Simple Math Doesn’t Apply in Presidential Elections Maddow

Although I will watch Rachel Maddow from time to time, I know I irritate many of my followers on Twitter because I generally do not like her as a political pundit. I know many of my followers are enthralled with her intelligence and style and I don’t fault anyone who feels that way. However, for myself I don’t share that much adulation for her. I never quite forgave her for her punditry in 2010 that I thought was dismissive of President Obama for not giving her all she wanted and as a result possibly reduced left wing turnout in that midterm resulting in the GOP taking the House. What’s more, I’m not all that crazy about her style. I accept she’s a progressive and is certainly left leaning; however, she often bores me to tears with her 15 minute introduction for a five minute interview or spot. She strikes me as someone who likes the sound of her own voice. Whether that person be liberal, conservative or moderate I think if you’re going to be a pundit presenting a salient point, get right to it. Maddow tends to repeat the same point over and over again just rephrasing the point she already made before getting to the final gist of her story. 

Recently I was listening to her trying to dismiss the whole concept that Donald Trump could be a spoiler in the 2016 election by making a comparison to what she described as a false narrative from the Republicans and Bush Sr. people that Ross Perot was a spoiler responsible for Bill Clinton beating him in that race. Although she took over ten minute to describe her reasoning, I’ll do it in one simple paragraph. 

Nationally, Perot had 19% of the vote. Exit interviews nationally showed that of his voters, 38% would have voted for Clinton, 38% would have voted for Bush and the rest wouldn’t have voted at all. Taking those numbers into consideration there is no way Perot took enough votes away from Bush to allow Clinton to win. 

Well, election results aren’t that simple. The major flaw in her reasoning is that she’s making her assumption on a national level. In this country, each state and the District of Columbia based on their popular vote have a certain number of Electoral College votes to send to DC to elect the president. In 1992 the winner of each state and the District of Columbia sent all their Electoral College votes to the man who won. In 1992 (nationally) Bill Clinton took 43.01% of the popular vote earning 370 Electoral College votes, George Bush took 37.45% of the popular vote earning 168 Electoral College votes and Ross Perot took 18.91% earning 0 Electoral College votes. 

You can’t rely on the popular vote, exit polling or national percentiles to determine who wins the Presidency. Ask President Gore. 

When you break the vote down to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the percentiles for all three vary significantly. Further, there is no accounting for individual exit polling examining what each Perot voter would have done had he not been on the ballot. Some very key states had Clinton and Bush very close to each other with the Perot vote also making a significant impact. In fact in Maine (that went to Clinton) Perot came in second place. 

I looked at the numbers and found thirteen states that went to Clinton where the margin between him and Bush were not only close, the percentile of votes for Perot were high enough that if just over half of them had gone toward Bush Sr., he could have narrowly won those states. The states were:

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Georgia

Kentucky

Maine

Michigan

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

Ohio

Oregon

Wisconsin  

Had all these states gone to Bush instead of Clinton, 124 Electoral College votes would have changed hands resulting in Bush getting 292 votes to Clinton’s 246 and Bush winning a second term. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1992

Now of course this depends on how the Perot voters would have responded in each of those thirteen states. However I guarantee that how they would have responded would have varied in each state and not necessarily according to the national exit polling of 38% Bush, 38% Clinton and the rest not voting at all. It is conceivable that were it not for Perot, George H W Bush would have had a second term. 

I’m glad that Clinton won but I also recognize Ross Perot very well could have had an impact on this win. To not give him credit for this is disingenuous and serves no purpose if we want to live in reality. For the same reason, I also believe that Trump running as a Third Party Candidate will guarantee the White House to whomever the Democratic Nominee is, unless it’s Jim Webb. 

Finally, reading this takes less time than listening to Rachel droning on and on over something she is most likely wrong on.

2 thoughts on “Simple Math Doesn’t Apply in Presidential Elections Maddow

  1. Yes, simple math does not apply.

    From what little she muttered about Perot’s Electoral College reasoning, I think she was dismissing the possible situation in which no candidate gets a majority of the electoral votes. With the current system, the election of the President would be thrown into the U.S. House (with each state casting one vote) and the election of the Vice President would be thrown into the U.S. Senate. Congress would decide the election, regardless of the popular vote in any state or throughout the country.

    To avoid that possibility, the National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). All the 270+ electoral votes from all the states enacting the bill would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

    Presidential elections don’t have to continue to be dominated by and determined by a handful of swing states besieged with attention, while most of the country is politically irrelevant.

    In 2012, more than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states. There are only expected to be 7 remaining swing states in 2016.

    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), ensured that the candidates in 2012, after the conventions, ignored 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    In 2004: “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out . . . that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [in the then] 18 battleground states.” There were only 10 battleground states in 2012.

    Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said:
    “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

    “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.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter equally in every presidential election.
    The bill has passed a total of 33 legislative chambers in 22 states.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes—61% of the 270 electoral votes necessary to activate it.

    see the NationalPopularVote website

    • Indeed, the electoral college system is antiquated and enacting a system where the national leader must convince a majority of the nation as a whole will result in a POTUS far more attune to the nation, not individual swing states.

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