COMMENTARY | Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney saw his numbers tank when a secret video was made about his comments that he doesn’t care about 47 percent of all Americans. Since then, he and President Obama have repeatedly insisted that they care about 100 percent of all Americans. But talk is cheap. In reality, both only care for about 20 percent of Americans.
So who are the 20 percent of Americans that President Obama and former Romney care about? They live in “swing states” or states where the polls show the results are too close to call. These nine states make up about 41 percent of what both candidates need to get to 270 votes. These states include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
If you don’t live in one of those states, your chances of seeing a presidential candidate are nonexistent. For example, in my west Georgia town on the border with Alabama, our last presidential visit occurred in 1963 (and yes, folks still talk about that). The last presidential candidate to visit the city was Pat Buchanan, though it was so quick people aren’t sure if it occurred during the 1992 and 1996 primary.
In response to my repeated emails, Team Romney gave me directions to a Birmingham tractor factory where I took students during the Alabama primary. I took students to a University of West Georgia evening rally during our state’s primary. Santorum ducked into Atlanta for a stopover, but the campaign forgot to email me until it was over.
Team Obama gave us a dozen tickets to that giant stadium rally in Charlotte, North Carolina a day’s drive away, which was canceled. We haven’t heard if that repeat visit, promised back in August, will ever happen. We did see an ad for Obama in Columbus, Georgia during the Atlanta Braves playoff game, and debate whether we actually saw our first (and perhaps only ad) of 2012.
But this is the new normal in elections. Back in 2004, the same thing happened in that election. According to FairVote.org, 45 states and Washington DC made up 83 percent of the population, but only got 26 percent of the “Attention Index” (ads and campaign visits). More money and visits occurred in Florida alone that year than in 90 percent of the states.
It doesn’t have to be that way. According to FairVote.org’s press page, at least 32 states got a visit from a president or vice-presidential candidate in the last two months of the campaign. I even got an invite to a John McCain rally in Cobb County, an hour and a half away.
Do people care? My students set an attendance record for a campus event that year when we had a congressional town hall debate in our assembly room that was televised. But we don’t get to do that this year as the race is uncontested. Those students of mine who agreed to be poll workers learned that local participation is expected to be only 40 percent of eligible voters, and that’s sadly above average.
Does the political class care at all? Listen to this quote from Ari Fleischer, former President George W. Bush’s press secretary and CNN media pundit. “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state and see their president more.”
I don’t think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they devised the Electoral College. This is fast approaching James Madison’s “tyranny of the minority.”
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.