The Corner

2016 vs. 2000

In the New York Times, two liberals argue that Democrats should be fighting Trump in the Electoral College because that’s what Republicans would be doing if their situations were reversed.

How can we be so certain? This is what happened in 2000. When Florida was still undecided after election night, the Republicans didn’t leave their fate in the hands of individuals or third-party candidates. No, they recruited former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to direct efforts on behalf of George W. Bush. They framed their project as protecting Mr. Bush’s victory rather than counting votes. They were clear, consistent and forceful, with the biggest names in Republican politics working the process. . . .

Fast forward to 2016, and the Democrats are doing nothing of the sort. Instead, they are leaving the fight to academics and local organizers who seem more horrified by a Trump presidency than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

Both parties mobilized in 2000, not just the Republicans, and they did so because the vote margin was so incredibly small. In the end, Bush won by 537 votes in one state. To keep Trump from winning 270 electors, you’d have to erase a combined lead of more than 77,000 votes in three states. That’s a small number as a percentage of all voters nationally. But it’s still too large to be realistically overcome. If Clinton and Obama aren’t joining this kamikaze mission, it’s not because they’re sanguine about Trump. It’s because they understand the numbers and what they mean.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.