Push for national popular vote movement gets boost from conservatives


Leaders of a new conservative campaign advocating for the national popular vote movement are seeking to promote the effort at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this week.

Several leaders of the group Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote, which formed earlier this month, are seeking to educate those on the right about the movement and push back on perceptions that such an effort would largely benefit Democratic candidates.

“CPAC is a very tough crowd for us because the knee-jerk reaction for most Republicans is to oppose this,” said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party who plans to promote the national popular vote effort at the conservative confab.

“They think Hillary Clinton and Al Gore would have been president. Well, the fact is we don’t know what would have happened,” he added, referring to the Democrats who won the national popular vote in 2016 and 2000, respectively, but lost in the Electoral College those years.

The group’s campaign manager, Dennis Lennox, acknowledged that it’s a “communication challenge” to distinguish their movement from the Democratic push by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to completely abolish the Electoral College.

Under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which has been passed by 15 states and Washington, D.C., individual states would award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

The conservative leaders maintain that this agreement would not get rid of the Electoral College. The electoral system would still be used, they argue, but the electors would be distributed based on the national popular vote instead of the state’s popular vote in the winner-take-all method.

Lennox said their campaign has scheduled meetings with organizations and individuals to inform other conservatives about their cause during CPAC, which starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

The group argues that in current presidential campaign culture, a disproportionate amount of attention is given to battleground states over the rest of the country. They argue a national popular vote system would be more equitable.

“Let’s be honest, we don’t elect a president of the United States. We elect a president of the battleground states under the current method,” Lennox said.

Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote say their method would allow every person in every state to have an equally weighted vote, including conservatives in deep blue states who may not turn out because they don’t think their vote matters.

The group has seen a boost from former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who is supporting its efforts.

Steele said that the Republican Party is increasingly at a disadvantage in the Electoral College as more states, like Texas, with 38 electors, could become more liberal.

“We empower citizens to feel and to come to know that their votes will count in every election,” Steele told The Hill.

Anuzis said the lack of turnout from voters who think their vote doesn’t matter for president can have a “devastating” impact on down-ballot candidates of the party. He predicted that the U.S. could shift to a national popular vote model as soon as 2024.

The NPVIC amounts so far to 196 electorates, although Colorado’s approval is now contingent on a 2020 referendum. The bill would automatically be enacted for the country if states with a minimum of 270 electors — the number needed to win the presidency — approve of the compact.

Gary Gregg, the Mitch McConnell Chair in Leadership at the University of Louisville, said he believes the national popular vote movement may capture the attention of some conservatives, but he said he doesn’t think it will become a mainstream idea on the right.

The political scientist said those pushing for the national popular vote are “abolishing the Electoral College without actually going through the amendment” process.

He added he thinks they are ignoring potential problems like the legality and the public’s reaction in states where the popular vote differs from the national popular vote. Additional parties could enter the mix, he said, which could lead to no candidate reaching a majority of votes.

“A conservative should give the benefit of the doubt to history and to actual experience rather than throwing it into the wind and saying, ‘Well, hypothetically, I think in the future something’s going to be good for us,’” Gregg said, adding he thinks this method would benefit the Democratic Party more than the GOP.

“We should never make a constitutional change because it’s going to help a political party, for crying out loud,” he added. “That’s clearly what they’re trying to argue.”

There have been five elections in U.S. history where the person who won the presidency lost the popular vote, including in 2000 when former President George W. Bush (R) lost to Gore (D) by almost 550,000 votes and in 2016 when President Trump (R) lost to Clinton (D) by nearly 3 million votes.

Trump himself has previously entertained the idea of a national popular vote election, saying in a 2017 interview, “I would rather have the popular vote because it’s, to me, it’s much easier to win the popular vote.” 

But other conservatives like Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) have vehemently opposed the idea, saying it would mean “politicians will only campaign in (and listen to) urban areas” in a 2019 tweet.


Tags Al Gore Bernie Sanders Conservative CPAC Dan Crenshaw Donald Trump Electoral College Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell National Popular Vote National Popular Vote Interstate Compact presidential election
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video