New Math and the Electoral College

The bitter battle in Florida both before and after last November’s presidential election may have been only a preview of coming attractions. The recently released census results for 2000 ensure Florida’s heightened importance as the key battleground for the next presidential election. The Republican Red on the famous maps depicted by the TV networks on Election Night could well expand. George W. Bush’s states did quite well in the new apportionment of congressional seats and electoral votes, all of which augurs well for his prospects in 2004. California alone among the states that voted for Gore gained ground, with a net Electoral College gain of one seat. But his elector-rich states of New York and Pennsylvania each lost two seats. Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, which also voted for Gore, also lost one congressional seat and a vote. Altogether, Gore’s states suffered a net loss of seven. Bush states, meanwhile, rustled up a bonanza of gains. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas each netted two more seats, which handily offset the loss of one seat in Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma. Colorado, Nevada, and North Carolina also added a seat, giving Bush states a net gain of seven, and thus a plus-14 margin over the Gore areas. The Sunbelt lives and prospers.

Arithmetic is not in the Democrats’ favor. Assume that Bush will win the same states again, a reasonable assumption strengthened by the Democrats’ determination to be leaderless. Gore’s margins of victory, on the whole, were less than Bush’s; similarly, his electoral vote might be shakier. Then, too, incumbency has its advantages (usually). You can bomb Iraq while your aides and Jerry Falwell spin the stem-cell non-decision into both a great moral triumph and a great leap forward for science–all in the same day.

So, for the Democrats, it’s Florida more than ever. The Sunshine State promises to be a hotly contested battleground once more. Maybe the party should finance a limited population exodus from New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut to Florida. The northeastern states have Democrats to spare. Maybe, too, Palm Beach Jews for Buchanan might be reborn. The northern émigrés should arrive in time for the 2002 gubernatorial race. Defeating the president’s Florida Agent might be essential for preserving the integrity of the election process. In any event, the new Floridians only need a residency of six months and one day; then the state can, once again, become Democratic Blue.

Stanley Kutler, professor of history and law at the University of Wisconsin, is the author of The Wars of Watergate.