Now that the Republican nomination for president is a foregone conclusion, talk has turned to that most baffling and irritating of America's Constitutional mechanisms: the Electoral College. Pundits have been orating about which states will and which ones won't; about the defense of this and the balance in that; about whether this recall effort or that by-election could serve as a harbinger of November's tidings.
Beware. There are hazards here. Remember 2000.
It cannot be denied that a few thousand votes mistakenly -- supposedly -- cast for Pat Buchanan, and the inability of a larger group of Floridians to cope with the state's butterfly ballot ultimately decided the presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Neither can it be denied that Gore had a substantial margin over Bush in the nationwide popular vote. One state, whose governor was at that time a brother to one of the candidates, decided a presidential contest by a margin of 534 popular votes and two Electoral College votes.
The Democrats have not forgotten this. Neither should we.
The Electoral College remains a better mechanism than a nationwide popular vote, for the same reasons as those articulated by the Framers of the Constitution. However, it's vulnerable to two tactics that get an insufficient amount of attention. Given that one side in the upcoming contest faces the possibility, foretold by the mid-term elections of 2010, of a smashing popular repudiation of its candidates and policies, we may expect that side to exploit those tactics to the hilt.
The first such tactic, owing to the weakness of our voter-validation scheme, is the relocation of votes -- and possibly voters -- among the states to reach the critical 270-vote threshold. This is far easier than anyone thinks, especially given the Democrats' Secretary of State project, whose rewards to the Left have yet to be fully felt. The coastal states, which regularly and reliably vote Democrat, are oversupplied with voters, many of whom would be willing to "donate" their votes to states less well supplied with Democrat partisans. States with weak voter-verification mechanisms could well find their local tallies determined by out-of-state voters, with the connivance of their own secretaries of state.
The second such tactic, irregularly practiced for decades, is the direct subornation of electors: threats, bribes, and other inducements to vote against the candidate to whom they're pledged. Left-wing commentator Bob Beckel openly admitted to attempting to sway the EC votes of Republican electors in 2000, appealing to the nationwide popular vote as his rationale. What was attempted openly was no doubt reinforced by covert maneuverings, though the evidence has been disputed ever since the millennial contest.
In short: By all means, pay proper attention to the Electoral College calculus. The candidates certainly will! But also pay attention to the ways in which the EC could be used against an honest assessment of the nation's preference, according to the Constitutional design. There are probably several more tactics than the two noted here. The Left, ever jealous of political power and unwilling to surrender it, will use any it thinks are efficacious enough to risk.