Photo: Generated on 270toWin.com
Essentially, here’s what would happen.
Provided that there are no faithless electors — people selected for the Electoral College who disregard the popular vote in their state and vote for the opponent — the election would be decided in Congress, when each state delegation votes and allocates one vote to a candidate.
The first one to amass 26 votes wins.
Here’s the issue a lot of people are talking about.
What if Obama wins the popular vote and the electoral college is tied?
Based on the breakdown of state delegations, and provided there aren’t too many unexpected results on November 6 with congressional elections, Mitt Romney would win the vote in the house of Representatives.
David Frum at The Daily Beast raises that question:
This moves us beyond Bush v. Gore territory into someplace even more contested and more frightening. And whereas 2000 was a low-intensity election involving a Democratic [candidate] not hugely beloved by his own party base, a House contest in 2012 would unleash every passion in the American political system.
If Obama wins the popular but ties the electoral, would it even be feasible for the House of Representative to appoint the loser of the popular vote to be president, politically speaking?
That would make the second Republican elected president in four cycles who lost the popular vote. And with the congressional approval rating at an insulting 10 per cent, would the result be considered legitimate?
Here’s another aspect. In the lame-duck session of Congress, the House and Senate will have to make a decision on the Fiscal Cliff. Ezra Klein tweeted this this morning:
If Obama wins the electoral college but loses the popular vote, the fiscal cliff is going to be an insane mess
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) October 22, 2012
And he's right. Not taking action on the fiscal cliff — a deadly economic cocktail of 10 percent across-the-board government spending cuts coupled with the expiration of tax cuts in each bracket — could prompt a worsening recession. If Congress is stuck in a vicious battle to figure out who is the next president, this doesn't end well.
It gets even worse. FiveThirtyEight pegs the odds of a recount in a decisive state at 10.2 percent at this point. That factor could extenuate the circumstances even more.
Here's one of the most interesting ideas here, though, and it comes from an alternate-history 2000 election, where Al Gore won the electoral college and George Bush won the popular vote: An article by the Daily News from several days before the 2000 election has been making the rounds about the Bush plan in case this happened. There shouldn't be any doubt that this contingency plan would be in effect in every campaign today:
So what if Gore wins such crucial battleground states as Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania and thus captures the magic 270 electoral votes while Bush wins the overall nationwide popular vote?
"The one thing we don't do is roll over," says a Bush aide. "We fight."
How? The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course.
The Bush campaign planned for a populist uprising in the event that this happened. Luckily for them, they came out on the other side of election day in the much stronger position, and didn't have to implement it.
Here was the plan:
Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. "You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asks a Bush adviser.
The universe of people who would be targeted by this insurrection is small - the 538 currently anonymous folks called electors.
So, assuming the campaigns have this contingency plan as well, there's no reason November 6 is the end of this election. Maybe there's a tie. There could be a heavily contested congressional fight that would last weeks. There could be a fiscal cliff catastrophe. There could be an astroturf uprising against the electoral college.
But there might not be a President.
Watch the video below to see the candidates' paths to victory and how the scenario above could be avoided.
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