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Campaigns and Elections
Teaching at a top-ranked high school in SF
He has been a teacher at Lo High School - a top-ranked high school in San Francisco - for over 20 years.
In 1974, a man walked up to Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the house, and the most powerful person in the House of Representatives, and introduced himself. He said, “Hi, I’m Jimmy Carter, and I’m running for president of the United States.” The Speaker was dumbfounded. He’d never seen Jimmy Carter before much less heard of him. Two years from that time in 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected president of the United States of America. A virtual outsider from the State of Georgia.
In episode six, we’re going to talk about campaigns and elections. We’re going to go into three specific areas. We’re going to talk about the process of how candidates run for national office. We’ll call it five steps in five minutes. Beyond that, we’re going to do a quick math tutorial electoral college 101. Focus on the basis; blue states, red states that sort of thing. Finally, we’ll take a little point, counter point and talk about the possibility of Electoral College reforms.
Let’s start by taking a look at the last five presidencies. You might be surprised by how much they have in common. 2000 to 2008 two-term president, George W. Bush. He served as governor of Texas and he ran for the president of the United States as an outsider, somebody who was going to come in and clean up the Washington culture. Before him, William Jefferson Clinton. He ran as an outsider, somebody who was going to come to Washington, clean things up. Before him George Bush Senior, former Congress person, former CIA director, Vice president of the United Sates. Before him Ronald Reagan, governor of California, ran as an outsider, was going to come to Washington and you know what. Before him, the aforementioned, Jimmy Carter governor of Georgia, an outsider.
Let’s take a look at what we know. First of all, former governor, good. All of these guys, except George Bush Senior, served as governors. Running as an outsider against the Washington culture, that’s a good thing too. We know that to be true. Former senator, especially someone who has a long history in the United States Senate, that’s bad. Maybe John McCain will be the president of the United States by the time you see this video, but as a long standing senator, history tells us his chances are diminished.
Think about the Democratic and Republican debates. There were a number of people who were on that stage from the very beginning. A lot of them senators of the United States. Can you name them? Well, five years from now, who will remember who ran for president of the United States? Being a governor seems to help. Former vice president that’s generally bad. George Bush Senior became president after serving as vice president, but that was only after he had run for president and lost. In fact, he is the only vice president to be elected as president after that term in the entire 20th century. Richard Nixon got to be president much later, but he lost when he run for president against Kennedy in 1960. Gore was vice president. He lost his bid to be president. Being vice president generally a bad thing.
Let’s say you want to run for National office. You want to be the president of the United States. We’re going to do five quick steps in five minutes, just to reiterate this process that I’m sure you’re already familiar with.
First of all, you need to start early and start fast. The election of 2008 is over. If you want to run for president, you better start thinking about it early. What do you need to do? You need to get organized. You need to get some friends. You have some friends? Well, everybody else has friends too. What you want to do is try to get mayors and Congressmen and governors and big donors and powerful people, to be in your corner. One way you can do that, help them raise money for their campaigns. Then you want to test the waters.
This is where you might want to form an exploratory committee. I’m thinking about running for president. That way you can start to collect money, that’s more than individual donations. You can start to take money from political action committees for example and bundle money and get yourself a war chest. You also want to spend as much time as you possibly can with big money donors and try to convince them. Will they go with you? Or with they be going with someone else?
You also want to get yourself a national presence. You want to take some of the issues. You may want to go to Iraq, Afghanistan meet with foreign leaders if you get an opportunity. All of these very presidential.
There’s a saying in politics that All politics are local. You want to visit the early primary and caucus states at least two years in advance prior to the election. I think its fair to say that Mr. Obama, and Mr. McCain and Mr. Giuliani and many of the other candidates Mr. Romney spent quite a bit f time in the first caucus state which you know to be Iowa and the first primary state which you know to be New Hampshire, right?
When you go to Iowa, you better look like the Iowans. So the first thing you’re going to do, if you’re wearing a tie, you lose the tie. If you’re wearing a jacket, get the jacket off. You’ll see these guys wearing work shirts. More often than not, you might even see boots in some parts of the country. You get to wear informal clothing, because that’s what Iowans tends to respect.
When you’re running, it is a long grind. It is probably for well over a year from the time that everybody knows that you’re going to run, until you reach the end of the line. It’s a 15-round boxing match. You have to go the distance. So the key is survive the early rounds.
How many people were on that stage at the beginning? Could you name them all? If you didn’t make it past Iowa, and you didn’t make it past New Hampshire, and you weren’t either first or second or maybe even second and third in those primaries, what’s going to happen? People who might give you money, are going to be looking to somebody else and your money is going to somewhere else. And without any money, you’ve got no future in a presidential election. So you’re going to need to survive in early rounds. Spend money in the early states.
