A truly harebrained scheme to prevent Obama’s second term

November 28, 2012

The election is over -- but not in the minds of a handful of true-believer conservatives.

A plot has been hatched over the last week to, in a last-ditch effort, deny President Obama a second term and install Mitt Romney as the next president.


Tea party movement leaders Judson Phillips, left, and Mark Skoda. (Melina Mara - The Washington Post)

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips argued in a column last week at World Net Daily that states that voted for Romney could simply boycott the Electoral College, thereby depriving it of the two-thirds quorum it needs to elect a president. At that point, the House of Representatives would pick the president. And guess who controls the House? The GOP.

The cause was then taken up by Idaho state Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R) this week, with Nuxoll tweeting that the scheme is the GOP's "last chance" to install Romney as president.

The problem? Even if Phillips's theory were practical -- and getting one-third of states to flout the will of the country would be a neat trick -- it's based on a totally false premise.

Phillips cites the 12th Amendment as proof that the Electoral College needs a two-thirds quorum (i.e. having enough states present to conduct a vote), but in fact, the 12th Amendment only governs quorums in the House. There is nothing in the law, it appears, that prevents the Electoral College from electing a president even if some states don't participate.

In fact, even World Net Daily, the conservative Web site on which Phillips's column was posted, has acknowledged this fact, adding an editor's note that says the entire crux of the column is faulty.

"Since this column was posted it has been discovered that the premise presented about the Electoral College and the Constitution is in error," the website wrote. "According to the 12th Amendment, a two-thirds quorum is required in the House of Representatives, not the Electoral College."

The scheme enunciated by Phillips, of course, is just the latest bit of conservative backlash against the Electoral College. When Romney was leading Obama in national polls but trailing in swing-state polling, some conservatives called for a national popular vote.

As of now, Obama is winning the popular vote by just more than four points in the swing states, but by about 3.5 points nationally. So while a national popular vote would have meant a slightly closer race, there really didn't wind up being that much of a difference.

There may be an Electoral College revolt in the coming years, but this won't be it.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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