Tuesday, September 02, 2008

back to the future? on state and national polls

The polls currently favor Obama by 4 to 6 points, a significant if not overwhelming lead, although they will likely close a bit after the Republican convention. But the Electoral College map remains very tight, with only a small shift producing a McCain victory. This is not an aberration, but an inevitable consequence of Obama's substantial lead in a number of large states (California, New York, Illinois) while McCain holds narrower, but still significant leads, in many of the smaller- and medium-sized ones.

No one wants to talk about it, but the divergence above raises at least some possibility of another 2000-like situation, with one candidate (more likely Obama) winning the popular vote and another (more likely McCain) winning the Electoral College. It's not likely, but it's far from impossible. Since a close election almost inevitably involves one or more disputed states--and there has already been talk of vote suppression, inflated vote totals, etc.--the potential for another Florida-style meltdown is equally real.

It's hard to plan for the unexpected, and obviously both sides will try to win the popular and electoral votes. But wouldn't it be responsible to give some advance thought to the problem? Perhaps to a compromise or coalition government rather than a repeat of the 2000 fiasco? As long as we retain the sectional divisions that we now have, this is going to be a real problem, and worthy of serious thought.


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