In a not-totally-unexpected reversal of policy, President Trump, who before being elected president called the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy,” now says it’s “far better for the U.S.A.”
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
“The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation,” he wrote in deleted tweets, and then added, “[Obama] lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!”
Trump was wrong; Obama actually won the popular vote over Republican Mitt Romney by 5 million votes, and carried the Electoral College, 332 to 206. In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by some 3 million, but carried the Electoral College with 304 votes. He has tried to exaggerate the significance of his victory by claiming the Electoral College is stacked in favor of Democrats, although most political scientists believe the opposite.
“I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.,” Trump wrote Tuesday night.
He likened the popular vote and Electoral College to “training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon.”
“The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win,” he tweeted. “With the Popular Vote, you go to just the large States - the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power - & we can't let that happen.”
Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College. It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win. With the Popular Vote, you go to....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
....just the large States - the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power - & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
This isn’t the first time Trump has had a change of heart. After his win in 2016, he tweeted, “The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play.”
However, his recent switch comes after Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, have called for ending the Electoral College and choosing the president by popular vote.
“Come a general election, presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi, they also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states,” Warren said at a CNN town hall on Monday.
“My view is that every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College, and every vote counts,” she said to an extended ovation from the audience.
Because of the Electoral College, swing states like Florida and Ohio receive greater attention by presidential candidates. While states under the Constitution have the power to determine who gets their electoral votes in national elections, a majority of states give all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes within that state.
Eliminating the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment, which would need a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. But Democrats have proposed another option.
As of last week, 12 states that are mostly Democratic strongholds and the District of Columbia signed on to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, pledging their Electoral College votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. The bill would take effect if the law is passed by states controlling at least 270 votes, which is the figure needed to win the presidency. It currently has 181.
Trump is one of five presidents to win a presidential election while losing the popular vote. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won by over half a million popular votes, but lost Florida in a disputed recount by a few hundred votes, and the presidency went to George W. Bush.
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