Election Blowback


As the American presidential election draws near, I wonder how much the negative remarks made by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz hurt their Party’s chances when the people go to vote in November. The image of the Republican Party has already been set in 2012 that cost them a significant defeat by the re-election of President Obama. Now, this image has solidified to an even worse state. It gives people the impression that the Republican Party has a negative and regressive attitude, and is owned by the rich and big corporations.

Let’s see if we can quantify the blowback in terms of votes based on the US Census. The US voting population totals over 140 million, of which only 65% usually vote in a presidential election (every 4 years) and 50% in a congressional election (every 2 years). These percentages fluctuate depending on the ability of the candidates to energize the voter turnout. In 2012 for instance, 119 million people voted (85% turnout) of which 61 million for Obama and 58 million for Romney. The victory margin of 3 million was mainly delivered by the energized minority segments such as Blacks, Hispanics, women and young people.

In this year’s November election, health care reform (known as Obamacare) comes up again even after its implementation for two years. Back in 2012, Romney used healthcare reform as a main issue. He vowed to repeal Obamacare the next day he was elected, but he lost the election. So far this year in 2016, 9.9 million Americans have enrolled in Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured (aged 18 and older) has dropped from a high of 18% to 11%. Despite all the bad things said about Obamacare, any politician who wants to repeal it must face 9.9 million angry voters who stand to lose their subsidized health insurance. This is the biggest blowback for the Republican negative attitude toward health care reform. Note that the margin of victory carried by a presidential candidate is usually less than 3 million votes. The 9.9 million angry voters must be wished away in order to win.

The second issue is immigration reform. The Republicans talk about mass deportation, building a wall at the southern border, and murderers and rapists from Mexico have generated anger and fear in the Hispanic community. Does the Hispanic vote matter? Hispanics are the largest minority amounting to 17% of total US population. This percentage is projected to reach 29% by 2060. At around 7% of the US voting population of 140 million, Hispanics represent a bloc of 9.8 million voters concentrated in several key states, whose heavy swing to one side will tip the election outcome. Do you think they will vote Republican? I’d be surprised if they would not come out in droves to vote no.

The third issue is women’s rights that include equal pay, abortion, health care, and women representation at higher levels. The Republicans’ attitude is lukewarm, negative or disparaging; while the Democrats’ is positive, inclusive or hopeful. The result of this difference was already borne out in the 2012 election where Obama won the women’s vote by 56% versus 44% for Romney. Note that women constitute nearly 51% of total US population. Being unsympathetic to women issues is a losing battle for any politician.

The fourth issue is young voters’ interests that include education, opportunities, student loans, the environment, and being “cool”. None of the Republican candidates seem to connect with the young (except Rand Paul). Some of them don’t even recognize climate change because they are owned by the fossil fuel industry. On the Democratic side, young people find resonance in Bernie Sanders despite his age because of the real issues he talks about. The negative Republican attitude was also borne out in the 2012 election where Obama won the young vote by 60% versus 30% for Romney.

The fifth issue is income inequality (so-called 99% versus 1%). The huge American middle class has finally awakened to this fact after being squeezed for decades. Bernie Sanders has hammered on this issue and his support has surged to the extent that he is now challenging Hillary for the Party’s nomination. By contrast, the Republican candidates only pay lip service without advancing any proposal except the usual slogan to create more jobs. How will the middle class vote is difficult to estimate. The answer lies in voter mobilization. The politician who succeeds in inspiring a larger voter turnout will win.

As you know, the American presidential election is not decided by the national popular vote count. It is determined by the traditional system of electoral votes where each state has been allocated a number of electoral votes according to its census population. Nearly all of the states practice winner-take-all where the winner of the popular vote in that state will take all the electoral vote. For instance, if a candidate wins the popular vote in California, he/she will be awarded all the 55 electoral votes allotted to California. The total electoral vote in 2016 numbers 538 and it requires 270 votes to win the presidency.

As things now stand, the Republicans likely have a lock on 191 electoral votes in the so-called Red States (including Texas 38 votes, Georgia 10, and other smaller states). Likewise, the Democrats hold 217 electoral votes in the so-called Blue States (including California 55, New York 29, Illinois 20, and other smaller states). The battleground states are the contested ones where neither parties seem to have a lock. There are ten of them: Florida 29, Pennsylvania 20, Ohio 18, North Carolina 15, Virginia 13, Wisconsin 10, Colorado 9, Nevada 6, Iowa 6, and New Hampshire 4. All eyes will be focused on these ten battleground states because their sway will determine who will become the next president. To which side each battleground state will sway depends on how the state population vote, which is in turn influenced by the five major issues I’ve discussed.

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