The GOP’s electoral vote problem — and 4 ways to fix it

February 4, 2013

In our Monday newspaper column, we detailed Republicans' mounting problems with the electoral map. The math is daunting: Over the past six elections  -- from 1992-2012 -- the Republican presidential nominee has averaged 210 electoral votes while the Democratic nominee has averaged 327 electoral votes. The last time a Republican nominee got more than 300 electoral votes was 1988.

Given that reality and the changing demographic nature of the country, it seems apparent that Republicans need to re-think their approach to the map in 2016 and beyond. We outlined four ideas on how to do that in our piece.

1. Win Florida: It seems simple, but Republicans lost the Sunshine State to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Prior to 2008, Democrats had carried Florida in only one presidential election since 1980 — and that was in 1996, when Bill Clinton took 48 percent in a three-way contest.

2. Give up on New England: The six states that make up the New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) have a total of 33 electoral votes. Texas has 38 electoral votes by itself.

3. Get the South solid again: One of the keys to Republican electoral-college dominance during the 1980s was the consolidation of the South behind its presidential candidates. That lock-step support has eroded in recent elections, with Obama winning Virginia in 2008 and 2012 — he’s the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to do it even once — and coming very close in November to repeating his 2008 victory in North Carolina.

4. Find a new big state to win: Of the six states with the largest electoral-vote troves — they allocate 191 votes among them — Republicans won just one (Texas) in the past two elections. Florida, as we noted above, is a must-have big state for Republicans. But they probably need one more — a state the party hasn’t been able to win in the recent past.....Pennsylvania, which was the sixth-closest state in 2012 (Obama won it by just over five points), is the obvious choice.

Those are our four best suggestions for how the GOP can fix its electoral vote problem. What one thing do you think the party should do to get itself back to 270 electoral votes? We'll pluck out some of the best suggestions in the comments section and append them to this post.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza · February 4, 2013