Paul Green: Hold on tight if presidential election ends in a tie
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org October 27, 2012 10:06PM
Political science professor Paul Green talks about politics and the coming election Thursday at Roosevelt University in Schaumburg. October 25, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2012 6:31AM
SCHAUMBURG — If you think the Bush-Gore election ended up as a mess — with its fight about “hanging chads” — wait until you see what happens if the Obama-Romney showdown ends up in a dead die with 269 electoral votes each. And that could very well happen, political guru Paul Green warns in an analysis of the Nov. 6 elections.
But whether we decide on four more years for our first black president or elect our first Mormon president, we can expect four more years of deadlock in Washington, the professor warned Thursday, because the House of Representatives is almost certainly going to continue being controlled by the Republicans and the Senate almost certainly will continue being dominated by the Democrats. And in the Senate’s case, Green holds, that’s because of the Republicans’ own foolishness in last spring’s primaries when they elected some hard-core Senate candidates who are so far to the right that they can’t win a general election and tend to make embarrassing comments about rape.
Green, head of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University and frequent guest on Chicago radio and TV programs, delivered what could be called an academic lecture mixed with comedy standup in front of 180 guests at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg campus.
“In the old days, we were taught that compromise was the mother’s milk of politics,” Green said. “Now it has become the third rail. Now some see compromise as a sign that you’re not a true Republican or not a true Democrat. Compromise and somebody will use it against you in your next primary.”
Green refused to make predictions about the local congressional and legislative races, except to say that “I’m just glad I survived” the rancorous debate between the 8th Congressional District candidates Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth that he moderated.
But he said that “I am going to go out on a limb and say that Illinois looks very good for Obama, and Utah looks very good for Romney.”
Of course, everybody knows that, and in fact everybody knows such things about 30 to 35 other states that are pretty much locked up by either Romney or Obama, Green said. That’s why we see virtually no ads for either Romney or Obama in Illinois, while they spend most of their time in five to 12 “battleground states” that could go either way.
“There’s a saying in politics: ‘Don’t spend money where you can’t win, and don’t spend money where you can’t lose,’ ” Green said.
“You have to remember that America does not have one presidential election. We really have 51 different presidential elections. Each state and the District of Columbia elect members of the Electoral College, who then go and actually elect the president.”
That’s why in 2000, George W. Bush became president even though more people nationwide voted for Al Gore. “If he could have shifted 1,000 votes from California to Florida, we would have had a President Gore,” Green said.
If Romney and Obama tie with 269 electoral votes each — which could happen, Green said, if New Hampshire goes to Obama while Romney wins Iowa, Nevada and Colorado — a new president would be picked by the House of Representatives, with each state’s House delegation getting one vote. So the one congressman each from Alaska and Vermont would have just as much say in the decision as would the 51 congressmen from California put together.
If that happens, Green said, there will be cries to abolish the Electoral College system. But that would require a constitutional amendment, and he believes the small states whose clout is magnified by the Electoral College would keep an amendment from passing.
Green was asked how Illinois became such a “blue,” Democratic-leaning state after decades of being a split-down-the-middle bellwether that bragged “as Illinois goes, so goes the nation.”
He said Chicago has always been Democratic and most of downstate remains Republican. What has changed from Republican to half-and-half, or even mostly Democrat, has been the suburbs. Increased Hispanic population in our area and increased black population in the south suburbs played a role. But Green said he thinks the biggest change has been the Republican Party’s shift to the right on issues such as abortion, gun control and contraception, which he said has soured many suburban women on the GOP.
Green said the latest big issue raised — whether Obama should be blamed for the Benghazi terror attack — apparently is not raising much interest among undecided voters, as Romney had hoped. You can tell that, Green said, because Romney didn’t emphasize it during the last presidential debate.
“The second smartest people write the laws. The smartest people run their campaigns,” Green said. “These people do their own polling every night. They know what issues are working and what aren’t.”