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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Help Massachusetts Democrats Do Something Phenomenally Stupid!



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As a general rule, I think messing around with the Electoral College is a bad idea. Making the presidential race simply a popular vote ensures that many states, and in fact, vast swaths of the country, will be irrelevant to the contest. The current system, for all of its flaws, requires a candidate to win a somewhat diverse batch of states.

But if you want Republican presidential candidates to have an advantage in the coming cycles, by all means, do what you can to help out this effort in Massachusetts:

The state Legislature is poised to give final approval this week to a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote.

Both the House and Senate have approved the National Popular Vote bill. Final enactment votes are needed in both chambers, however, before the bill goes to the governor’s desk . . . Governor Deval Patrick’s press office didn’t immediately return a message this morning seeking comment on whether he would sign the bill, if it makes its way to his desk.

Under the proposed law, all 12 of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally.

Despite Scott Brown’s win, Massachusetts remains a heavily Democratic state, particularly in presidential elections. Obama took 62 percent of the vote in 2008; local guy John Kerry won 61.9 percent in 2004; Al Gore won 59.9 percent in 2000; Bill Clinton won 61.5 percent in 1996 and 47.5 percent in 1992 (Perot took 22.7 percent); local guy Michael Dukakis won 53 percent in 1988. The last time a Republican won the state was Reagan in 1984, with 51.2 percent.

Anything is possible, but it is most likely that Massachusetts will be heavily Democratic for quite a while. But it’s not that unthinkable that a Republican will win the popular vote in 2012 or 2016 or 2020 or at some point; under this law, Massachusetts’s 12 electoral votes would go to that Republican candidate, not the Democrat who actually won the most votes in the state.

Beyond that, why would any candidate of either party waste a moment campaigning at all Massachusetts? Better to do your best in the other 49 states. Under this law, candidates wouldn’t even have to pretend to care about winning Massachusetts.

Enacting this law would be one of the most epically self-destructive acts in modern American politics. Go for it, Massachusetts Democrats!

UPDATE: A reader writes in that the legislation would only go into effect once enough states to get 270 electoral votes have enacted similar bills, a point echoed by Stateline.org: “The proposal — being pushed in legislatures around the country by an organization called National Popular Vote — wouldn’t take effect until enough states have passed identical legislation.”

The Globe didn’t bother to mention that point.


Tags: Deval Patrick


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