In fairness, national polls between Romney and Obama matter almost as much as the overall popular vote in November — i.e., not at all. The next president will not be decided by one national winner-take-all contest but by about a dozen simultaneous winner-take-all state contests. So, thanks to the Electoral College, only swing states’ polls actually help predict the outcome of the race.
The best site for aggregate polling data is realclearpolitics.com, and their electoral map is pretty much where it’s at. RCP currently has Obama wielding 251 electoral votes and Romney 181, leaving 106 contested votes. Obama only needs to win 20 of those votes to secure the presidency.
Statistically, that’s likely. Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina may well be midnight holdouts on November 6, but with only a month to go a simply ruinous presidential scandal would have to emerge to prevent Obama from securing a second term. But the numbers of Romney and Obama supporters are no more than 5% different. Why should the outcome of the election be so one-sided?
For a moment, let’s take Alexander Hamilton’s half-joking argument from the constitutional convention seriously, abolish the fifty states and make one United State of America. If only for the purposes of electing a president, this way the true majority choice of the nation would wield executive power with no provincial aberrations in vote counting. The popular vote and electoral vote would be much more closely aligned. This is tempting but shortsighted. A better way to achieve a more equitable electoral college is not to abolish individual states’ votes but further subdivide them.
Federalism makes change slow and governance more difficult, and that means it also keeps people insulated from the effects of biennial regime changes. Maine and Nebraska proportionally distribute their electoral votes by congressional district, but they are not swing states and not the norm. Nevertheless, more states should take the proportional approach. (It would indeed have to be a state-by-state movement as they decide electoral vote distribution, not the federal government.)
I really like the ninth and tenth amendments, and they seem to be popular globally now as well. Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain have devolved considerably to interior regions, and Kenya just overhauled their constitution to give more power to local districts. A smaller block of fewer people effecting political changes is necessarily more democratic. That’s the goal, right?
I could have voted in either California or Illinois this year, two solidly Democratic states. I have no intention to vote for either Romney or Obama, so technically my vote would not have ‘mattered’ in either state anyway, but I would feel much better knowing that either Orange or DuPage County could conceivably be affected by my vote. After all, the president is the only elected office that matters.