If one were to seriously contemplate the outcome of next week’s presidential election by considering nothing more than the daily deluge of the top eight or ten polling organizations, it would surely make one’s head explode. But there are two factors which make the state and national polls more than a little suspect: the “enthusiasm factor” and the minority vote.
There is no doubt that the crowds that show up for Trump rallies are significantly larger than those that attend Clinton rallies. If Clinton is able to attract 1,000 people to a campaign rally in a major city, Trump would draw 10,000, or more. The same is true of the Tim Kaine and Mike Pence rallies. On one occasion in the past week, Donald Trump drew some 12,000 at a rally in the upper Midwest, while just 30 people showed up for a Kaine rally in South Florida.
A photograph now circulating on the Internet shows a jam-packed crowd at a Clinton rally. The wall behind the dais is festooned with a large American flag, along with banners proclaiming “Clinton-Kaine” and “Stronger Together.” However, upon closer inspection it is easy to see that the photograph of the crowd has been “constructed.” One female member of the crowd appears at least thirteen times in the photo, another woman appears at least five times, and a young man in a T-shirt appears six times. There are additional multiple photos of other individuals.
Pundits tend to agree that there is a legitimate “enthusiasm factor” in the Trump and Clinton campaigns, but they tend to downplay the magnitude, predicting that it is likely to be no more than two percentage points. I disagree. I would estimate that the number of people who hesitate to express their support for Trump… either to pollsters or to friends, relatives, and co-workers… represents at least two percent of his potential voters, while the number of people in various pro-Democrat constituencies who plan not to vote for Hillary, but who try to avoid the stigma of being anti-Hillary, represent at least two percent of her supporters.
Within the minority community, we have not seen a presidential election in the past fifty or sixty years in which there was less enthusiasm for the Democrat candidate and more enthusiasm for the Republican candidate than there is in the 2016 campaign. No Republican candidate in living memory has been willing to publicly challenge black voters in the same way that Trump does, asking unabashedly, “What in the hell do you have to lose?”
Inasmuch as blacks represent approximately thirteen percent of the US population, it is easy to see how they would have provided nearly thirteen percent of the Obama vote in 2008 and 2012. However, it is important to note that, in 2000 and 2004, when Obama was not on the ballot, blacks provided only eleven percent of the total Democratic vote. The New York Times has reported that, while blacks represented twenty-five percent of the early votes in Florida in 2012, Obama’s last campaign, they represent only fifteen percent of the early votes to date in 2016. A number of reports published just four days before the 2016 election, tell us that Trump is now attracting some twenty percent of the black vote nationwide.
Mega TV, a San Juan-based network with studios in Key West and Miami, has reported that, in the past two months, in response to Obama’s announced intention to normalize relations with the Castro regime in Cuba, Trump’s support within the Cuban-American community has grown by twenty percentage points. These developments in the minority community cannot be good news for the Clinton campaign.
Swing states aside, if Clinton wins (electoral votes in parentheses) the twenty-two blue states of California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (20), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (12), and Wisconsin (10), she will have 257 electoral votes, just thirteen votes short of an electoral majority.
However, if Trump wins the twenty-three traditionally red states of Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Georgia (16), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska, (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3), he will have just 191 electoral votes, seventy-nine votes short of an electoral majority. Trump would then have to win the electoral votes of Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), and Virginia (13) in order to be elected. Of these, if he were to lose only Colorado’s nine votes, he could still win election with 272 electoral votes.
But this is not an election that lends itself well to electoral norms. As matters now stand, just three days before the General Election, it appears as if Trump might win the electoral votes of Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4), with an outside chance of winning Pennsylvania’s twenty electoral votes. If he could do that, he could afford to lose both North Carolina and Virginia to Clinton and still win election with 274 votes, four votes more than a simple majority.
It is a close enough contest to prevent any but the most reckless gamblers from betting the house or the farm on the outcome. If Clinton should manage to win the 257 blue state electoral votes, along with the thirteen electoral votes of Virginia, she would have 270 electoral votes, a simple majority in the Electoral College. But even then, all is not lost. On the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December… December 19, 2016… the members of the Electoral College will meet in their respective state capitals to cast their votes for president and vice president. It is then that the 538 members of the Electoral College will have an opportunity to fulfill the purpose of the Electoral College as intended by the Framers, and as described in Federalist Paper No. 68.
The Founders had some very specific reasons for creating the Electoral College. Aside from their insistence that the president and vice president be elected by the states, and not by a direct vote of the people or by the state legislative bodies, their primary concern was that a foreign power might one day attempt to achieve through corruption and political intrigue, that which they could not achieve on the battlefield. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68, “These most deadly adversaries of republican government (cabal, intrigue, etc.) might come from many quarters, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
Does this not describe, perfectly, the nexus between Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and the activities of the Clinton Foundation?
And although the Founders felt it imperative that the “sense of the people” should be a principal factor in the selection of presidents and vice presidents, they were uncomfortable with the notion of placing that responsibility in the hands of Congress because of the prospect… if not the probability… of undue influence being placed on the selection process because of long-standing friendships and/or alliances in Congress.
The alternative they settled on was the Electoral College, an independent body consisting of citizens selected solely for the purpose of selecting the president and vice president… the manner in which presidential electors were chosen being left solely and exclusively to the legislatures of the various states. Neither the governors of the states, nor the courts, federal or state, were given any jurisdiction whatsoever in the selection process.
As Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68, “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”
In other words, it is the constitutional duty of the 538 members of the Electoral College to select from among their fellow citizens, a president and vice president who are qualified to hold those offices and who are in possession of the “qualities adapted to the station.” The pool from which they must choose are individuals who are: a) natural born citizens, b) at least 35 years of age, and c) residents of the United States for at least 14 years. And while twenty-four states have laws requiring electors to vote only for those candidates receiving a majority of the popular vote within their respective states, it is impossible to believe that electors should ever be required to vote for a president or a vice president who clearly does not possess the honesty, the integrity, or the public trust necessary to such high office… especially one who is judged by a substantial majority of citizens to be corrupt and untrustworthy.
In the present case, Hillary Clinton won just 60.4% of the 4,707 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Her principal opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) won primaries and caucuses in twenty-three states, winning 39.6% of the delegates… making it reasonable to assume that roughly 40% of the Democratic members of the Electoral College are Sanders supporters.
If Hillary Clinton should manage to eke out what would result in a slim victory in the Electoral College on November 8, Republicans would have forty-one days in which to convince enough Sanders partisans in the Electoral College to write in Bernie Sanders’ name on their electoral ballots… throwing the election into the House of Representatives where Donald Trump would be certain to prevail. The stakes are far too great not to pull out all the stops. As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Republican leaders only need to develop a bit of backbone.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.