The ‘blue wall’ is real; GOP should back national popular vote before it’s too late

Republicans who see the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact as a blue-state plot to undermine and destroy our chances of winning presidential elections should think again.

Expanding the presidential battleground nationwide through the compact — which guarantees 270 electoral votes and the presidency to the candidate who wins the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia — may prove the best, and only, way for President Trump and future GOP presidential candidates to succeed in an evolving political climate that easily could put Republicans on permanent defense. 

Under the current winner-take-all system, used by 48 states to send electors to the Electoral College, 12 so-called “battleground states” typically determine who becomes president. For all practical purposes, we elect the president of the Battleground States of America, not the United States of America.

Trump won eight of those 12 battleground states in 2016 by a total of more than 832,000 popular votes, clearly demonstrating that he can win a head-to-head contest with a Democrat. In fact, his performance in the battleground states suggests he would have won a rather substantial popular-vote victory over Hillary Clinton had the campaign been run across all 50 states. On the other hand, repeating an electoral-vote victory in 2020 under the current system may prove much more difficult.

The so-called “blue wall” is real. Examining voting patterns that have held relatively steady since 1988, the next Democratic nominee will begin with 242 likely electoral votes. That’s just a Florida or Texas win away from the White House.

Trump, on the other hand, will have only 102 electoral votes firmly in his grasp. His path to 270 is narrow and dangerous. A Trump victory will depend on motivating the traditional Republican base and then managing once again to turn out independent-minded Trump voters in those 12 battleground states where the candidates spend almost all of their time and money.

At this point — and admittedly the outlook could change radically between now and Election Day — that task appears daunting. According to a recent Glengariff Group poll, the president is running considerably behind former Vice President Joe Biden in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where his electoral victory was sealed in 2016. The poll also spells trouble in reliably Republican Arizona and Texas.

Democrats in Congress will never admit it, but their support for immigration reform is mostly about presidential politics. Specifically, it’s about flipping 100 electoral votes from the four reliably red states that have the highest number of illegal immigrants in residence: Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona. If Democrats can pass some form of amnesty, or engineer what Capitol Hill-speak calls a “comprehensive compromise” that would allow millions of people who have entered this country illegally to vote, Republicans are in big trouble. Here’s why: 

Texas: There is no way for a Republican to win the White House without its 38 electoral votes. And concerned Texas Republicans already have asked the national GOP to accord them “battleground” status in 2020.

Florida: According to Sen. Rick Scott, the state’s former governor, more than 180,000 Puerto Ricans have registered to vote in Florida since 2017, when hurricanes devastated the Caribbean. Many will vote for Democrats. If Florida moves from a swing state to a solid blue state, the blue wall starts out with 271 electoral votes — enough to elect a president.

Georgia: Already teetering in the past two presidential elections, any move allowing more than 1 million illegal immigrants to vote would move Georgia from a solid Republican state to a battleground state.

Arizona: The Glengariff poll spells trouble for the president in this reliably Republican state. Don’t forget the results of the Senate election in 2018.

The blue wall isn’t the only barrier Republicans face. Millions of real and potential GOP voters stay home every four years because they know their votes won’t make one iota of difference in how their state’s electoral votes are awarded.

Take just four examples from 2016: In Minnesota, Trump received roughly 1.3 million votes, but Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received all 10 of the state’s electoral votes. For all the difference they made, those Trump voters might just as well have stayed home. Same with 4.5 million Trump voters in California, 2.1 million Trump voters in Illinois and 2.8 million Trump voters in New York. In those four states alone, Trump garnered more than 10.7 million popular votes, but not a single electoral vote.

Bottom line, America is a right-of-center country. We can elect a president who reflects these values under a National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. It’s time for Republicans to make every voter in every state politically relevant in every presidential election, boost turnout and win on that playing field.

Saul Anuzis is a senior consultant to National Popular Vote. He is a former Republican Party chair of Michigan and a member of the Republican National Committee. Follow him on Twitter @sanuzis.

Tags 2020 election Donald Trump Electoral College Hillary Clinton Joe Biden National Popular Vote Swing state

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