Here's How Horribly Unpopular Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett Can Get Re-Elected

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 8 2013 11:00 AM

Here's How Horribly Unpopular Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett Can Get Re-Elected

A new survey from Harper Polling asks Pennsylvanians whether they'd re-elect their governor, Republican Tom Corbett, elected in the 2010 wave. They wouldn't. Only 24 percent of all voters think he deserves a new term; only 43 percent of Republicans think so. It's not so much that he's failed to govern as a conservative, as that among conservatives he's been seen as overly weak and ineffective, and among everyone else he's seen as ... weak and ineffective, with the results redounding to the benefit of conservatives.

But surely there's a way out of this. This year, as in 2011, Pennsylvania Republicans are contemplating a plan that would split up the state's electoral votes by congressional district. Doing so, minimizing the vote totals in southeastern PA, would be a massive boon for Republican presidential candidates. So, well, why not force Pennsylvanians to elect their governors on a similar basis? Instead of the popular vote, count the number of counties won.

Here, look at the 2012 electoral map.

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 10.34.27 AM

Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney fairly easily but won only 12 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. He came within 21 votes of picking up Centre County, home of Penn State, and within a thousand votes of holding Chester County in the Philly 'burbs, but the swathes of "Pennsyltucky" broke hard against him. Actually, even better example—look at how Sen. Bob Casey did when he locked up an 8-point re-election that day.

Screen shot 2013-07-08 at 10.37.09 AM

That's only 18 of 67 counties. A rollicking campaign against Corbett probably wouldn't do better than an 8-point, 9-point popular vote win, so this is probably the best way to shore him up. It's consistent with the "make rural voters count" theory behind EV-splitting, too. Why should the 650,000-odd stoop-sitting voters of Philadelphia County count more than the nearly 2,000 hard-working, callous-handed voters of Cameron County?

UPDATE: Election law demigod Rick Hasen writes in and convinces me to note that, yes, this is satirical. Among the reasons why:

It is clearly unconstitutional to run any election (aside from a presidential election or a special purpose district election) using anything but a one person one vote system. The Supreme Court rejected county-based elections and required one-person one vote on the state and local level. The cases are Baker v. Carr, Reynolds v. Sims, Gray v. Sanders, Wesberry v. Sanders.

The reason the presidency is different is because the Constitution's Article II gives state legislatures plenary power to set the rules for choosing presidential electors, including letting the legislature choose the state's electors themselves.  courts have never accepted the idea that One person, one vote applies to presidential elections.


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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