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House Republican Leader ‘Skip’ Stam is turning thumbs down on North Carolina casting its electoral votes for the candidate for President who wins the popular vote – but it may turn out to be a political gamble that backfires.

Last year – when Democrats put electing the President by popular vote on the table – the Republican powers that be in Washington quickly did the math and said, Well, there’s a chance we could lose the popular vote but win in the Electoral College. Why give that up? So they want Republican legislators in North Carolina to stop the bill – which is fine if you’re, say, a Washington politico. You’re not running for office. Your name’s not on any ballot. But there may be a risk if you’re a Republican legislator seeking reelection.

Every election in America – Senators, Governors and Congressmen – is decided by popular vote. So how safe – politically – is it for a Republican legislator to vote to make the one exception – the only race where the candidate who loses can win – the President?

Here’s what Skip’s betting on: Right now the bill’s buried in a House committee; like a lot of bills hardly anyone – outside the legislature – even knows it exists and Skip’s betting in November no one will either. The theory works like this: What voters don’t know can’t hurt us.

But what if, say, in five key races Democrats decide to tell voters what’s going on?

Skip sent an email to legislators telling them three ways to explain to constituents why they oppose the bill. But none of Skip’s arguments solve legislators’ political problem – or lessen their risk. And each argument has other holes in it as well.

For instance, Skip blasted the bill (in the News and Observer, 5-19-08) saying, “That thing tells our voters that the state would support the very candidate they repudiated.” Politically that sounds fine – until you stop a minute to think about it. Looked at another way what Skip’s saying is if a majority of the American people elect a candidate President we should tell them, We don’t give a toot who you voted for – we’re going to elect the other guy. If you think about it Skip’s saying it’s right for Republicans to make the candidate who lost the election President.

Skip also says the bill is an end-run around the Constitution. But Republicans just tried to change the way California picks its presidential electors – so they’d be picked by congressional districts, not statewide. How could they do that without a constitutional amendment? Because Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution states: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…” That’s the same clause supporters of the popular vote base their bill on. So, how can Republicans argue the Constitution means one thing in California and another in North Carolina?

Beyond that Democrats can just say, Presidential electors were once chosen by the State Legislatures – not voters. That was changed without a Constitutional Amendment. Thirty states (starting with Wyoming in 1869) gave women the right to vote for President – without a constitutional amendment – before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920. Let’s get down to brass tacks. This is really about one thing: You’re thinking what happened in the 2000 election may happen again.

And that’s right. We are.

But how on earth does a Republican candidate explain to swing voters he’s for electing the candidate who lost the popular vote for President?

Polls show almost all Democratic voters, almost all Independents and a majority of Republicans favor the bill. Skip’s gambling Democrats are so dumb they won’t run ads in October saying, Listen to this. It’s hard to believe. My opponent actually voted against electing the candidate for President who receives the most votes.

My question is, How could they resist?

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