Beyond that, you’re going to go national. Once you’ve survived, one of the first major markers that comes up after that is called Super Tuesday. Usually in March, they’re going to be a number of primaries throughout the nation. You can’t get on a plane and go to all of those states. So that’s when you’re probably are going to have to spend more time with local surrogates who are supporters of you. You’ve got your organization in that state, then you’re on the phones if you’re a Democrat. Because since 1988, when Jesse Jackson had the most popular votes, but didn’t get the nomination of his party, the Democratic Party instituted a system where there was super delegates.
You probably know everything you need to know about that by now. But their party elders, their elected officials what did you see in the nomination process? A lot of them came out early for Hillary Clinton. Probably, because the Clintons had raised money for them, and they had established relationships and friendships with Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, during their eight white house years. But things slowly and slowly began to shift. You can expect that these candidates and their organization, spent an incredible amount of time trying to woo them, talking to them on the telephone. Keep your mind open. Now is the time to declare that sort of thing.
Once you become the nominee, and this is right before the presidential election. You’re seeing John McCain become a little bit more liberal, and a little less conservative, he’s running to the middle. Barack Obama has stated several positions and a little bit more towards the middle. Both candidates are fighting for the middle ground, why? Because half of the voters identify themselves as moderates. If you only have the true believers in your party base, you can’t be elected. The person who wins the moderate vote in America, typically will become the next president of the United States.
We’re going to take a look at an electoral map in just a second. You probably know a whole lot more about it than most people, because the last few elections have been so close. The one in the year 2000 where George Bush beat Al Gore, came down to a contestant vote in Florida for example. It wasn’t until days after the election, and a Supreme Court case in challenge, that we found out that Bush was indeed the next president of the United States.
In 2004, if one state would have changed, say Ohio for example, or Florida for example, John Kerry could have been the president of the United States, and not Bush. That’s how close those elections were.
Let’s start with the Math. Now there are 538 electoral voters. How do you get that number? Easy, 435 representatives in the House of Representatives, add 100 from the US Senate, 3 more from Washington DC. You’ve got your number 538. It wasn’t always that way.
Briefly, from the very beginning, the Electoral College you’ll remember was one of the compromises of the Constitutional convention. Many of the framers wanted the House of Representatives to choose the president of the United States. Remember, there are going to be houses elected by the common people. This horrified federalists, in particular Alexander Hamilton, who later settled down a compromise for the Electoral College. Electors will be chosen by the state legislators. They’ll figure out how they want to run their own elections. It’s part of the original constitution in Article 2 Section 1.
So how does it play out? Magic number is 270. That gets you the win. 269-269, a tie. Do you know what happens then? It would be decided in the House of Representatives. You should know little bit about the history of it.
The election of 1824, the corrupt bargain. Remember that from History class? That’s the only time the election was decided in the House of Representatives. If there’s a third party candidate who wins electoral votes, and we’ll get there in a second, then you still got to have 270. It’s not more than anybody else. It’s one more than half.
You hear all this conversation about blue states meaning, states that typically vote Democratic. Red states, they typically vote Republican. I had one political commentator even say after the last election, the blue states those are StarBuck states and the red states those are Dunkin Donuts kinds of states. Well, it’s certainly not that simple. But over the last 20 years, states have voted very, very consistently and people want to talk about the battle ground states or the swing states, because they’re going to make all the difference in this election.
It is mathematically possible for a person to win 11 states and lose 39 states and to be elected the president of the United States. All you have to do is win the 11 most populated states, because that comes out to more than 270. Do you know what they are?
Well, first of all, the largest state is clearly California with 55. Then you have Texas with 34. Then you have New York with 31. We can go through the whole list, but I think you have a sense of which of the states that are the most populated. Now, the one thing I want to note before we go any further, is that the population has been shifting in America in the last 20 to 30 years.
In general, large numbers of people have left the North East part of the country, as labor unions and their influence have diminished, and they’ve gone other places. People are living longer and people are retiring in different parts of the country. So what do we have? We’ve had people leaving the North East part of the country and the Mid-West part of the country and they’re going south. They’re going to Florida. They’re going to Texas. They’re going to Arizona to retire. They’re going to Nevada and California. All of these states have increased Electoral College votes in the last four years. All of these states, or the great majority of key states; Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, have all lost electoral votes. So they’re shifting in their population.
Now, Blue states. Talk about the StarBuck states. States that have typically gone to the Democratic Party. California is one, take that as a given. Oregon may be one, Washington may be one, in the West. So we’ll call these potentially blue states. Then, for a democratic candidate to be elected president, they’re probably going to have to have the states very clearly of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan and Ohio. We’re making a big mess here, but hopefully you can see what we’re doing. These would be the Blue states, maybe Florida. You saw how close the election was in the year 2000.
Now, the great majority of states historically in your lifetime, and in my lifetime, have gone red and for the Republican candidate. But it’s also fair to say, that even though these states right here, and we’ll give Texas that as well, because that’s generally a red state. And we don’t have a red pen this morning, otherwise you would see it in red. But this whole part of the country here, has typically voted Republican, especially in the last few elections.
