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Rosenstiel: The National Popular Vote movement would fundamentally change presidential campaigns [Audio]

Megan Holmes

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Patrick Rosenstiel, CEO of Ainsley Shea, speaking about the need to reform presidential elections. © 2018 IVN.us, IVN News


Click the arrow above to listen to St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton’s interview with Patrick Rosenstiel, senior consultant for The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Last month, Patrick Rosenstiel joined Joe Hamilton in the Catalyst studio prior to his speech at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. Rosenstiel is the senior consultant for The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

The compact is a state-by-state movement that would award the electoral votes of participating states to the winner of the popular vote across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact, a contract between states, would go into effect once a 270 electoral college vote threshold is reached. At that point, the winner of the national popular vote would be guaranteed the presidency. Currently, the movement has garnered support from 15 states and the District of Columbia.

In this insightful conversation, Rosenstiel breaks down fundamental misunderstandings about the National Popular Vote movement and why it should not be considered a “blue state” movement. He also shares his experience growing up the world of presidential campaigns and how campaigns would change under a National Popular Vote system.

“In 2000, we, meaning the Bush campaign, spent more money in the battleground state of Florida to win by 527 popular votes, than we did in 42 other states combined,” Rosenstiel explained. “Under a National Popular Vote system, we’re going to be campaigning in all 50 states because how much you win or lose each state now becomes politically relevant to the outcome of the election. If you change the system, you change the incentives to campaign, if you change the incentives to campaign you obviously change the outcomes.”

“If you had a National Popular Vote for president, we don’t know who would have been elected in 2016 and 2000,” Rosenstiel said, rebutting the long-standing argument that the compact is a partisan movement. “The principle shortcoming of the current system is that presidential candidates and their campaigns only focus on a handful of battleground states. So being here in Florida, I understand I’m in the heart of the beast, a battleground state that gets all of the attention. But four out of five votes in four out of five states are absolutely ignored during presidential elections.”

Rosenstiel explains his thoughts on the resistance around the National Popular Vote and the ignorance (in the non-pejorative sense) around the electoral college.

“When I first heard the phrase national popular vote for president, as a conservative republican behind the blue wall in Minnesota, I was like, ‘Hang on a second, this looks like and sounds like the communist plot to gut the constitution and make Al Gore president.’ Those are two things that I’m not at all interested in doing,” he explained. “After I got myself educated, I became a full throated proponent because I can’t think of a single redeeming quality to the system we use for electing the president.”

Check out previous coverage of Patrick Rosenstiel’s comments at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club here.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Adrian Booher

    October 1, 2019at10:58 am

    Just because this man can’t think of any redeeming quality doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Those states with only a few votes that don’t get the campaign money still won’t get any campaign money. They don’t have enough individual votes to sway anything, and that’s where the farmers and ranchers are that provide you with food. You would leave out too many people who make this country what it is. I pray that this movement never passes.

    • Avatar

      Andrew Arensburger

      October 1, 2019at4:20 pm

      @Adrian Booher:
      You say that states with few voters will get little attention from campaigns.
      How is that different from the current system? Alaska, Delaware, Montana, the Dakotas, Vermont, and Wyoming all have three Electoral Votes, and no one bothers campaigning there very much because they’re solid red and blue states.

      Right now, no one bothers to reach out to Democratic voters in Utah or Republican ones in Maryland, because there’s no point: no amount of campaigning will give you a Democratic electoral vote from Utah, or a Republican electoral vote from Maryland.

      If the president were elected by popular vote, every voter, whether in downtown Manhattan or in rural Idaho, would move the needle by the same amount, and you can bet that politicians will chase after those votes.
      Take a look at gubernatorial elections: candidates don’t campaign exclusively in cities; they visit rural areas too, because they want every last voter.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 1, 2019at6:40 pm

      A successful nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

      The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

      With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to campaign in any Red or Blue state, or for a Republican to campaign in any Red or Blue state.

      The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 1, 2019at6:41 pm

      Under a National Popular Vote system, candidates are going to be campaigning in all 50 states because how much you win or lose each state now becomes politically relevant to the outcome of the election. If you change the system, you change the incentives to campaign, if you change the incentives to campaign you obviously change the outcomes.

      Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

      In 2000, the Bush campaign, spent more money in the battleground state of Florida to win by 527 popular votes, than it did in 42 other states combined,

      Almost all small and medium-sized states and almost all western, southern, and northeastern states are totally ignored after the conventions.

