Symposium: The 2012 Presidential Election


, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 418-422

First online:

How Close is Too Close?: The 2012 Election in the Electoral College

  • Lara M. BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Villanova University Email author 

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While it is too soon to predict the 2012 presidential winner, it is not too early to know that the general election is likely to be a fiercely competitive contest that will, assuming no major unexpected events occur (e.g., another recession), come down to a few thousand votes in a few swing states, most probably including Ohio. When a presidential election is this close, there exists the possibility that the popular vote winner and the electoral vote winner will differ, which has happened four times before (1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000), but continues to be controversial. More ominously, there is also a small, but real chance of an electoral vote tie between the candidates, which would then place the selection of the president in the House of Representatives and the vice president in the Senate. Even though congressional selection is the constitutionally prescribed remedy and has historical precedents (1800, 1824), it seems unlikely that the Electoral College would long survive what would surely be a spirited public debate over who should choose the president. Thus, the 2012 election results may be too close to sustain the legitimacy of the presidential selection method.


Presidential elections Electoral college Political parties Candidates Closeness