Nobody Cares About Connecticut

June 4, 2012

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One of my favorite political sites is  The site is run by Andrew Tanenbaum.  Tanenbaum is perhaps best know for creating the MINIX operating system in the late 1980s.

In recent years, Tanenbaum has been hard at work projecting the winners of races for federal office.  Much of the focus, naturally, has been on the presidential elections.  The site does a lot of number crunching with survey numbers, and I generally enjoy the analysis and anecdotes.

A full five months before the election, Tanenbaum has a map of expected winners in each state.  He had Obama with 242 electoral votes locked up and Romney has 165.  The other 131 electoral votes, from twelve “purple” states, are expected to be in play.

You can quibble with the numbers a bit.  Tanenbaum admits to leaning left, so there may be some sort of liberal bias in his numbers.  However, at the high level, there’s no denying the truth.  There are 12-15 states that will be “in play” during the 2012 presidential elections.  The other 35-38 state lean so far one direction or the other that the state is a lost cause for one of the candidates.  Mitt Romney will not will Connecticut, nor will Barack Obama win Alaska.

The net effect is that the candidates will avoid those states entirely, or make only token visits.  Time that Mitt Romney spends in Connecticut is time that he could instead spend in Florida – a state that is in play and has 29 electoral votes up for grabs.

A lack of presidential visits likely won’t bring many Connecticut residents to tears.  However, beyond the lack of visits, there is likely to also be a lack of focus that are important to voters in Connecticut.  And it’s not just the conservative voters in Connecticut who won’t have a voice.  The liberal voters who will almost certainly propel Barack Obama to a victory in the state will also be ignored.

Quite honestly, the voters and issues in states such as Florida, Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, and my own state of Iowa will become much more important than the burning issues in California, New York, Texas – and, yes, Connecticut.  Even if a candidate feels strongly about an issue that it important in those states, there’s virtually no upside in championing the issues.  And there’s definitely downside.  You definitely don’t want to lose voters in Florida because you stuck your neck out for voters in Connecticut.

Those who champion the electoral college like to say that the process ensure that the large states aren’t given undue weight.  The thought is that if popular vote were used, a candidate could rack up huge vote totals in California, New York, Florida, and Ohio and make the voters in Iowa and Rhode Island irrelevant.

However, I’d argue that the electoral college process also picks winners and losers – it’s just a different set of winners and losers than the popular vote.  I’d also argue that the popular vote treats each equivalent bloc of voters the same.  A bloc of ten thousand voters in California would have the exact same influence as a bloc of ten thousand voters in Montana.  Sure, a politician can get more votes in California than Montana, but this is simply because there are more citizens in California.  Why shouldn’t a larger blocc of citizens have more influence?

The current process doesn’t pick winners and losers based on size, but based on degree of purple.  The more purple a state, the more important they become; the blue and red states become less relevant.   

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