      Our presidential selection system has cut out 4 of every 5 people living in America from the decision. Presidential elections shrink the sphere of public debate to only a few thousand swing voters in a few states.

      The only states that have received any campaign events and any significant ad money have been where the outcome was between 45% and 51% Republican.

      This leads to a corrupt and toxic body politic.

      Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

      As of Sep. 19, 2019, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics sees “the overall Electoral College ratings exactly split, 248 apiece, with 42 electoral votes’ worth of Toss-ups: Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, plus Nebraska’s Second Congressional District.”

      As of Sep 4, 2019, The Hill’s “Interviews with two dozen strategists, political scientists and observers show the 10 counties across the country that will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.” 1 each in AZ, GA, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, PA, TX, WI.

      As of Aug 31, 2019, “Just four states are likely to determine the outcome in 2020: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. Each flipped to the Republicans in 2016, but Donald Trump won each by only a percentage point or less.

      Many analysts point to Wisconsin as the single state upon which the election could turn.” – Washington Post

      As of Aug. 24th, 2019, bookmakers say the Swing States for 2020 are Arizona (11 electoral votes), Florida (29) and North Carolina (15). 3 states with 55 out of 538 electors.

      George Soros’ PAC as of Feb. 21, 2019 will invest $100 million in four 2020 swing states – Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

      A Trump supporting America First Action super PAC, as of May 9, 2019 is preparing to pour $250 Million into 6 states with expensive media markets and high numbers of electoral votes — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia, none of which has fewer than 15 electoral votes. The group’s leaders believe a Trump victory is virtually guaranteed in 2020 if he wins all six.

      Rasmussen Reports, 2/28/19 – believes only 46 electoral votes are in the Toss-up category- four states — Arizona, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, plus one congressional district, Nebraska’s Second (Omaha). The omissions that readers may find most surprising are Florida and Michigan. Much of the electoral map is easy to allocate far in advance: About 70% of the total electoral votes come from states and districts that have voted for the same party in at least the last five presidential elections.

      The Cook Political Report, as of Jan. 10, 2019, believes “There are just five toss up states, representing 86 electoral votes: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

      The Columbus Dispatch, as of Jan. 9, 2019, believes there will be “just seven states [with 105 electoral votes, where the winner is not predictable already] to allocate. Trump will be 66 electoral votes shy of re-election and the Democratic ticket will need 41 electoral votes to win back the presidency. The seven states are Arizona (11), Florida (29), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10).”

      Advertising Analytics, as of July 2, 2019, projects presidential general election spending in two swing states alone — Florida and Pennsylvania — to top $600 million combined. Michigan $121 million Wisconsin $67 million, Ohio — a traditional swing state that has trended more conservative in recent years — only $39 million, Arizona, which could be a presidential battleground for the first time in years $141 million. Virginia and Minnesota, together, $41 million.

      Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

      Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
      “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,”
      “The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

      Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

      With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

      In the 2016 general election campaign
      Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

      Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country’s population).

      In the 2012 general election campaign

      38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

      More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states.

      Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

      In the 2008 campaign, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA).

      In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 1, 2019at6:42 pm

      None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.
      The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes ( not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution) does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.
      Under a national popular vote, rural voters throughout the country would have their votes matter, rather than being ignored because of state boundaries.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 1, 2019at6:43 pm

      Now, because of statewide winner-take-all laws, in some states, big city Democratic votes can outnumber all other people not voting Democratic in the state. All of a state’s votes may go to Democrats.

      Without state winner-take-all laws, every conservative in a state that now predictably votes Democratic would count. Right now they count for 0

      The current system completely ignores conservatives presidential voters in states that vote predictably Democratic.

  2. Avatar

    John Galt

    October 1, 2019at9:11 pm

    If the idea is encourage candidates to campaign in all 50 states, thereby encouraging those marginalized voices to be heard, I can’t see how this would help. Candidates do not have an endless amount of time, they are going to campaign where they can influence the greatest number of voters in the shortest amount of time. Not that they spend a lot of time in Wyoming right now, but this would give them even less of a reason. You can’t run up your vote total in Wyoming because it is sparsely populated. How many voters could you possibly get in front of in a day vs California or the Northeast? The obvious result would be more time spent in the big cities, polarizing our electorate even more. Furthermore, this has even less of an appeal to someone in a swing state, everyone should want politicians to pay attention to them. Last, if I lived in a state that supported this proposal, but whose voters voted differently than the popular vote, wouldn’t this disenfranchise the voters in my state? Why would you want that?

