In December 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that he would have defeated Donald Trump to win a third term for president.
On his former senior strategist and advisor David Alexrod’s podcast, Obama exclaimed, “I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.”1 There are, of course, several problems with this statement, the least important of them is that Hillary also mobilized a majority of Americans to vote for her as well. Hillary ran up large margins in states like California and New York, however, she was unable to connect with voters in traditional Democrat states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Winning a “majority” of the popular vote isn’t the objective in American politics. The electoral college addressed in the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, while the popular vote is, by technical definition, unconstitutional. Frankly, it would be in the best interest of news networks to drop coverage of the popular majority vote. It is meaningless and has caused needless controversy. Hollywood celebrities and Elizabeth Warren have touted the fact that the popular vote is all that should matter in the election, since it illustrates the true “will” of the people, not the electoral college. But that’s untrue. There is reason to believe that the Founding Fathers were intentionally trying to protect smaller, less populated states from authoritarian rule of their larger counterparts. According to a research paper produced by The Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, the Founding Fathers avoided a direct, popular vote election because of the potential for “tyranny by the majority.”
Contrary to modern perceptions, the founding generation did not intend to create a direct democracy. To the contrary, the Founders deliberately created a republic — or, arguably, a republican democracy — that would incorporate a spirit of compromise and deliberation into decision-making. Such a form of government, the Founders believed, would allow them to achieve two potentially conflicting objectives: avoiding the “tyranny of the majority” inherent in pure democratic systems, while allowing the “sense of the people” to be reflected in the new American government.2
What Obama does not appear to understand is that U.S. candidates for president run their campaigns based on the electoral college, not popular vote. Hillary did it that way; Trump did it that way; Obama did it that way when he ran in 2008 and 2012. If the election was based on popular votes, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would have campaigned heavily in population-dense states like California and New York, and in urban areas like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas. Rural areas in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan would have seen zero visits from either candidate, because there just aren’t enough votes to make a difference. Because of this, campaign managers and advisors base their entire strategy on the electoral college, not on the popular vote.
Like Hillary, even if Obama would have won “a majority of Americans” as he claimed he could do, he probably would have lost the electoral college. And there are some indicators he would have performed even worse in the electoral college than Hillary. Obama’s doubling of the debt, degrading relations with Russia, and bizarre foreign policy in Syria would not help his reelection case. And that 22% average increase in Obamacare premiums announced just before the election would have nailed his coffin closed.3 While many analysts believe this number adversely affected Hillary in the election, it would have been the tombstone for Obama’s reelection.
These are just a few of the reasons Obama would have lost to Trump in the electoral college… by a lot more than Hillary did.