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The probability of one candidate winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote has never been this high.When Romney trounced Obama in the first debate, his poll numbers surged across national polls.
But Obama’s lead — although it was diminished — remained in the swing states.
In fact, Obama also had strong leads in states that already put him over the 270 limit.
Were the President to maintain his lead in Ohio, New Hampshire, and Nevada — in essence, to just stop losing ground in the states he’s got a firm hold on — he’d win anyway.
Charlie Cook, the political guru behind the Cook Political Report, explored the idea in a National Journal column Thursday. “Romney’s scar tissue in swing states,” he says, is “the damage inflicted on him by negative ads funded by the Obama campaign and Priorities USA.”
But here’s the kicker: Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reports a bunch of scenario stats that he learns from his simulations that don’t get a lot of coverage. The most interesting ones as of today are these:
- Recount (One or more decisive states within 0.5 percentage points): 9.8 per cent
- Obama wins popular vote but loses electoral college: 1.9 per cent
- Romney wins popular vote but loses electoral college: 5.2 per cent
Because of mutual exclusivity, this means that the total probability of the general case — one candidate wins the popular vote but loses the election — is a whopping 7.1 per cent.
That’s a one-in-fourteen chance that this election ends in a positively brutal fashion. A majority of voters who didn’t vote for the president. A multi-billion dollar campaign that ends in a Pyrrhic victory. An elected president without a mandate to govern.
Huge portions of the country already doubt, for whatever reason, the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency despite the decisive 2008 win. Were Romney to win this way, echos of 2000 and the controversial Bush victory would boil over again.
If this happened, it’s doubtful the country — with two of the past four presidential elections denying the popular vote — could sustain the current process. And the new administration wouldn’t have a mandate to govern.
So it’s easy to see why both candidates want a clean win, and why they’re trying to grab up the support of undecided voters all over. It’s crucial to remember that, by the end of this, the prize of victory is actually governing the country. Without a sweep of the popular and electoral vote, that will not be possible.
Watch the video below to see the candidates’ possible paths to victory.
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