916,643 Votes for Sale
Begala, Paul, Newsweek
Byline: Paul Begala
Is $2K enough to sway you?
We don't have a national election for president. We all know that. Thanks to one of the few boneheaded moves by the Founding Fathers, we have 50 statewide elections for presidential electors, who in turn pick our president. The Electoral College means that if you live in California or New York or Illinois (all certain to break for Obama) or Texas (overwhelmingly Republican), your vote essentially doesn't matter. So right off the bat, 95.4 million Americans can be taken for granted--nearly a third of our population.
And that's just for starters. If you live in Alaska, you're in the bag for Romney; Hawaii, mahalo, is for Barack. Utah is Romneyland, and Massachusetts, where Romney was allegedly governor, is solidly for Obama. The truth is, the election has already been decided in perhaps as many as 44 states, with the final result coming down to the half-dozen states that remain: Virginia and Florida on the Atlantic Coast, Ohio and Iowa in the Midwest, and New Mexico and Colorado in the Southwest.
But of course not everyone in those closely divided states will make an electoral difference. We can almost guarantee that 48 percent of each state's voters will go for Obama, and another 48 percent will decide for Romney. And so the whole shootin' match comes down to around 4 percent of the voters in six states.
I did the math so you won't have to. Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people. That's it. The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year--and my beloved Astros sucked last year; they were the worst team in baseball. Put another way, there are about as many people in San Jose as there are swing voters who will decide this election. That's not even as many people as attended Puerto Rican cockfights in the past year--although there are obvious similarities.
And, oh, the lengths we will go to reach those magical 916,643. The political parties, the campaigns, the super PACs (one of which, the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action, I advise), will spend in excess of $2 billion--mostly just to reach those precious few. That works out to $2,181.87 per voter--or as Mitt Romney might call it, pocket change.
Who are these people, these few, these proud? …