Electoral College Narrowly Averts Frightening Prospect of a Colin Powell Presidency

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Colin Powell came within 35 Republican electors’ votes of becoming the likely 45th President of the United States. John Kasich, having had an elector’s vote stolen from him by Colorado’s Secretary of State, fell into a tie for 4th with Faith Spotted Eagle and Bernie Sanders— but only after two votes were stripped away from Sanders in Maine and Minnesota. (Typical!)  Another vote went to either Ron Paul or Rand Paul.  OJB will not stay hot on the trail of that story.

Well, it’s done, so — back from a self-imposed break from blogging — it’s time for me to complete the trilogy.

It’s all over but the permanent damage done the next time a Democrat has an Electoral College lead, especially a narrow one, in any Presidential election contest (as well as the times after that.)  Never again will a President be safe from a drive to upend the wheedle, harass, and coerce Electors into voting for the candidate person who earned fewer Electoral Votes on election night.  Thank you, my fellow Democrats; now please proceed with screwing up the process of Supreme Court appointments come January 3.  Let nothing stand in the way of belated impotent symbolic rage.

Donald Trump ended the day with 304 Electoral votes, 35 more than needed after 2 defections, one to John Kasich and one to Ron (or maybe Rand, but probably Ron) Paul.  Hillary Clinton seemingly ended the day with 227 EVs after four successful defections in Washington state — which gave three votes to Colin Powell and one vote to leading Dakota Access Pipeline opponent Faith Spotted Eagle — one defection in Hawai’i to Bernie Sanders, and three unsuccessful defections: a Coloradan for Kasich and a Minnesotan and Mainer for Sanders.  The faithless votes for Vice Presidential candidates will appear in a comment, if someone pays me about a million dollars to look them up, and possibly otherhow.

You might be wondering about Orange County’s role in California’s Electoral College vote.  A list of electors, apparently sorted by district (with the Senate appointees coming last), appears here.  But are the OC appointments — #67-68 and 74-78 on that list — truly from Orange County?  For that information, we look here:

It looks like Linda Sanchez appointed Jacki Cisneros of Los Angeles to represent CA-38, including La Palma.  Brett Murdock appointed John MacMurray of La Habra to represent CA-39 (the only district that OC shares with other counties that had an OC appointment).  Ron Varasteh appointed his friend Sandi Aduna of Laguna Woods to represent CA-45.  In CA-46, Gregory Willenborg of Los Angeles was appointed; he has no apparent tie to the district but is the head of Willenborg Productions (see their video!) and my guess is that when two Democrats are running against one another in a district — at least an OC District — the party chooses some major Democratic donor for the position so as not to prejudge the outcome of the race.  In CA-47, Alan Lowenthal appointed Carmen Perez of Long Beach, which is only fair as the LA portion of the district always votes for him.  In CA-48, it looks like Suzanne Savary appointed feminist icon Ray Cordova to the seat, which is … hard to fathom.  In CA-49, Doug Applegate appointed Francine Busby — and frankly if he had appointed someone from the OC portion of his district it would have been a shame.  Eileen Feinstein Mariano and Laphonza Butler were our U.S. Senators’ appointments; guess which was which.  All of them either voted for Hillary Clinton or else had their votes disqualified.

Could Colin Powell Have Actually Won the Presidency If Everyone Played Their Cards Right?

But, come on, serious — could Colin Powell have actually won?  Let’s imagine a world where Electors could vote freely– as Alexander Hamilton imagined that they would be able to do when he was tickling New York under the chin with The Federalist #68 to get it to approve the Constitution almost 230 years ago — and Hillary had decided to go down in history for a kamikaze attack against Trump in an effort to save the country from what various members of my party swear is certain destruction.  Let’s imagine that Hillary said “OK, male electors vote for Colin Powell and female electors vote for Maine’s U.S. Senator Susan Collins” or some similar formula.  What happens then?

