Several members of the Utah Senate are suggesting a concept that will sour the stomachs of their fellow Republicans, but which realistically depicts the not-so-secret ploy of becoming an elected U.S. President.
The idea being mumbled at the State Capitol is that Utah team up with a handful of other states and agree to cast its electoral college votes, not to the candidate that wins the state, but to the candidate who has the most votes overall. In other words, if a Democrat received more votes than a Republican, Utah would ignore the results of its own voters and support the Democrat.
In Utah, were Barack Obama is only slightly more popular than Josh Powell’s father, the idea will quickly stall. But the proposal stems from the fact that Utah – like 40 of the other states – can basically be ignored in a presidential election.
The facts are simple. There are only 10 or so states that decide who becomes President. It’s silly for a Democrat to campaign in Texas, just as it is a waste for a Republican to spend much time in California. A Democrat will always win Hawaii, just as a Republican will always win Alaska. There’s as much of a chance a Republican can win Oregon as a Democrat can carry the vote in Mississippi.
The result is that the majority of states receive mere lip service from the candidates, their campaigns and their advertising money. Why should Democrats buy advertising time on a Utah TV station when they have a fighting chance in Nevada?
The presidential election will be decided in a fistful of states: Ohio, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan. Forget what happens in Wyoming or Rhode Island. We already know.
There have always been Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning states, but the divide has increased. Part of this is the trend towards Americans moving into their “own circles:” Republican suburbs, Democratic cities. Rural America used to contain a mix of liberals and conservatives. Today it’s more difficult to find a liberal in Duchesne than it is to order a martini in Farmington.
The effect is dramatic: we tend to believe what our neighbors believe. In Utah, for instance, Mitt Romney is revered as a business and political savior. It’s hard to find a dissenter. When I mention this to family member in Washington D.C. he scoffs: “Hey, Obama will win this election. Everyone here thinks Mitt is a complete joke!”
I don’t have a strong opinion on the merits of the current electoral college. The tossed-about plan to force Utah to vote with the majority may sound philosophically disagreeable, but would entice the candidates to pay us a little more attention if every vote counted.
Currently, the candidates only see Utah in their rear-view mirror.