Howard Dean was on Talk of the Nation recently, unhappy with the gap between the popular vote and the electoral vote. He continues to back the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which currently has the support of eight blue states and Washington DC, with a combined electoral college vote of 132. It would go into effect when states with a total of 270+ electoral votes have agreed to it.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Republicans start pushing for this, and if the blue states that support it change their policies. Right now, the party that is philosophically in favor of the electoral college, because it is traditional and emphasizes the significance of states, seems to be at a structural disadvantage as a result of it. According to Nate Silver, Romney would have had to beat Obama by about three points in the popular vote to win the electoral college.
For anyone interested in doing away with the electoral college, this represents an opportunity to get states like Texas, Georgia, Utah, Arizona and South Carolina to sign up for the National Popular Interstate Compact. I suspect that the Swing States (Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado) are least likely to agree, as they benefit from the greater attention. Smaller red states like Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas might also be opposed, since this would mean their citizens no longer have a disproportionate influence on the outcome of the election. Currently, a voter in South Dakota counts for more than a voter in New York, because the one congressional district has three electoral votes. That would change under the compact. It’s worth noting that Hawaii, Vermont and the District of Columbia all agreed to the compact, despite giving up a smaller measure of per capita influence on the outcome of the presidential election.
Of course, Democrats might not be as agreeable to any bargains now that they have a slight edge in the swing states. It’s also entirely possible that their advantage is the result of an effective Obama campaign, which would have operated differently if the popular vote determined the presidency. One concern for presidential contenders would be the possibility that the compact would go into effect in the middle of presidential campaigns, forcing a shift to wildly different strategies. So as not to throw eventual 2016 campaigns into disarray it would make sense for any states that agree to the compact to vote to have it take effect in a later cycle. While there would be some concern that politicians who have agreed to it will change their minds if given the opportunity to do so, the compact polls well enough that voters might not appreciate those kinds of shenanigans.