Key Republicans Back Away From Electoral Vote Scheme

January 25, 2013 12:34 p.m.
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Momentum for an RNC-backed plan to rig blue state electoral votes in favor of GOP presidential candidates appears to be stalling as more Republicans come out against the idea.In Virginia, one such bill that passed out of a Senate subcommittee this week appears to be close to dead. Had it been in effect in 2012, Republican state Sen. Charlie Carrico’s proposal to allocate electoral votes by congressional district would have awarded Mitt Romney nine electoral votes to President Obama’s four thanks to gerrymandering by the GOP-controlled legislature. But two Republican state senators have already announced their opposition, enough to block the bill’s passage if Democrats maintain a unified front. On Friday, Governor Bob McDonnell (R) came out against the proposal as well, announcing through a spokesman that “Virginia’s existing system works just fine as it is” and that he “does not believe there is any need for a change.”

Republicans in five other states that voted for President Obama in 2012 but whose statehouses are currently under unified GOP control are contemplating similar electoral vote schemes. They are Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.

But Florida may be out of the picture for now as well. On Friday, the state’s Republican House speaker, Will Weatherford, condemned efforts around the country to change electoral vote distribution as a sore loser response to the 2012 election.

“To me, that’s like saying in a football game, ‘We should have only three quarters, because we were winning after three quarters and they beat us in the fourth,” Weatherford told the Miami Herald. “I don’t think we need to change the rules of the game, I think we need to get better.”

Governors and legislative leaders in the remaining states still appear to be at least open to the idea, but even a handful of Republican defections (although more than were needed in Virginia) or a clear statement of disapproval from the state’s top executive could quickly stop them. And as media scrutiny intensifies around the issue, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to hold out long before showing their cards either way.

On a national level, newly re-elected RNC chair Reince Priebus has declared his support for splitting up the electoral vote in blue-leaning swing states, including his home state of Wisconsin. Former RNC chair Haley Barbour broke with him on Friday, however, telling MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he did not back Priebus’ plan and did not believe it enjoyed widespread GOP support either. His nephew, influential RNC committeeman Henry Barbour, also dismissed the Priebus scheme as a “gimmick” to Yahoo News.

That hardly means that national Republicans are done with the idea. GOP strategist Jodan Gehrke and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell are raising cash for a campaign to promote Virginia-style bills around the country. If Friday’s news is any indication, however, their path to victory gets steeper the longer attention is focused on the idea.

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