Monday, July 2, 2012

Gary Johnson, Part 2

In my last blog post I introduced you to Gary Johnson, a small but growing alternative to Obama or Romney for U.S. President. Many talk about how minor-party candidates like him are very unlikely to win, but here's a way he could give the major-party candidates a run for their money which takes advantage that to win outright you need a majority (270) of votes in the Electoral College (and if there is no such winner the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state has one vote). In other words, while outright winning the election for Johnson is a snowball's chance, if he can prevent both Obama and Romney from obtaining 270 electoral votes (a more realistic outcome) it might get interesting in the House (and remember having a plurality of either popular or electoral votes without a majority of the latter means nothing). Essentially this is how I think Johnson could at least steal some electoral votes from the other candidates:

Focus on the states that are "safe" for the major parties, especially the Republican-leaning ones. The reason I suggest for focusing on "safe" states rather than "swing" ones is because voters in the latter might be more hesitant of casting an avant-garde vote fearing that since the race is close there they might inadvertently help the disliked candidate. On the other hand those in states where one major candidate has a decided advantage over the other there will be less fear of voting for a third candidate, since the other major candidate is unlikely to win anyway (and if Johnson does win a few states the EC "spoiling" an election is less of an issue since an absolute majority of electoral votes is needed or else it goes to the House). The reason I think the Republican-leaning states might be good vote boosters for Johnson is twofold: With Obamacare now a hotbed issue once again and Romney being shaky on the issue getting Johnson as President will almost for sure give a thumbs up to a repeal if it goes through Congress, and since the Republicans are likely to hold onto the House, if the election gets thrown there it is unlikely that Obama would eke through.

Now here's what would happen if none of the three candidates get 270 electoral votes (and all of them got at least one): The newly-elected (not the lame-duck) House of Representatives would pick the President with a special procedure where they vote among the top three candidates. How it would work is each state has one vote with each state's representatives voting as to who the state's vote would go to (presumably the candidate with the majority support among the state's delegation), and a majority (26) of the states throwing their hats to a particular candidate needed to win the Presidency. How this might get interesting (and allowing Johnson to win by "default") is if some states are evenly divided among their representatives and/or a 25-25 split among states between those with majority-Democratic and majority-Republican delegations. In that case neither Obama nor Romney would likely to be able to garner support right away to win, but since Johnson has some positions that are supported on both sides of the aisle some representatives might vote for him instead to help get someone the win without showing support for the opposite major party (whereas a Democrat would be hesitant to vote for Romney or a Republican for Obama).

Essentially, while plurality voting tends to be unfavorable for non-major-party candidates, the fact that a plurality does not suffice once electoral votes come into play, and that he is not a "clone" (or a more extreme version of) one of the major candidates, gives Gary Johnson a possible chance of becoming a non-insignificant factor in the election.

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