Sunday, October 24, 2004

Winning the Popular Vote, but Losing the Election

Regarding the possiblity of one candidate winning the popular vote but losing the election, I distinctly remember telling a colleague, "Ain't gonna happen" last time. My reasoning then was that there are a good number of states which historically mirror the national vote percentages. Thus if one candidate wins the popular vote by more than, say, one percent, he wins all of these states as well as all of the states that go to his party even if the popular vote isn't close, ensuring him the electoral college victory. And we all know that there is a low probability of the popular vote being that close.

Well, I was both right and wrong. That is, as we all know, Bush did win the electoral college and lose the popular vote. But he only lost the popular vote by .5%. So the analysis may have actually been basically right. The popular vote being that close may have been a fluke.

What does that say about this time? It says we will see one candidate winning the popular vote but losing the election only if

1) The popular vote is very close again, or

2) The historical pattern of a good number of states mirroring the national vote total fails to hold.

Both of these, I believe, are low probability events.