Could we be facing a “trumped-up” mess as a result of the 2016 election? Consider what might happen if Donald Trump abandoned the Republican Party and ran as an independent.
We could end up with a Republican President and a Democratic Vice President, neither of whom had won a majority of the popular vote or mandate to govern.
How could that happen? Here’s how.
Sometime in the Spring of next year Donald Trump decides that he hasn’t been treated right by the Republican Party establishment, perhaps accusing them of rigging the primaries/caucuses to favor Rubio or Cruz or Christie or anyone but Trump. Trump announces he is forming a third party with himself as the nominee and is successful in getting himself on the ballot in enough states to theoretically capture 270 electoral votes and win. The latter is difficult and expensive, but possible given Trump’s name recognition and available cash. See ballot access requirements here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballot_access See more on how Trump could get on the ballot in many, if not all of the states, here: http://fortune.com/2015/12/10/donald-trump-independent-bid/
Let’s say the Republicans nominate Rubio. Clinton, as expected, is the Democratic Party nominee. So, we have a three-way race: Clinton, Trump, and Rubio.
In such a three-way race, we would expect Trump and Rubio to split the Republican vote, thereby making it impossible for either to obtain the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Clinton should have a clear path to victory. Democrats start with states with 247 electoral votes either firm or leaning Democrat. Clinton needs only 23 additional electoral votes to reach 270 and win. She could get there by just taking Florida or losing Florida, but taking Virginia and Ohio or either Virginia or Ohio and most of the other toss-up states. See http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/05/2016-predictions-117554 for a map showing which states are safe or lean Democrat, safe or lean Republican and are likely toss-ups in 2016.
However, what if Clinton failed to carry some of the key swing states? For example, Rubio took Florida and Trump took Virginia, Ohio and Iowa (another likely swing state). Rubio and Trump split the remaining safe or leaning Republican states.
We could end up with an electoral vote somewhat like this:
None of the candidates for President would receive the 270 electoral votes required to win.
So, what happens? How do we choose the President?
The 12th Amendment to the Constitution states that if no candidate for President or Vice President receives a majority of the electoral votes, then the House of Representatives chooses the President from the three candidates with the most electoral votes by majority vote with each state delegation having one vote. The Senate chooses the Vice President from the two candidates with the highest electoral votes by majority vote. Each Senator gets one vote.
So, here is what would happen:
The election for President will be held on November 8, 2016.
On December 19th (the first Monday after the 2nd Wednesday in December) the electors chosen in each state will meet and officially cast their electoral votes.
On January 6th, the President of the Senate (current Vice President—Joe Biden) counts the electoral votes and announces the official results: Clinton 266, Trump 140, Rubio 132).
Since no candidate has won a majority (270) of the electoral votes, the House will elect the President and the Senate will elect the Vice-President.
Here is where it gets interesting
Republicans currently have a majority in both the House and Senate. They are expected to lose some seats but to continue to control the House after the 2016 elections. See a projection of the U.S. House race here: http://cookpolitical.com/house/charts/race-ratings
The Senate is a different story. It is possible that the Democrats will take back control of the Senate after the 2016 election, particularly in Clinton does well. Let’s assume they do. See a projection of the Senate race here: http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2016-senate/ See a rundown of the 10 Senate seats likely to change hands here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/10-senate-races-most-likely-to-switch-parties-in-2016-elections/2015/06/07/d9215fbc-0d13-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html
The new Congress will be sworn in on January 3rd. The President will be selected by members of the NEW Republican House and the Vice President will be selected by members of the NEW Democratic Senate.
In a normal year, Rubio would get all of the Republican votes in the House and be elected President, even though he came in third in the electoral vote count (and most likely a distant third in the popular vote). But the Republican caucus in the House could split. Some House members might vote for Trump instead of Rubio, particularly if Trump carried their districts. The selection of a President could drag on for weeks or even months.
While the House Republicans are trying to pick a President, the Democratic-controlled Senate will be almost certainly picking Clinton’s running mate as the Vice President.
The Constitution provides that the NEW President and Vice President will be sworn in on January 20th. If the Republican House has still not selected a President, the NEW Vice President- a Democrat- would be sworn into office and immediately become Acting President until a new President is selected by the House.
Let’s say that the establishment Republicans in the House eventually prevail and Rubio is selected as President.
- We would have a Republican President and Democratic Vice President who would be constantly at war over policy and the direction of the country.
- The candidate who came in THIRD in BOTH the popular and electoral vote count would be our President with NO popular mandate to govern.
What a Trumped-Up Mess.