Here’s your semi-recurring update: Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead has now reached 2.52 million votes. In percentage terms that’s a 1.9 percentage point margin. It will rise at least a bit more. We can likely be confident that her final margin will be at least 2 percentage points. To compare, that’s 5 times the margin of Al Gore’s popular vote win in raw vote terms and 4 times his margin in percentage terms. At this point, not only did Clinton win the popular vote. It wasn’t even all that close. When George W. Bush had another bite at the electoral apple in 2004 and finally did win the popular vote it was by 2.5 percentage points. Barack Obama’s margin in 2012 was 3.9 percentage points.
Presidents are determined by the electoral college. We know this. But there are many reasons why this does matter, some good, some not good at all. David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report and 538 is my favorite election numbers counter at this point. Last night on Twitter he noted that in the last four House elections, Republicans have consistently won 4% more seats than votes in the last three House elections.
2012: 49% of 2-party vote, 53% of seats
2014: 53% of vote, 57% of seats
2016: 51% of vote, 55% of seats
Needless to say, that consistency isn’t happenstance. It’s structural.
A significant amount of this is due to the GOP’s extremely effective 2010 gerrymandering. But it’s not just that and probably not mostly that. Democrats are geographically concentrated in ways that hurt them in federal elections. This is one reason it is absolutely critical for Democrats to focus on state legislatures and governorships in 2018 and 2020. Geographical concentration creates inherent problems in our system. When you add the exacerbating effect of gerrymandering you can get close to a lock in a still roughly evenly divided polity.