In president-choosing years, ours is an indirect democracy in which each state chooses a slate of electors who will meet in their respective state capitals on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December (this year, December 17th) to do the actual choosing of the next president. The slates vary in size from 3 for the District of Columbia (because it has a single member in the House of Representatives and two Senators in the Senate) to 55 for California (because it has 53 members in the House of Representatives and two Senators in the Senate). Each race is distinct, unique, and separate from all the others. The total national popular vote is ignored completely.
This is the reason that although Al Gore in 2000 and Richard Nixon in 1960 received more popular votes nationally than their opponents (George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy, respectively), they did not win the presidency. Also, the electors are supposed to vote for the party they were elected to vote for, but there are no hard and fast rules. In reality, the electors can vote for whomever they darned well please. This has made for some interesting elections in the past.
Here’s an interesting table from Nate Silver’s column in The New York Times. His predictions regarding
I’m hoping that the chart will become larger (and hence easier to read) if you click on it. If it does not, get out a magnifying glass.
[Editor's note. Apparently the chart does not enlarge here in my post. Forget the magnifying glass. You can see the chart much better here. --RWP]
From Nate Silver’s interesting perspective, it was Colorado, not Ohio, that put Barack Obama over the required 270 electoral votes.
To my great surprise, Nate Silver’s chart also indicates that my state, Georgia, was the second-least Republican state in 2012 (North Carolina was the least, barely falling into the Romney column). Perhaps the once-solid Democratic South that turned into a solid Republican South with the Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 is closer than ever to being not as solid as a lot of people might think.
In the meantime, let’s hear it for Nate Silver!