulators, states' attorneys general and other investors.

Bank of America had no immediate comment."

Posted by: lmsinca | December 28, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

From Krugman...

"Yes, They’re Frauds
From CBPP, House Republican Rule Changes Pave the Way For Major Deficit-Increasing Tax Cuts, Despite Anti-Deficit Rhetoric:

House Republican leaders yesterday unveiled major changes to House procedural rules that are clearly designed to pave the way for more deficit-increasing tax cuts in the next two years. These rules stand in sharp contrast to the strong anti-deficit rhetoric that many Republicans used on the campaign trail this fall. While changes in congressional rules rarely get much public attention, these new rules — which are expected to be adopted by party-line vote when the 112th Congress convenes on January 5 — could have a substantial impact and risk making the nation’s fiscal problems significantly worse.
I hear that a lot of journalistic insiders were annoyed when I began calling out self-styled deficit hawks like Paul Ryan as flim-flammers. But they are; nobody, and I mean nobody, in a position of influence within the GOP cares about deficits when tax cuts for the affluent are on the line. Deficit hawkery is just a stick with which to beat down social programs."

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/yes-theyre-frauds/

Again, it is wise to keep in mind the functionality of such a political "philosophy". It isn't merely that "taxes are bad" a la the Norquist gang's extremist plaint. It's a means to defund government operations which might reduce corporate power, influence and profits.

Posted by: bernielatham | December 28, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

@fiona,

Speaking for myself only, I have Rainy blocked and no one else. After a couple of years reading Rainy's posts, I can say that he brings nothing but a kind of craziness. Even people who might agree with him politically do not interact with him.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | December 28, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Kevin,

I don't think it was the third party challenge that scuttled Bush/Quayle in 1992. In fact, the substantial Clinton/Gore lead decreased after Perot entered the race. It was the economy (although some would like to blame Pat Buchanan's "culture wars" speech at the convention, which I think Molly Ivins characterized as "better in the original German").

Posted by: bearclaw1 | December 28, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

How often, I've been wondering, did George Bush shower with Ken Mehlman?

Posted by: bernielatham | December 28, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

And what perverse things happened when Mary Cheney showered (and showers now) with other women? It almost makes the skin crawl, does it not?

Posted by: bernielatham | December 28, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

At some point the people along the coast in FL, NC and even VA aren't going to feel quite so favorably disposed to the party of global warming denial, nor will those in the forestless Mountain West or even the drought-plagued southwest and midwest. Not in 2012 (which I believe Obama will win, albeit more narrowly than in 2008) but in 2016 for sure. By then the GOP will be condemned by demographics to permanent minority status.

Posted by: Mimikatz | December 28, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

"the historical record contains many examples of candidates damaged if not destroyed by their party's nomination process."

bsimon said
It seems to me the most recent examples are of incumbents challenged by their own party.

Yes and the reason I brought that up is that I think there is a particular risk of that happening around the Tampa convention.

We've been talking about the serious fault lines in the party for some time. You have pointed out how each time in the recent past it has looked like the party will break, it reunites just a little further to the right. But the lesson of the loss to Coons and Reid, the nonsense in AK, the Barbour et al and the Old South factor, the Tea Party factions, DeMint, Armey, Rove, the Bluebloods, Gillespie, Gingrich, Palin...they all want power/money when the time comes to re-enter the White House. This isn't going to get fixed by some phone calls and a little money spread around to soothe hurt feelings. Not this time. There has to be a fight.

Anyway, I see the Republican 2012 nomination cycle as different from any other in the modern era. Republicans who don't think it matters who they nominate as much how they nominate who they nominate are not paying attention.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 28, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

fiona5: "Everytime RFR posts something I get this horrifying image of a giantic, pudgy, red-faced, bald infant clad only in a diaper, sitting at a computer and pounding the keys with this fists, while shrieking at the top of his lungs. Don't you?"

I'm thinking that RFR may be a machine--you know, on the same idea of an infinite number of monkeys banging on an infinite number of typewriters eventually accidentally reproducing the complete works of Shakespeare.

Kevin could probably tell us if such a robo-commenter is possible--put a bunch of keywords in a program along with some verbs and punctuation. You'd probably need a grammar and some rules as to how to respond to certain cues in other's posts. Push the "generate comment" button and out comes another inane missive.

I'm so grateful for the Troll Hunter!