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 3, 2019at10:45 am

      A successful nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

      The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

      With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to campaign in any Red or Blue state, or for a Republican to campaign in any Red or Blue state.

      The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 3, 2019at10:45 am

      Look at how presidential candidates actually campaign today inside “battleground” states. Inside a battleground state, every vote is equal today and the winner (of all of the state’s electoral votes) is the candidate receiving the most popular votes. Every battleground state has big cities and rural areas. Thus, if there was any tendency toward de-emphasizing rural areas or over-emphasizing cities, it would be evident today inside the battleground states.
      Ohio alone received almost 30% (73 of 253) of the entire nation’s campaign events in 2012.
      ● The 4 biggest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in Ohio have 54% of the state’s population. They are Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Had 52% of Ohio’s campaign events.
      ● The 7 medium-sized MSAs have 24% of the state’s population. They are Akron, Canton, Dayton, Lima, Mansfield, Springfield, and Youngstown. Had 23% of Ohio’s campaign events.
      ● The 53 remaining counties (that is, the rural counties lying outside the state’s 11 MSAs) have 22% of the state’s population. Had 25% of Ohio’s campaign events.
      The 4 “battleground” states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa accounted for over two-thirds of all campaign events in 2012

      In all 4 battleground states, presidential candidates—advised by the nation’s most astute political strategists—hewed very closely to population in allocating campaign events. Candidates campaigned everywhere—big cities, medium-sized cities, and rural areas. There is no evidence that they ignored rural areas or favored big cities in an election in which every vote is equal and the winner is the candidate receiving the most popular votes.

      Not only is there no evidence that presidential candidates ignored rural areas or concentrated on big cities, it would have been preposterous for them to do so. There is nothing special about a city vote compared to a rural vote in an election in which every vote is equal. When every vote is equal, every vote is equally important toward winning.

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 3, 2019at10:47 am

      In Gallup polls since 1944 until before the 2016 election, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

      Support for a national popular vote has been strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed. In the 41 now shown on divisive maps as red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

      Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. It undermines the legitimacy of the electoral system. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

      In state polls of voters each with a second question that specifically emphasized that their state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states, not necessarily their state’s winner, there was only a 4-8% decrease of support.

      Question 1: “How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?”

      Question 2: “Do you think it more important that a state’s electoral votes be cast for the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in that state, or is it more important to guarantee that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states becomes president?”

    • Avatar

      John Crawford

      October 3, 2019at10:37 pm

      Absolutely correct, Mr Galt!

  3. Avatar

    Roberta Schlechter

    October 2, 2019at9:32 am

    National Popular Vote mightn seem attractive to those who only look in one direction. The Electoral college is NOT just about input; equally important, it is about output. Here’s what I mean. Beyond its essential purpose of giving every state, especially the small states, a seat at the table, the Electoral College as it currently operates, safeguards ALL THE STATES against voter/election fraud that is committed in any one state. This is because the impact of any misdeeds remains localized and contained. If fraud takes place within a state, it does not increase that state’s influence over the vote as a whole, and it does not minimize the influence of surrounding states. Every state is unique, with local traditions and values. The Electoral College safeguards EACH STATE POPULAR VOTE for the ‘President of the United States.’

    • Avatar

      Susan Anthony

      October 3, 2019at10:43 am

      With the current system (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), a small number of people in a closely divided “battleground” state can potentially affect enough popular votes to swing all of that state’s electoral votes.

      537 votes, all in one state determined the 2000 election, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

      If 59,393 votes had shifted from George W. Bush to John Kerry in Ohio in 2004, Kerry would have won Ohio and thus become President, despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of 3,012,171 votes (51 times more). It would be far easier for potential fraudsters to manufacture 59,393 votes in Ohio than to manufacture 3,012,171 votes nationwide. Moreover, it would be far more difficult to conceal fraud involving three million votes.

    • Avatar

      John Crawford

      October 3, 2019at10:35 pm

      An EXCELLENT point, well-made, Roberta!

  4. Avatar

    Rose Smith-Hayes

    October 2, 2019at4:28 pm

    The electoral college system is nit fair and that is why many do Not vote. The popular vote candidate does not win.

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