Mitt Romney is expected in the Kansas City area Thursday. Like Michelle Obama and Joe Biden before him, the Republican presidential candidate plans to pose for a few pictures, make a few remarks and collect a few checks — all in private.
The candidates don’t want your love this year, Missouri. They want your money.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Missouri has been slipping down the swing-state list for more than a decade, a process accelerated when John McCain won the state in 2008 while opponent Barack Obama carried the country by a six-point margin. It’s hard to find any projections suggesting Missouri will be in presidential play in 2012.
So we aren’t a bellwether anymore. That’s bad news for reporters, who rather enjoy interviews with the Bushes, Clintons, Gores and McCains when they pass through.
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For everyone else? Well, this: Maybe Missouri’s move into firm red-state territory will drive another stake into the chest of the Electoral College, the cumbersome mechanism the Founders left us to pick our presidents.
There are, oh, a hundred reasons the Electoral College makes little sense today. Number one? The candidate who gets fewer popular votes than his opponent can actuallywin
Merits aside, though, there are also political reasons the Electoral College system is a bad deal, reasons Missourians are about to understand.
One of the primary explanations for the winner-take-all, vote-by-state Electoral College system is that it protects the interests of the “small” states, such as Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire.
But those states aren’t getting campaign visits and commercials because they’re small. They’re getting attention because they’re politicallysplit
— roughly 50-50 for Obama and Romney. Big states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania are also getting campaign love becauseeither candidate could conceivably win
In presidential politics, as in life, size doesn’t matter. A competitive state, on the other hand, does.
Even in competitive states it isn’t clear that presidential campaign visits have the impact the Founders intended. George Bush and Al Gore camped in Missouri in 2000, but there’s no evidence Bush paid special attention to the state once he took office.
The Electoral College system does damage because it tells millions of voters in noncompetitive states, large or small, that they don’t matter. It’s a miracle Kansas Democrats still vote for a president — the state’s electoral votes have gone to the Republican for almost half a century. Same song, flip side, in New York, which has supported the Democratic candidate since 1988.
Missouri hasn’t been irrelevant in presidential politics in decades. That’s likely to change this year.