The grim parenthetical at the end of the title question suggests the answer is not one many readers are going to want to contemplate. Nevertheless, the reality is that two obstacles stand in the way of the next Republican presidential nominee winning the 270 electoral votes necessary to become president — three if you include the view that the question is one most conservative activists seldom ask themselves.
1. No compromising on core principles
Conservative Republicans uphold their conservative principals as a shiny badge of honor never to be tarnished. I too am a conservative Republican. However, I think the same way as Ronald Reagan who, when trying to get legislation passed in 1983, said the following:
I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want.
Sadly, I agree with former Senator and 1996 GOP Presidential Nominee Bob Dole, who appeared this past May on Fox News Sunday to discuss the growing conservative tilt among Republican primary and base voters when he stated that, “Reagan wouldn’t have made it” in today’s Republican Party.
And that might actually be true, for at the RedState Gathering, which I attended this past week, I listened to speeches from a parade of Republican congressman, senators and governors, one only of whom mentioned the C word, (compromise). That was Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), and he mentioned it in the context of discussing his membership in No Labels, a growing, bipartisan group that is trying to forge compromise in order to pass legislation on economic issues and is not looked upon kindly by longtime party loyalists.
But instead of the word compromise, all I ever hear is “we must fight hard to uphold the principles of conservatism.” Don’t get me wrong. I too believe in fighting for less government, less regulation, balanced budgets, lower taxes, more personal responsibility, traditional family values, repeal and then repair Obamacare, maximizing our abundant energy resources, cutting all the waste, fraud and abuse from the entitlement programs to preserve them for the truly needy as they were originally intended, a strong national defense, and a favorable business climate that encourages entrepreneurs and investment.
However, because conservatives are an ever-shrinking minority within the electorate, it is imperative that we nominate a presidential candidate (and other leaders) who can attract moderate voters by stating that he or she, like Reagan, is willing to accept a “half loaf instead of a whole” in order to solve the difficult issues facing our nation.
Otherwise, we will remain where we are now, locked out of the White House and stuck in neutral with a gridlocked government. There is danger ahead when we allow our core conservative principles to become roadblocks to any progress.
2. Democrats have a 246-vote head start
As Republicans gear up to take back the White House, we need to be mindful that in 2012 if Romney had won the three swing states of Ohio, Florida and Virginia, he would have still lost the election to Barack Obama.
If you want to explore this new reality, check out www.270towin.com. Here you can play around with each state’s electoral votes and plot your favorite candidate’s path to 270 in 2016.
For instance, let’s look at Wisconsin with its 10 electoral votes. Every four years the Republican mind set says Wisconsin will be a swing state. Then, within a few months into the campaign, the state loses its coveted “battleground” status as polls begin to show “blue” reality. And the truth is that not since 1984, when Reagan won in a landslide against Walter Mondale, has Wisconsin seen red.
Or take Pennsylvania with 20 electoral votes or New York with 29 — both have been blue since Bill Clinton won them in 1992 and blue they will remain.
Then we have the mega-rich electoral state of California with its 55 votes that turned red for the last time in 1988 when George H.W. Bush won “California guy,” Reagan’s “third term.”
After totaling the electoral votes in all the solid blue states, it becomes apparent that even a below-average Democrat presidential candidate could begin the race with a whopping 246 advantage.
Let me repeat, if only for the shock value: 246 votes out of 270 is 91 percent. That means the Democrat candidate needs to win only 24 more votes out of the remaining 292. (There are a total of 538 electoral votes.)
No wonder President Obama was so confident of victory in 2012. He likely knew the game was practically over before it began.
In case you need reminding, the final Electoral College score was a lopsided 332 to 206.
Here are the 20 solid blue states and their 246 electoral votes for a clearer understanding of just how skewed the Electoral College is against Republicans.
CA (55), NY (29), PA (20), IL (20), MI (16), NJ (14), WA (12), MA (11), MN (10), WI (10), MD (10), CT (7), OR (7), HI (4), ME (4), NH (4), RT (4), VT (3), DE (3), DC (3).
The Republican Party leadership, well aware of this depressing math, is now making an attempt to change the rules of the game by supporting an effort whereby states would proportionally award their electoral votes to the popular vote winner in each congressional district.
It is obvious that discarding the current “winner take all” system would vastly improve the prospects of electing a Republican president. But first, this initiative must pass state legislatures before reaching a governor’s desk where it may or may not be signed into law.
There is some precedent here, for the states of Nebraska and Maine are already using this method. However, it is unlikely that more states will follow Nebraska and Maine because this drastic change is politically “too hot to handle” for most governors, even Republican ones.
My suggestion would be to dump the entire Electoral College system and elect the president through direct “popular” vote. That, by the way, is the method favored by 63 percent of Americans.
To change from the Electoral College to direct voting would require a constitutional amendment. But it is highly doubtful that such an amendment would gain any traction in Congress since Democrat leaders love the slanted Electoral College and have no incentive to make such a change. (Yes, they remember Al Gore in 2000, but that was ancient electoral math.)
Therefore, no changes in the Electoral College means that I will continue asking my question, “Name a Republican who can win 270 electoral votes in 2016?” And please be ready with a candidate you can defend using “real” electoral math because “I have not given that question any thought” is not an acceptable answer and could result in a potential landslide for the Democrats in 2016.