After the GOP’s 2014 midterm election triumph, Republicans are still celebrating that the good guys (and girls) won and our nation has been saved. Finally, the American people wised up and threw the bums out.
Six years after the election of Barack Obama, the midterm tsunami over the bluest of blue states filled Republicans with “hope and change,” mixed with heaps of vindication. And after winning control of Capitol Hill, Republicans hope that bold actions and good governance will follow over the next two years and will motivate a majority of 2016 voters to send a Republican candidate to the White House.
Or so goes the thinking.
Yes, that wave might be sustained through 2016, but it may not be strong enough to break though a blue barrier standing between the GOP and a White House victory. That blue barrier is more commonly known as the Electoral College, which rises to a winner’s height of 270 electoral votes and has been fortified by over two decades of presidential-election history and solid math.
Here a simple equation that illustrates the GOP’s Electoral College obstacle: 1992 + 1988 + Florida = 270 Democratic White House.
The first number, 1992, represents ten states with a total of 152 electoral votes. These states have been won by every Democratic presidential nominee since the 1992 presidential election, when Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton defeated President George H. W. Bush.
Here are the ten states and their 152 electoral votes in order of value:
New Jersey (14)
The second number, 1988, represents nine states with a total of 90 electoral votes. These nine have been won by every Democratic presidential nominee since 1988, when Vice President George H. W. Bush defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis. Here are the nine states with their 90 electoral votes:
New York (29)
Rhode Island (4)
Washington, D.C. (3)
Now do the math: 152 votes since 1992 plus 90 votes since 1988 equals 242 electoral votes. The number 242 means only 28 more votes are needed to reach 270 and victory. Those 242 electoral votes could be considered the historic base from which a Democratic presidential candidate begins. (Notes: Minnesota, with ten electoral votes, has been won by every Democratic nominee since 1984. Washington, D.C., while technically not a state, has three electoral votes that have been won by every Democrat nominee since 1964.)
The 1992 and 1988 numbers are likely to stand in 2016 as they have for the last 24 to 28 years. That is unless a cataclysmic event or series of events dramatically changes voting behavior in states where the Democratic nominee for president has triumphed since 1988 or 1992. And as we know, in politics, anything is possible.
The third element in the equation is Florida, whose 29 electoral votes, added to the 242 total, would bring the Democratic nominee to 271 electoral votes, just over the 270 needed for White House victory.
The Sunshine State gives the GOP reasons to be concerned amid the joyful news of the midterm-election results. Incumbent Republican governor Rick Scott won reelection by only a 1.1% margin of victory on an Election Day that was otherwise a Republican blowout. That does not bode well for Florida’s return to the red column in 2016.
Barack Obama won Florida in both 2008 and 2012. Before that, President George W. Bush won it in 2004 and was reelected. But, if you are unfamiliar with or need a refresher about the historic role that Florida played in the 2000 presidential election, amuse yourself by googling “Florida 2000 election” and “hanging chads.”
Florida is the ultimate battleground state. Republicans must win it or they lose the White House, whereas Democrats can lose Florida and still piece together an electoral victory.
Now it’s possible that last week’s midterm-election victories were an inflection point, and that this antiquated equation no longer reflects the political landscape.
But before we return to the midterm celebration, a word of caution:
Generally, Republicans like to downplay that midterm-election voters are vastly different than presidential election voters — older, whiter, and Republican-leaning. Traditional Democratic voters tend to be younger, single, female, and other than white. Ethnic, demographic, and cultural shifts in the general population are slanting the Electoral College toward the Democrats.
Take, for example, the 2012 presidential election. Here Mitt Romney won only 206 electoral votes, compared to President Obama’s 332. Even if Romney had won the battleground states of Virginia (13), Ohio (18), and Florida (29), he would have earned only 266 electoral votes and Obama still would have won reelection, with 272.
Unfortunately for Republicans in 2016, the Electoral College is the big, bad, blue barrier that could still keep the GOP nominee from running across the White House lawn and entering the building. That is, unless someone extraordinary within the GOP can rise up and tear down the blue wall. Names, anyone?
Cross-posted at National Review Online