The Cycle | January 25, 2013
>>> generally, the rules for our presidential elections are simple. the candidate who wins the most votes of the state wins that state 's votes. so for instance, president obama won virginia by four points last november. thereby earning all 13 of the state 's electoral votes . but republicans in virginia who control the state legislature and the governorship have seen intent on changing the rules. the idea to award one electoral vote per congressional district along with a two-vote bonus for winning the most districts. under this formula, what had been a 13-0 obama sweep of virginia last year would have become a 9-4 romney triumph. this is part of a trend. republicans thanks to the wave elections of 2010 control governorships in a number of big blue states. now, with the gop 's national chairman cheering them on, republicans in many of the states are talking more and more about pursuing similar rules changes. the effect could be massive. currently, two states, maine and nebraska , award electoral votes by congressional districts . only once in nebraska in 2008 resulted in the vote going to a candidate that didn't win the statewide popular vote but the math changes in bigger states where democratic voting populations are jammed in to a handful of districts in metropolitan areas and republican voters more widely dispersed across the state . apply the model to 50 states and mitt romney would have won the electoral vote 276 to 262 last november and lost the national popular vote by 5 million votes. there is a lot to talk about here. the point to appreciate about why a move like this would work so much in republican party 's favor is that sort of ideologically and partisan identity, the country's sorting itself out and the rising democratic coalition , nonwhite, young, college educated, this sort of thing, that rising democratic coalition is packed in to metropolitan areas and you will have overwhelming -- take a big state that might have 15 electoral votes , you will have 3 or 4 congressional districts with overwhelming democratic majorities, 80%, 90% but then 9 or 10 districts in the state where the republicans have about 60% let's say. take it together, enough for the democrats to win the state but when you break it down by congressional district republicans start racking up some pretty significant majorities and what you see with the model in pennsylvania and ohio and virginia , all the other states and it really -- it speaks to that -- that's the statistic i have cited i think on this show before to appreciate the evolution in 1988 , michael dukakis who was clobbered won over 800 counties in the country. barack obama won fewer than 700. that's how tightly condensed the democratic vote's become. for me, the bottom line is simple. saying this for years and keep saying it until i die or they change it. most votes in election should win. i don't believe the arguments add up to much. whoever gets the most votes nationally wins, period. end of story.
>> i think that we all agree on.
>> sake of ease.
>> exactly. the current system doesn't make any sense and the other dynamic is how well republicans did particularly in state legislatures in 2010 , gave them control of the redistricting process. gave them control of a lot of these state legislatures that went blue so virginia again at the same level, house and senate controlled by republicans , governorship, controlled by republicans and went blue. but something to take note of here that's absolutely incredible is prior to 2008 , prior to president obama winning virginia in 2008 , a democrat had not won virginia for 44 years. lbj was the last democrat to win at the national level in virginia in 44 presidency. so basically, with this plan, republicans are giving up. they're saying, we can't win virginia . we can't win it the way that it is. we have got to do these tricks to try to get back our advantage. that's incredible. because if you're losing virginia , for the presidency, you're losing. period. so i think that's an incredible thing to take note of. one other thing, the virginia republicans have been quite busy this week. on monday during the president's inauguration, civil rights icon in virginia , first african-american mayor of richmond and a state senator decided to attend the president's inauguration. and the republicans in the senate took advantage of his absence on mlk day , as well, to push through a partisan gerrymandered version of the state senate districts. they made all the democratic districts worse and they really targeting deeds the gubernatorial nominee last time ago who represents a rural district and if this new map becomes law, would actually lose his seat because of this. so they're really doing everything they can to sort of game the system in virginia .
>> well, you know, i think a couple of things. i think it should be noted that since the beginning of our young nation, democrats have done some things to manipulate the system.
>> at times, as well. every party, minority, majority, wants to win and they do what they have to to win. not an excuse. just a fact. too, i think some of this is hyperbole. nebraska and maine doing this for decades and only once a congressional district in either voted against the popular vote . had it been the system in 2008 , nationally, obama would have won, in fact. 301 to 237. i want to say optically, i don't know that this is something that i'm comfortable with. and i've sort of had to come around to this. i was reading something that larry sabato wrote in his krystal ball column. we are working you in to every topic disdiscussed today.
>> spelled krystal wrong.
>> republicans face a choice best characterized by personalizing it, a healthy, optimistic party is reaganesque. convinced it can win the future embracing it and making a positive case for its philosophy and candidates to all americans. a party in decline is nixonian. feels overwhelmed by trends and thinks it can win only by cheating, by subverting the system and stacking the deck in its favor. i got to say, at least optically even if disagree with some of those points, he is right. for exactly the reason we're having conversations like this around this table. because it gives democrats an opportunity to say, they're cheating. and i'm actually incredibly optimistic about our party and future of conservatism. this isn't acting like it and i'd rather we optimistic.
>> to your point, the voting i.d. laws passed last time around to do essentially the same thing really backfired on republicans and created this atmosphere where people felt like they were --
>> absolutely what you're saying and saying about appearing fearful, it seems with voter i.d. and with this, the gop is trying to change the game rather than change their messaging. sort of saying, like we can't win. we can't win a state like virginia which is really important in a gop --
>> there's definitely something very fearful about conservatism right now.
>> there's fearful within the party. conservatism is not fearful. the party apparatus.
>> absolutely. expanding liberty to people in terms of voter i.d., immigration, all sorts of ways. and some ways this is much ado about nothing. just doing it in virginia is not enough. you have to also do it in wisconsin, pennsylvania, michigan to really have an affect. there's two gop state senators who say they don't vote for this and hard time to become law and in terms of the voting rights act virginia will have to go to the justice department and say, this is why this is not retro retrogressive for the black voters in the state taking power from those in black voters. talk about voters smooshed together.
>> virginia will have to do that unless the supreme court steps in and that's something to watch for.
>> we took the same conversation to the facebook friends with these kinds of measures, romney would have won the election. we asked them what they think about that. and our friend virginia brown with me. she says let's go by the popular vote . period.
>> thank you. what do you think of that? head over to facebook.com/thecycle facebook.com/thecyclemsnbc. that's all an address. that's important here