Now that may seem daunting to the democrats, but in Montana and North and South Dakota combined, there are nine electoral delegates. Three from each state. Two senators and one Congressman. You could take all of these states with the exception of Texas and it does not equal one state of California. Hence, you’ve got to win in the states that are the largest, especially if you’re Democrats.
Think back to the last few lessons. Who’s a democrat? Who’s a republican? We know that urban dwellers are typically Democrats. States with large urban population, the democrats pretty much have to count that into their electoral map. California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
We’ll swing talk swing states, or battleground states. The states that people think well, it isn’t necessarily going to go Republican, it isn’t necessarily going to do Democrat. We’ll go back to this again, because Florida is considered to be one of those battleground states. So what are the issues that people have in Florida? We had looked to it earlier. Well, it’s an older population. Many retirees, there are more Jewish voters in Florida as well. So what are the older people concerned about? They’re concerned about Medicare and social security. You better have a plan that’s going to work with these people, if you expect to get their votes.
Let’s talk about Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania, all considered to be swing states. All in play. The Democrats pretty much have to have at least two out of three, if not three out of three in this election, in order to be successful. These are states that have been heavily impacted by cuts in labor and labor unions. The Steel industry, the coal industry. In Michigan, the auto industry, have been greatly affected, because the companies there have moved quite a bit of their business overseas. General Motors puts together cars in Canada and Mexico for example. You understand how jobs have been exported affecting the economies of these states.
So states that at one time had been solidly Democratic, now seem to be in play. So these are the states where not only are they important, if a candidate had x number of dollars, they’re going to spend them in the places that it’s going to go with their way. McCain is 24 points behind as we speak in California right now. Is his money going to be better spent here, or is it going to be better spent here somewhere in the Mid-West? So that’s the kind of thing we’re looking at with Electoral College map. What you should know in the last two elections, change one state and you change the president of the United States.
What is the impact of a third party candidate? Well, you should have a few of them, and their candidacies in your tool bell. Let’s go backwards. Ross Perot ran for president twice in 1992. He got 19 percent of the presidential vote. 19 percent, which meant that neither Clinton or Bush got 50 percent, but because he didn’t win any of the winner take all states. And all states in the electoral college I believe are winner take al, except four; Nebraska and Maine that do it proportionate. The other 48, winner take all. Bush wins in Texas, 34 electoral votes, his opponent, zero. You got it. Perot didn’t win any of the states, therefore, he didn’t have an electoral impact. If took votes away from one candidate or another, who then won the state, then his candidacy had an impact.
Ralph Nader a candidate for the Green Party for president, didn’t win very many votes at all. I think he won about one or two percent of the votes in Florida in 2000 when Al Gore won. But, that one or two percen,t if they had gone to Al Gore, we would had a different president of the United States, two third party candidacies.
Finally, it’s important to know about the third party candidacy of a man named George Wallace. He was the former Governor of Alabama. He ran for president of the United States and he started a party called the American Independent Party, or it had come from the Dixiecrats formerly, Democrats. He left the Democratic Party. He won over 40 electoral votes. I believe he’s the last third party candidate to do that, and he impacted the election of 1968 that Richard Nixon won.
Last thing about a third party candidate that’s important is, why is it that we have this two-party system for 200 years of our history? If people aren’t satisfied with Democrats or Republicans why don’t we have other parties? Well, it’s almost impossible for a third party candidate to get any attraction. If you don’t win states, you get no love from the Electoral College. It’s definitely set up to benefit the two party system.
Let’s talk very briefly about Reforms before we close. Some people are very unsatisfied with the Electoral College. At least three times in American History, a candidate with the most popular votes lost the general election. Can you name them? Well, let’s start with the most obvious one, Al Gore who got more popular voters, lost the electoral vote.
You can also go back to 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president by one electoral vote over governor Tilden of New York. Then of course, there was the corrupt bargain in 1824. Some people say just get rid of it. Have a popular vote. If it’s a popular vote throughout the nations, then states argue that that’s in violation of their rights under the Federalism that we talked about in episodes one and two.
Some people argue that it should be proportional, allocated by district. If one candidate gets 60 percent of my district, another candidate gets 40 percent, or there’s three candidates, then let it be that. Others say that that’s not fair, because it will give third party candidates a disproportionate effect on election when they really have no chance.
Then finally, some people say that the percentage of popular votes by state, should be the determining factor. Let’s just take Nebraska for example. If Bush gets 55 percent, his opponent gets 45 percent, then that’s the way that the Electoral College vote should be apportioned. So those are possible reforms, but to this date, there’s been no real serious move to reform the Electoral College. We’ll be back in a second to sum up what we know.
That was quite a bit of information. Let’s just very briefly summarize. We talked in episode six about national campaigns and Electoral College 101. You should know a little bit about the steps it takes to get to get to be president of United States. Know a little bit about the primary, about the caucus, about the money. Know a little bit more about the Electoral College itself. Have you figured out which 11 states you need to win in order to be president of the United States? Go ahead and do that and then check out the bonus materials. We’ll have the answer for you on the other side.
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