By Steve Fair
In a very possible scenario, John McCain could win Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and Ohio, but lose Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa to Obama. That would give each candidate 269 electoral votes. What happens then?
Under the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives would then decide the election when it meets in January, with each state getting one vote- no matter its size- to break the tie. Democrats have the majority of Representatives in twenty-seven states; Republicans twenty-one and two states are equal. Most likely, if the electoral vote were tied, Obama would become President, but that’s not a certainty.
Obama and McCain could lobby the Electoral College voters to switch their support. Twenty-four states have laws that bind their electors to the results of the general election, but twenty-six do not. That means an elector could switch- it’s happened before, but never when it affected the outcome of an election.
The US Senate picks the Vice President if there is a tie. It’s possible the House could pick McCain and the Senate Biden. If the House has not made up their mind by January 20th when President Bush leaves office, the Vice President selected by the Senate could serve as President until the House decides who the President is. In a very scary scenario, House Speaker Nancy Peolsi could become “acting” President if neither chamber decides before January 20th, but she would have to resign as speaker.
The last time the US House decided a Presidential election was in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was named the President. His opponent who would later become President- Andrew Jackson had gotten ten percent more of the popular vote than Adams, but did not get a majority of the electoral vote because there were four candidates in the race. When the race was thrown in the House of Representatives, thirteen sided with Adams and only seven with Jackson. One of the four candidates was Henry Clay, the sitting Speaker of the House. Only the top three candidates in the electoral vote are to be considered by the House and Clay had finished fourth.
Clay detested Andrew Jackson and had said of him, “I cannot believe that killing 2,500 Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies him for the various difficult and complicated duties of President.” Clay was also an ally of Adams, so he threw his support to him. For his loyalty, he was named Secretary of State. All of the Presidents prior to 1828 had been Secretary of State, so Jackson claimed the two had made a “Corrupt Bargain.” Jackson claimed being the SOS would give Clay a leg up in the 1828 election. Old Hickory was elected in 1828 using the strategy that Clay had made a “corrupt bargain.”
Fast forward 184 years and we could have a similar situation. It’s not likely the 2008 election will result in a tie, but it could happen. The country is evenly divided. Obama and Pelosi could arrange another “corrupt bargain.”
The next four weeks will be very interesting. If Obama is able to keep his supporters energized and the “perceived” terrible state of the economy in the news, he will likely be President.
If calm is restored and people make their decision based on the facts and vote for the candidate who is the most qualified, John McCain will be elected. Rest assured the difference in leadership and vision between these two candidates is dramatically different. Not since Nixon and McGovern have we had such a dramatic difference in political philosophy between two Presidential candidates
In years past, there was a TV show called Kung Fu about a Shaolin priest named Chang Caine who was living in the old west. When Caine had to make an important decision, he would flashback to his training as a young child with his mentors Po and Kan. Po, who affectionately called Caine “grasshopper”, would often tell him- “Choose wisely grasshopper.” Americans would be well advised to take Po’s advice on November 4th.