The Richmond Register

November 3, 2012

Your vote counts more than you think

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT – If you’re looking for predictions about Tuesday, you’ve come to the wrong place. I don’t know who will be elected president or if Republicans will take control of the Senate.

I am confident Mitt Romney will easily win Kentucky.

Romney is such an overwhelming favorite that some partisans on both sides may not feel excited about voting. But even with an Electoral College system of electing presidents (we really have 50 rather than one presidential election), those who feel strongly about either Romney or Barack Obama should vote Tuesday.

Given the closeness of the race nationally, it’s not inconceivable we could see some sort of a 2000 repeat where one candidate wins the popular vote but loses the Electoral College. If the Electoral College tally is close enough, there will be talk of recounts and challenges in some states where the vote is especially close.

Then the popular vote total will be more important and, whichever side wins, that vote will argue its candidate should be president. But if the narrow Electoral College winner also has a few more votes nationally, he is more likely to be viewed as the “legitimate” winner.

Actually, under our system a surprising number of presidents have been elected with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. Many only won a plurality of votes. For instance, Bill Clinton got less than 50 percent of the vote in 1992 when Ross Perot staged a fairly vigorous third-party candidacy, but Clinton got more votes than Perot or George H.W. Bush, and he easily won the Electoral College.

That’s the system we have; those are the rules and both sides plan their campaigns accordingly. As one Democratic wag said to an unhappy Republican friend of mine after the 1992 election: “No, Clinton didn’t get 50 percent of the votes. But he won 100 percent of the White House.”

Of course there’s another longshot possibility – a tie in the Electoral College. If that happens, the House of Representatives will choose the president and the Senate will choose the vice president. Republicans are almost certain to hold onto the majority in the House, and surprisingly, Democrats may retain control of the Senate. If that happens and the Electoral College is a tie, we could end up with a President Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden.

So whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you should vote Tuesday to strengthen the argument of your party and candidate in case of a disputed election. Such a disputed election is not likely, but it’s not impossible.

If Democrats hold on to the Senate majority, Kentucky’s senior senator, Mitch McConnell, will twice have missed attainment of his longtime goal of becoming Majority Leader. Six months ago, a Republican takeover looked all but certain.

But the Republican Party has tilted so far to the right that moderate senators like Indiana’s Dick Lugar can’t survive their primaries. Lugar would have been easily re-elected in the fall when Democrats and independents are part of the electorate. But Republican nominees like Richard Mourdock in Indiana and Todd Akin in Missouri will have a very hard time winning the general election.

Two years ago, I asked McConnell if he was concerned by the rightward lurch of his party, if perhaps it wouldn’t be wise for leading Republicans to do then what William F. Buckley did in the 1960s when Buckley called out the backers of the John Birch Society.

“You’re just being an alarmist,” McConnell answered with a smile.

Now it’s McConnell who’s alarmed about the prospects Democrats may retain control of the Senate.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.