How frustrated were you Tuesday night?
I hope you have been reading these columns for each of the past 12 weekends and realize that the Electoral College doesn’t protect federalism or grant extra power to smaller states. Tuesday night proved that it merely turns presidential elections into a game won by narrowing your focus to the undecided voters of a dozen states.
Barack Obama’s team created a machine that increased turnout among voters likely to support him in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and Florida - although we may never know who officially won Florida. How is it possible that Florida can be home to NASA and launch rockets, but they can’t count votes?
The Obama ground game mobilized minorities, women and young people at levels that indicate the excitement over his candidacy was the same as it was in 2008. For months, polls consistently showed enthusiasm for Obama had waned due to four years of battling a tough economy, high unemployment and higher gas prices.
But instead of wringing their hands, the Obama campaign mobilized to reach the people they needed to fill the gap.
They didn’t come to Kansas. They knew Kansas was lost. They didn’t go to California. The left coast was in the bag.
They mobilized in 12 swing states and won a second term in the White House.
In one sense, you can praise the effort. They saw a problem and solved it. But when you see that effort is only required in about a dozen states, it has to show you that the Electoral College needs to be reformed.
As soon as the time came to close Kansas polls, the race was called.
The same was true in all of the red and blue states.
People who arrived at polling places to cast ballots near closing time were still in line when the major networks awarded their states’ Electoral votes.
In 2016, whoever the becomes the Republican candidate will already have Kansas on his side of the equation even though he won’t plan any visits here or spend a dime on ad campaigns.
No great political machines will be activated to get out the Kansas vote. The state is as red as they come. A dozen Republicans in a row have received electoral votes in Kansas. Barring another culturally significant event like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the next dozen candidates can count on similar support.
That consistency may be good, however, it allows candidates to take the state for granted.
Thanks to the Electoral College’s winner-take-all system, Kansas is just another flat piece of land the candidates fly over on their way to campaign stops.
According to Nate Silver - who became the first ever celebrity pollster thanks to attacks on his methodology that were proven false Tuesday - Mitt Romney would have had to win the popular vote by almost 3 percent in order to secure enough Electoral votes to win the White House.
Page 2 of 2 - Silver said, “Had the popular vote been a tie - assuming that the margin in each state shifted uniformly - (Obama) would still have won re-election with 285 electoral votes, carrying Colorado and Virginia, although losing Florida and Ohio.”
In baseball, the tie goes to the runner. In presidential politics right now, a tie goes to the Democrat.
Once again, the country is fortunate not to have endured a close finish. In 2016, the nightmare scenario is far more likely when both sides field a fresh face. With no incumbents, barring a meltdown by either side, the race should be very close in those 12 swing states.
How will the GOP feel if they miss the White House again because their candidate only won the popular vote by 2 percent and the Electoral College still awards the presidency to the Democrat?
The easiest path for the Republicans to change the balance of power is by reversing losses among Hispanic voters.
But why should we keep a system that continues to treat the presidential elections as a game and force both sides to play to select audiences in order to win? Why should we allow the Electoral College to force GOP candidates to pander to undecided minorities in swing states rather than formulating policies that benefit all voters from the 50 states and the District of Columbia?
We can do better.
The Electoral College could be modified or thrown out to even the playing field.
I hope the voters who read this column for three months agreed. We will know more next week when the write-in votes are counted.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta, Kan., Gazette.