Election 2000 - Who Really Won?
So there are still some who debate who really won the 2000 election. I shall try and present a case for George Bush. Let us start with some background information.
Consider the follow story: Suppose someone comes up to you and proposes a race, a 100 meter dash. You agree, you run, you win in a time of 10.2 seconds to their 10.3 seconds. Fair enough? Now suppose they propose a race, a 100 meter dash, but the winner this time is the one whose heart rate goes up by the least percentage. You agree, you jog, you finish with a time of 18.6 seconds to their 18.5. Did you win? Who knows? You will need to have had a starting pulse rate and a finishing pulse rate. In fact you started at 60 and went up 10% to 66, they started at 60 and went up 20% to 72. Therefore you won. Woohoo! What are you going to say to those people who insist that your opponent won the race because they had a faster time?
- We all know that a jury is a group of 12 people who decide who has the better lawyer. Yes it is an old joke, but there is a grain of truth to it.
- An election therefore does not go to who is the better candidate, but to who runs the better campaign. This has implications in 2000. Who did run the better campaign? We shall see.
The Moral: The actual winner depends on the rules of the race.
By now most sane people have agreed that in all probability George Bush won Florida. Al Gore has just lost too many recounts too many ways to really believe that he won. However there are still some people who believe that because Gore won the popular vote he won the election. Remember here though, that the race was to win the Electoral Votes and not the popular vote. "What difference does it make?," I hear you cry. Remember up above where we established that the winner of an election is probably the one who ran the best campaign. This is especially true where people are so evenly split. Remember also that the rules of the race determine how you will run the race. So, why should this race change?
The interesting thing about Electoral votes is once you lose a state it does not matter by how many votes you lose. As we saw in Florida, it only took a very small majority to decide the states electoral votes. For a campaign strategist this has implications. If you fully expect to lose a state you can stop doing any serious campaigning there. We all know too many people who decide whom to vote for at the last minute. We also know people who probably decided whether or not to vote at the last minute. The implication here is that many votes could have been picked up by additional campaigning. In this case Mr. Bush lost both California and New York, two of the most populous states in the country. Now his campaign had conceded those states early on. The Bush strategy was to focus on winning enough electoral votes in other states and so they focused on winning over the undecided votes in other states. Indeed, the whole purpose is of the electoral college is to prevent largely populated states like California and New York from controlling the election with their enormous block of popular votes. When you consider that he only lost the popular vote by several hundred thousand votes, it is ver possible that additional campaigning in the two large states could have enabled Mr. Bush to win the popular vote as well. However that might have put at risk some of the electoral votes in crucial swing states. Since the goal was to win the electoral votes the best strategy was to focus their energies on other states beside California and New York.
That leaves one lingering question: Could Bush have won the popular vote if that was the stated goal of the election? We of course will never know, but consider the rules of the race, the winner is whoever runs the best campaign. Gore took Bush for granted and saw Bush gain ground in the debates. Gore always spoke in a highbrow, intellectual manner. Bush, bumbling pronouncer that he is, spoke in a simple common tone that people could identify with. Gore's early lead continued to erode right up through election day. That doofus in the White House continued to embarrass himself and Gore pretty much all the way through the end of his term. Gore couldn't even use hundreds of lawyers to construct a clear case for himself in Florida. Every trick they tried and failed out was followed by another desperate stunt that seemed clumsier than the last. Bush has been very calm and very efficient and has continued to surprise many people through the election and his early days in office.
It seems quite reasonable to conclude that Bush would have won a race for the popular vote as well.