Posted by: cheles | December 28, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

@bearclaw: "I don't think it was the third party challenge that scuttled Bush/Quayle in 1992. In fact, the substantial Clinton/Gore lead decreased after Perot entered the race. It was the economy (although some would like to blame Pat Buchanan's 'culture wars' speech at the convention, which I think Molly Ivins characterized as 'better in the original German')."

I do (believe that Perot elected Clinton), although I'm not sure Pat Buchanan's speech helped. For multiple reasons, I would argue that Perot scuttled H.W. Bush's re-election (and intended to). However, that's not actually the point of my original post. The point is that there is a regular correlation (if not causation) to credible 3rd party challengers and primary challengers. Thus, it's a lot more likely to see an incumbent lose if there are credible primary or 3rd party challengers. Otherwise, it's not likely at all.

It's as reliable as an indicator of an incumbent president's election prospect as exists; more reliable than economic indicators or wars abroad. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 28, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

@cheles: "Kevin could probably tell us if such a robo-commenter is possible--put a bunch of keywords in a program along with some verbs and punctuation."

I believe it's performance art. I don't think it's a robo-commenter. I think it's his chosen medium. I'm not sure he has a political philosophy (he might) but he also appears occasionally in his liberal personality (DrainYou). So I'm not sure if it's just a case of the medium being the message.

But . . . it's nice. I wrote one of these blockers for Ain't It Cool News, too, for a variety of reasons (including shorthand to embed images for other mod users, hilite a particular users posts, reformat things recently changed, and so on). I like Greasemonkey. And I've gotten that (and WaPo Troll Hunter) working under Safari (with SIMBL and Greasekit) and will try to get WaPo Troll Hunter working under Opera. I know it's possible it just doesn't seem to like something right now.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 28, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Also, if you're truly grateful to the troll hunter . . . make a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, or Make a Wish, or something of that nature. Show your gratitude!

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 28, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I used to see this person attempt rudimentary, almost human communication with The Fix (Cillizza). It was painful, I felt like I should have been getting paid to watch. He is not an artist, he is not a machine, he is not a group of people. Though it would be easy enough to fake, he appeared to "know" enough about Georgetown that he may be, or have been involved with the University, certainly a blot on the institution's history if true.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 28, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh and DrainYou is a different person, not this guy acting liberal. If I told you how I knew that, I'd have to kill you. ;-]

Posted by: shrink2 | December 28, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Obama supports dog-killers.

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 28, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

lol

Posted by: fiona5 | December 28, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

kromerm writes
"Clearly the GOP candidate will easily win NC, VA, FL, OH and probably PA."


Predicting the 2012 outcome based on 2010 results is as silly as predicting the 2010 outcome based on 2008 results would have been.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 28, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse


After what seemed like a lifetime of thirty-Year adjustable-rate mortgages, with monthly mortgage payments going up all the time, The "123 Mortgage Refinance" helped me to lock in a great low fixed rate of 3.16%, helping me to guarantee myself the ability to always make my mortgage payment on time with money to spare.

Posted by: arleneellis | December 29, 2010 1:21 AM | Report abuse

By 2012, The National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO– 68%, IA –75%, MI– 73%, MO– 70%, NH– 69%, NV– 72%, NM– 76%, NC– 74%, OH– 70%, PA — 78%, VA — 74%, and WI — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ME — 77%, NE — 74%, NH –69%, NV — 72%, NM — 76%, RI — 74%, and VT — 75%; in Southern and border states: AR –80%, KY — 80%, MS –77%, MO — 70%, NC — 74%, and VA — 74%; and in other states polled: CA — 70%, CT — 74% , MA — 73%, MN – 75%, NY — 79%, WA — 77%, and WV- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR (6), CT (7), DE (3), DC (3), ME (4), MI (17), NV (5), NM (5), NY (31), NC (15), and OR (7), and both houses in CA (55), CO (9), HI (4), IL (21), NJ (15), MD (10), MA(12), RI (4), VT (3), and WA (11). The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, and WA. These 7 states possess 76 electoral votes — 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

Posted by: mvymvy | December 29, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

mvymvy, it would have to also withstand a court challenge (since the formal amendment process is being circumvented).

Posted by: clawrence12 | December 29, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes were eventually enacted by 48 states AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 30 ballots for choosing a method): "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

The winner-take-all method is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state's electoral votes.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district -- a reminder that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not required to change the way the President is elected.

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

Posted by: mvymvy | December 30, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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