Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A nightmare scenario

Last month I wrote a blog post about how a tie would be the nightmare scenario for the US Presidential election - and that, despite the long odds, there was a fair chance it could happen. This was based on Obama adding to the states won by John Kerry in 2004 by winning Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada.

Now, though, I think there should be consideration of an even bigger nightmare scenario.

With some polls putting Barack Obama as many as 14 points ahead of John McCain nationally and bookies paying out on him winning, there is a scenario that might haunt the US electorate and it is this:

What if Obama wipes the floor with John McCain in the popular vote... but fails to win enough Electoral College votes to win the election? (A point that was well made by Susan in the comments on this piece). And to be clear, I'm not talking about a narrow loss on the popular vote (which would be bad enough - see Bush v Gore 2000 or previous popular vote losses in 1876 and 1888). I'm talking about a resounding loss - say by a couple of million votes - but victory by a small margin (say, 272-266).

In that scenario, what would be "President" McCain's mandate?

By the way, as much as I don't like his biased reporting, Justin Webb makes the point - and I might even go as far as agreeing with him - that McCain probably can't win the popular vote. Which means that if he is to win, he'd win an Electoral College majority without a popular vote majority.

Saying that, we might not have to worry - it seems a majority might end up voting for John McCain after all...


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