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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
20 Mar 2015
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"There are three things which are real," said John F. Kennedy, "God, human folly and laughter. The first two … Read More.

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The late Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, who finished second in the campaign for the 1976 Democratic … Read More.

7 Mar 2015
Irish Eyes -- Not Always Smiling

There was a lot more drinking in Washington, D.C., before May 15, 1978. That was the date, as of this writing,… Read More.

Drop-Out from the Electoral College


In the cliffhanger presidential election of 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford, the Republican president, the margin of victory in 20 states (totaling 299 electoral votes) — including California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Hawaii — was less than 5 percent of the vote.

In 2012 when President Barack Obama confounded the confident predictions of the nation's leading conservative sages, including George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Michael Barone, and won re-election over Republican Mitt Romney, the contested battleground had dramatically shrunk. In just four states — Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina (totaling 75 electoral votes) — was the winner's margin of victory less than 5 percent.

Every campaign has basically only two finite resources it can spend: time and money. Between them, in the fall of 2012, candidates Obama and Romney made 73 campaign visits to Ohio, 58 visits to Florida and 45 trips to Virginia. Ten of the top 15 media markets in the entire U.S. where both presidential campaigns spent to buy TV time, mostly to attack each other, were to reach voters in Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

In short, if you happen to live in either Vermont (a reliably Blue Democratic address) or in dependably red and Republican Wyoming, you will have no presidential candidate visiting your state. No presidential campaign will spend a nickel to seek your vote through advertising — for which you might be grateful. But the fact is that if you do not live in a closely contested state — add New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin and, maybe, Pennsylvania to the four most competitive 2012 states — then you don't really matter.

Your vote does not count, because both parties know, today, how your state's electoral votes will be cast in 2016.

Sure, presidential nominees and their running mates travel to New York and California and Illinois and Texas to raise money. But these places are political ATM's and not campaign destinations.

The late and surpassingly wise Tim Russert of NBC News and Meet the Press was asked on the eve of the last presidential election he covered, 2004, what the key to victory would be. With both joy and insight, he answered: "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio!" He was right. President George W. Bush barely carried the Buckeye State over his Democratic challenger, John Kerry. If Kerry had won Ohio, he would have won the White House with 271 electoral votes.

In fact, in the last 16 presidential elections, Ohio has voted for the winning candidate 15 times. Only John Kennedy, in all that time, has won the White House without carrying Ohio. And in Ohio, Ottawa County, located 15 miles east of Toledo with Part Clinton as its county seat, has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every presidential election since 1944 when, for some reason, it preferred Thomas E. Dewey over Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Now that the national presidential battleground has gone in a generation from 20 fiercely contested states down to just four, maybe it's time to admit that voters in Maryland and Mississippi, and California and Texas, don't really count in choosing our national leader. Unless we're willing to abolish the undemocratic electoral college and go to direct election of our presidents, then why not save a lot of time and money and hand it all over to the good citizens of Ottawa County, Ohio?

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at




5 Comments | Post Comment
Comment: #1
Posted by: oldgulph
Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:38 PM
Comment: #2
Posted by: oldgulph
Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:30 PM
If I recall correctly, Ohio's Secretary of State "guaranteed" his state would go for Bush. He made sure of it by having plenty of voting machines in Republican areas, very few in the Democratic ones. People were standing in line to vote for hours in Democratic strongholds.

The 2004 election was close enough to steal, and so it was.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Bruce Strickland
Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:22 AM
Comment: #4
Posted by: oldgulph
Sat Mar 28, 2015 12:14 PM
What a heart-breaking loss for Notre Dame at the buzzer! We were with you all the way in picking them to beat Kentucky!
Margo Culley
Comment: #5
Posted by: Margo Culley
Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:10 PM
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Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 30 Mar 2015
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 28 Mar 2015
Ted Rall
Ted RallUpdated 27 Mar 2015

20 Mar 2015 Laughter, Still Pretty Good Medicine

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