Electoral College Tie Possible (But Damned Unlikely)

Nate Silver offers a scenario where Obama and Romney each get 269 Electoral College votes.

Nate Silver’s latest forecast offers a scenario where Obama and Romney each get 269 Electoral College votes, thus sending the election to the House. The path is, to say the least, implausible:

[S]uppose there is a deterioration in his polls between now and Nov. 6 — or that the polls have overestimated his standing across the board. And so Mr. Obama wins the states where he has at least an 85 percent chance of victory in the forecast, but no others. Then we’d be left with the following map:

If you add up the electoral votes in that case, they come out to Obama 269, Romney 269: an exact Electoral College tie. The election would then be thrown to the House of Representatives, which would cast votes based on the provisions of the 12th Amendment.

Mitt Romney would probably win such an election, because Republicans will probably control a majority of state delegations in the incoming House of Representatives.

While this scenario is guaranteed to excite political junkies, the assumptions here are stacked heavily in Romney’s favor. Indeed, Silver notes, “Of the 25,001 simulations that we ran on Monday, a 269-269 tie came up in 152 model runs, or about 0.6 percent of the time. Still, this probability has roughly doubled from a few weeks ago, when the chances had been hovering at about 0.3 percent instead.”

Silver’s main model, though, shows a 320 to 218 Obama blowout and a whopping 85.7% chance of an Obama re-election. While it’s of course possible that some wild development in the campaign or in world or national affairs changes the current dynamic in the month remaining before the election, it’s pretty unlikely.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. James,

    I just can’t understand how you can take that hack Silver seriously. Aren’t you aware that he works for the New York Times?!

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: That’s a good point. Plus, he uses math, which has a natural Democratic skew.

  3. John Peabody says:

    Hasn’t there been some tinkering with electoral votes? I thing that there are some states where the electors vote for the winner of the popular vote, regardless of the state vote. Or maybe they split (drawing some electors from the both sides). In those cases, I don’t think you can predict a tie, since the votes are not locked (are they locked anyway? A quadrienneial muse).

  4. @James Joyner:

    Plus, he uses math, which has a natural Democratic skew.

    Indeed. And that just makes my head hurt.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @John Peabody:

    Hasn’t there been some tinkering with electoral votes? I thing that there are some states where the electors vote for the winner of the popular vote, regardless of the state vote.

    Not exactly. There’s an initiative whereby states agree to vote for the national popular vote winner once enough states to constitute 270 or more Electoral Votes signs off on it. That hasn’t happened yet, so it’s not yet operative and likely won’t ever be.

  6. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    That’s a good point. Plus, he uses math, which has a natural Democratic skew.

    Exactly. All those libs pretend there some “scientific consensus” about Math and the entire “base 10” system.

    If OTB cared about “objective” reporting, you’d address alternate systems (like base 12) and deskewed approaches like “Intelligent Rithmatic.”

  7. Scott says:

    @mattb: It may be useful to use base 8 at this point in time since that is what the Mayans used.

  8. Facebones says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Maybe they should re-release that talking Barbie doll from the ’90s and rename it Republican Barbie.

  9. Facebones says:

    The three wet dreams of the political punditry:

    1) Tied Electoral College

    2) Brokered Convention

    3) Emma Stone purring that “pollster make her hot.”

    #3 is probably the most likely to happen.

  10. @Facebones: You forgot: incumbent president switched running mate for re-election campaign.

  11. danimal says:

    In the case of an electoral college tie, would the threatened “faithless electors” upset by the treatment of Ron Paul at the GOP convention become the most powerful people in the world?

  12. Franklin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “mate”, not “way”, I imagine.

  13. @Franklin: Indeed. Thanks and fixed.

  14. Nikki says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: You can edit your comments??!

  15. Jeremy says:

    @Nikki: Like a boss.

  16. Sejanus says:

    @James Joyner@John Peabody: Actually Nebraska and Maine do allocate their electoral votes based on a system different than the one used in the other 48 states and the District of Columbia. In NE and ME the winner of the statewide vote wins only two of the state electors. The allocation of the rest electors is based on the results of the popular vote in each of the congressional districts – he who wins the vote in a congressional district gets the one elector that is attached to it. Obama actually won one of Nebraska’s congressional district electors in 2008 with the rest of the state going to McCain.

    Still, it’s highly unlikely that this will matter much. Even if Obama doesn’t win all the congressional districts in Maine (where he is likely to win the statewide vote) and Romney doesn’t win all the congressional districts in Nebraska (where the statewide vote will most likely go to him), it’s only a couple of a electors we’re talking about , I don’t think it will determine the results of the election in any way.

    @danimal: Delegates and electors aren’t the same thing. The first vote for the nomination of the party’s presidential nominee, the second for the president itself. My guess is that if any Ron Paul supporters will try to become a state elector his local Republican party will do the best to prevent him from getting the job in order to prevent the kind of scenario you’re discussing.

  17. John Peabody says:

    Thanks, @Sejanus. I knew there was something else out there. I just did the Wikipedia research on Nebraska and Maine. It doesn’t take away from the general theory (a possible tie), but it makes it that much harder to achieve.

  18. LCaution says:

    Since I read Silver’s simulation results, I’ve been waiting for shouts of joy and “I told you so” from the Right – but maybe they can’t even accept “good” news if the source is biased because, I guess, if the source is biased then it’s not true so the good news is really bad news …. Have I gotten myself into some kind of infinite loop here?

  19. Smooth Jazz says:

    “I just can’t understand how you can take that hack Silver seriously. Aren’t you aware that he works for the New York Times?!”

    Har, Har, Har – You are sooooooo funny Dude. Yeah, Nate Silver, NY Times. A lefty blogger that was exchanging internal poll numbers with David Axelrod during the 2008 is foisted up as a paragon of impartiality.LOL. As I’ve said a number of times, years ago this blog was fairly balanced, if slightly right of center. I remember James Joyner not being very fond of George W Bush, but by & large this platform attracted partisans and posted material from both right and left perspective. But ever since the election of 4 years ago when it was a Palin hate fest 24 hours a day, this once measured and even balanced platform has been turned over to the Liberals. Now a Repub Commenter is attacked by scores of left wing cranks and routinely called a “Troll” around here simply because they don’t agree with the left of center posters and 99.99% of the commenters.

    To be sure, there’s a lot of football spiking and champagne drinking going on around here. Nearly all the polls I’m seeing showing Mitt cleaning Obama’s clock regarding Independents as the National Journal Poll below indicates, a phenomena we didn’t see 4 years ago when Obama was wiping out McCain. 4 years ago, Obama was winning independents by huge margins; This time, Romney appears to be beating him in this key group in just about all the polls I’ve seen. So either a whole buch of Reps are now showing up as independents supporting Romney, or Dems are going to have to vote in huge margins for Obama to win.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/daily/obama-romney-tied-among-likely-voters-20121002

    Keep spiking – Just make sure to keep some maalox around just in case you all turn out to be wrong.