Civics 101--Presidential Politics 2008 (with no politics)

Civics 101-Presidential Politics 2008


The way in which a president is selected in the United States is not through the popular vote. In other words, majority does not rule. When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they instituted a system called the "Electoral College" whereby each state has a number of votes available which are equal to the combined total of their Senators and Representatives. Each state is for all practical purposes, a "winner take all" of the votes in that state. In other words, if a candidate wins the popular vote in a state, he/she usually wins all the Electoral votes in that state.


The United States has, over the last few election cycles, become a country of "red and blue" states. This designation came from the maps used on election night to show which party had won a particular state. Blue indicated Democrats and red indicated Republicans. Now, states are simply referred to as red, blue or "swing" states. There are good and bad things which have come from this color coding of America.

United States Presidential elections are basically decided by how a handful of "swing" states vote. For the most part, candidates will not invest their funds in advertising in states firmly entrenched in the opposition party's column. For instance; the Democratic candidate will not campaign heavily in Texas and the Republican will not campaign in New York. Despite having many electoral votes up for grabs, the demographics of these states are such that it would be a waste of money for a candidate to invest much of his time or money in those states.

When looking at the 50 United States of America, there are only a handful of truly "swing" or "battleground" states. Most of these states are in the Midwest plus Florida and some southwestern states. The most hotly contested states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri and Virginia.

What has already happened, and will continue to happen for the next two months is that the candidates, their vice Presidential picks and their spouses will spend the vast majority of their time and resources in the "swing" states. The vast majority of states will never see a candidate make an appearance.


Here is the secret to Presidential politics in America in 2008; pretty much, the entire election is determined by the voters in a few states. The election is not determined by states which are the largest or most influential. The election could come down to the results in a tiny state like New Mexico or like four years ago, a state the size of Ohio. Since the biggest three states are already firmly planted in one party's column or another (California and New York for the Democrats and Texas for the Republicans); the only four states with a fair number of electoral votes in play are the "swing" states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida.

For all the hype and hoopla, for all the money raised and spent and all the advertising and endless coverage on television-it all comes down to how a handful of states vote, and everyone knows it. It makes little difference what all the national polls say as to who is ahead on any given day. The popular vote of the country does not determine who is President. Thus, the sum of all the time and money spent the last two years by the candidates is to fight over perhaps a few million votes in a handful of states.


My state, Missouri, is a battleground state. Both Presidential candidates stopped in this state on their way to their National Conventions. Yesterday Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin were in Kansas City and today Sen. Biden is in St. Louis. This pattern of visits will last as long as the state is still a "swing state". Missouri, like most other battleground states, is neither blue nor red; thus I call it "purple". All one must do to figure out who will be the next president is watch what happens in the "purple states".

Missouri, like most battleground states, has huge urban centers (Kansas City and St. Louis) a few mid-sized cities and tons of small towns and rural areas. The large cities are blue and the rural areas are red for the most part-in between are the voters being targeted through constant visits and advertising.

Very few "die hard" Republicans would ever vote Democratic and vice versa. To try and get these people to change their minds is a waste of time. Presidential candidates thus spend most of their time and money trying to convince a few million undecided voters scattered in a few "swing" states that they are the better candidate.

A little over 120 million people voted for President in 2004. Despite winning the popular vote 50.73% to 48.27% and the number of states 31 to 19; President Bush only won re-election because of his victory in Ohio. If the 20 Electoral votes in Ohio had gone to Sen. Kerry, then he would have won the Electoral College vote by 5 votes.


Honestly, unless one lives in one of the battleground states, the main reason for voting should be local not national. If one's city, county or state has tax increase propositions and other things, then one needs to vote his/her conscience. The same holds true for local and state elected officials as well as Representatives and Senators. Voting is much more than casting a ballot for the President. It is being allowed to voice one's opinion regarding people and policies which is part of what makes this country the greatest on earth.

Remember, this country does not elect its President by popular vote, otherwise Al Gore would have been elected in the 2000 election. Good, bad or otherwise; this country uses the Electoral College system and it has worked very well for over 200 years. Anyone debating the pros and cons of voting should see past the Presidential race to the extremely important state and local races, especially if they live in a truly red or blue state. Those living in battleground states do get a chance to make a difference in electing the President, as the voters in Florida did eight years ago and Ohio four years ago.

Marsha Tyler Ronquist @kraftykatz ·

And Richard M. Nixon would have been elected in 1960, but JFK took the electoral votes. The battleground state that year was Ohio. Nixon could have did what Al Gore did, but choose not to. Unity of country was far more important to him then who was president. I watched a program on the discovery channel and it appears now that dead people voted for JFK in Ohio.

I wonder without the electoral college then all the heavily populated states would govern all. The Pacific northwest coast wouldn't even need to bother to show up to vote because it would be decided before the voting reached the middle of the country. Washington State, Oregon, the Dakota's, Wyoming, and Alaska have a large amount of land but fewer people. That is why you never see a candidate go to those states to campaign.

:coffee: drinking tea

Marsha Tyler Ronquist @kraftykatz ·

OPPS! Not Ohio. It was the state of Illinois controlled back then by the Daily family, the grandson of Mayor Daily worked as Gore campaign manager.

I am getting old!!

:coffee: need to find a memory tea

Do not include honorifics.

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