Saturday, November 19, 2016

Remaking the Electoral College Map? Only time will tell.

Did this election cycle redraw the Electoral College map?  Does it signal some realignment of the national electorate for decades to come?

If you are a Republican, after seeing Donald Trump shatter the fabled Democratic Blue Wall in the Upper Mid West you say "yes.  If you are a Democrat still reeling from the election you shudder at the thought.

There has been much concern, hand wringing, and downright anger over the past several days at the mechanics of the Electoral College that decides our Presidential elections.  For the second time in less than 20 years, the popular vote winner will not be the winner in the Electoral College and that has started once again the arguments about getting rid of it.  It's a valid discussion, but changing the Electoral Collage is a discussion that likely won't be resolved anytime soon - maybe ever.

As for the discussion about does this election signal a long term change in the electoral map itself, that's a different matter.  Democrats can take comfort that history would tell us "no" one election does not indicate much when it comes to the map itself.

Starting with the Electoral College map from 1948, the first post WWII election cycle, scroll through the maps available on Wikipedia for each Presidential election.

The first map is the one that spawned the famous, and eroneous, "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline.

1948 Election from Wikipedia

If you scroll through the maps you will see clearly that there have been several true redrawings of the map over the subsequent 58 years - as few as six and as many as eight depending on how you count.

Look at this map from the 1964 Johnson/Goldwater race.  Democrats probably thought they had the Presidency locked up for a while after this one.

Johnson/Goldwater 1964

Just two cycles later Nixon/McGovern gave us this map in 1972.

Nixon/McGovern 1972

That map didn't hold long. Nixon resigned after achieving this solid red map, and things turned Blie again with Lyndon Johnson.

The general outlines of the map we have now fell into place with the 2000 Bush Gore election.

Bush/Gore 2000

President Obama chipped away at this map by adding Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina to the Democratic tally.  The Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia adds seemed to signal a Democrat resurgence in the South, but two cycles later NC and FL are back voting Republican with VA being very close.

Trump did something similar with his close wins in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania this election.  They were certainly pivotal this cycle, but will they hold?  In response, you can be sure the Democrats won't be caught flat-footed in those states next Presidential election season.

The truth is this.

In one or two cycles the map can change radically.  It has in the past and likely will again in the future.  Candidates and national circumstances matter as much as anything else - including demographics..

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