The Republican Electoral Math Challenge

Many Republicans think all that is needed is a re-tuning of their message. They simply need to tweak how they say things and suddenly it will be the nineteen-eighties all over again with Reagan-style electoral landslides. Republicans think there is no problem with conservatism itself, only the way they are delivering their message. — Hello, this is the party of Frank Luntz! Republicans are masters of sloganeering. They come up with simple concepts and phrases that roll off the tongue and appear common sense — that is, until you think about it for more than a moment.

But Republicans need to understand that they are not at a deficit when it comes to language and messaging. Their problem is enough people have learned that Republican, more specifically, conservative, and even more specifically, socially conservative policies are the problem. People love the idea of individualism and a less intrusive government, even many liberals. What people don’t like is social conservatism masked in a disguise of rugged individualism. Nothing says hands off small government like a government mandated vaginal probing. Until the moderate Republicans grow a spine and stand up to the extreme socially conservative elements that have taken control of their party, the road to the White House will be an ever-increasing electoral challenge.

Just add up the electoral college tally of all the states President Obama received a popular vote of 54% or higher.

59.3% – California – 55
62.6% – New York – 29
57.3% – Illinois – 20
54.3% – Michigan – 16
58.0% – New Jersey – 14
55.8% – Washington – 12
60.8% – Massachusetts – 11
61.7% – Maryland – 10
58.4% – Connecticut – 7
54.5% – Oregon – 7
56.0% – Maine – 4
62.7% – Rhode Island – 4
70.6% – Hawaii – 4
67.0% – Vermont – 3
91.4% – District of Columbia – 3
58.6% – Delaware – 3

That’s 15 states plus D.C. for a total of 202 electoral votes. That means out of states that are likely to go Democratic, only 68 more electoral votes are needed among the remaining 35 states to win the presidency, and I haven’t even included a state like Pennsylvania, where Obama only won with 52% of the vote, but has been reliably Democratic for the past six presidential election cycles.

Obviously 54% is not a lock. Factors could swing certain states Republican in a given election. So let’s add up all the states where Obama won by at least 58%, which would be a much larger margin to overcome. That total is 143. OK, so only slightly more than half of the electoral college votes needed. But remember, these are the “gimme” states. These states are highly unlikely to go Republican in any election, so long as the political makeup of the parties and the country continue on their current trajectories. These states are referred to as the deep blue states, which have reliably gone Democratic in the past two decades and they show no signs of reversing course without a major shakeup in the Republican Party. And remember, there are still 35 other states unaccounted for, some of which are increasingly turning blue in each presidential election cycle. There is even talk of Texas turning blue, if not in 2016, then possibly in 2020.

I’m not saying it’s now impossible for a Republican to become president, but it will require just the right candidate along with a political climate that screams anti-Democratic. Even then, a Republican candidate who wins the required 270 electoral votes will probably only do so with a slim margin. In fact, the last Republican candidate to win over 300 electoral votes was George H. W. Bush in 1988. Two Democratic candidates have both accomplished that feat twice in the time since (Clinton, Obama).

Republicans have an electoral math challenge to overcome, and it’s not going to be done with old ideas in shiny new packages.


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