Although history and this column have argued that the popular vote and the electoral vote usually go in the same direction (that’s what happened in 53 of 56 presidential elections), today, Romney’s national popular-vote situation is different than his Electoral College challenge. Romney’s scar tissue in swing states—the damage inflicted on him by negative ads funded by the Obama campaign and Priorities USA, targeting Bain Capital, plant closings, layoffs, outsourcing, income taxes, and bank accounts in Bermuda, the Caymans, and Switzerland—is still a huge problem. This is compounded by the fact that before the ads aired, voters knew very little about Romney; because of that, they had no positive feelings or perceptions to help him weather the assault. As a result, the attacks stuck as if he were covered in Velcro. Hence, the swing states, many of which have endured saturation advertising since June (73,000 ads in Las Vegas alone), behave differently than the fortysomething other states that have seen little advertising.
The House then elects the new president based on how a majority of state delegations vote. In other words, one state, one vote. For instance, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is the only House member from Alaska. He makes up the entire House delegation. Presumably, Young would vote for Mitt Romney. Democrats hold a significant advantage in California’s 53 House seats. So it’s expected that California would vote for President Obama.
The key here is that the winning candidate must secure 26 of the 50 state delegations in the House.
With the election more than two weeks away, it’s not possible to know the precise breakdowns of state Congressional delegations in the Congress that convenes in January. But it appears that Republicans should control 28 delegations with Democrats only slated to have the majority in 12. The other 10 states are toss-ups. For instance, Colorado has seven House members. Four are Republicans and three are Democrats. However, Democrats are trying to unseat both Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Scott Tipton (R-CO). By the same token, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) faces a challenging re-election bid. So it’s unclear which party will have a majority in that delegation. Other states with fuzzy majorities are Nevada, Arizona,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and perhaps Illinois. Some like New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Nevada could have splits between Democratic and Republican House members.
Regardless, there should be a GOP majority in the House that puts Mitt Romney in the driver’s seat if the electoral college is a tie.