It seems conceivable that at least 37 electors peel off towards one or the other, knowing that they will now be in the final three to be voted on by the 50 U.S. House delegations, and that one of them seriously had a chance to win (especially as their delegations would support each other in the final vote.)  The sole Maine delegate committed to Trump would likely go for Collins, so that leaves 26 left.  On the first vote, Maine would vote for Collins and let’s say that 8 Democratic delegations go for Collins and 9 go for Powell, tying them at 9 apiece.

Now what of the 32 Republican delegations?  If no more than 6 of them bolt for one or the other, Trump wins.  If exactly 7 bolt — and never change their mind — then Pence wins.  But if at least 8 of the 24 abandon a no doubt increasingly frantic and obscene Trump, then we have a three-way negotiation in which most of the delegations have already rejected Trump and aren’t likely to go back there.  Would that have been likely?

Well, not so unlikely once you remember two things: (1) Democrats are still voting in these delegations and (2) these Members of Congress could save their careers by being swept up into Cabinet positions.  (Trump’s Cabinet has already been announced, after all.)

So what happens?  Let’s take a look at how reps feel about Trump.

  1. Utah votes for Powell or Collins, especially after he tortured Mitt Romney.  Chris Stewart, Jason Chaffetz, and Mia Love all waffled on Trump and would presumably love to oppose him if it would clearly beat him.
  2. Arizona (still under John McCain’s influence) needs only 1 of Republicans Martha McSally, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, David Schweikert, or Trent Franks to join the four Dems in voting for Powell or Collins.  McSally alone would seem likely; recall that both of Arizona’s Senators were anti-Trump Republicans.
  3. Colorado‘s three Dems out of seven in the delegation would vote for whichever one Trump deplorer Mike Collins wants.
  4. In Wisconsin, the only seemingly gettable Republican would be Paul Ryan, who surely doesn’t relish working with Trump no matter what he has to say.  And he’d tip the delegation.  Sure would have been nice for someone to sound him out, huh?
  5. In Wyoming, Lynne Cheney (despite her father’s having warmed up to Trump) might be concerned enough about his Muscovian tilt to be gettable (although she might want to become Secretary of Defense or something.)  She’s the sole vote in her state delegation.  None of the other four Representatives in that position seem likely.  Alaska’s Don Young seems bribable, but also likely comfortable with a bribing rogue like Trump.  Montana’s Ryan Zinke is Trump’s choice for Ag Secretary, so he’s out.  North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer doesn’t stand out as a Trump type (Mitt Romney, maybe), but neither does he stand out as a potential rebel.  South Dakota’s Kristi Noem does seems like a Trump type.
  6. Idaho would need both Raul Labrador, a Latino Mormon, and Mike Simpson, a Main Street Republican member, to switch from Trump.  This seems doable, although a more conservative candidate might be needed.
  7. Virginia starts out 7-4 Republican, but Barbara Comstock opposed Trump, so they’d only need to switch one other vote.  Scott Taylor seems like someone who take foreign policy seriously enough to reject Trump.  Newbie Thomas Garrett Jr. is another possibility.  There might be others.
  8. What other state could do the trick?  Florida.  No one’s going to lose a statewide office in Florida by betraying Trump.  This is Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio country, after all.  Influential Ileana Ros-Lehtinen refused to support Trump.  Carlos Curbelo pledged not to vote for Trump.  Tom Rooney pledged not to vote for Trump.  I’d bet that Mario Diaz-Balart would go along — and they only need three.  Florida’s delegation is majority anti-Trump, if they could vote for a Republican.  I don’t even have to get down to Vern Buchanan here.
  9. Michigan has 9 Republicans to 5 Dems, but one, Fred Upton, does not like Trump.   He’d need to take two others with him to turn the delegation and I don’t know enough about the other eight.
  10. Any others?  Iowa has one Democrat and Dave Young seems reasonable, but Steve King isn’t and the fourth member of Congress, Rod Blum, seems not-so-likely.  Still, it would have been worth a shot.
  11. Alabama.  What?  Well, it’s delegation is 6-1 Republican, but two of them — Martha Roby and Brendan Byrne, respectively did not endorse Trump or did it audibly holding their nose.  They’d need to bring along one other person, likely to Powell.
  12. Nebraska.  WHAT WHAT?  Jeff Fortenberry doesn’t like Trump.  He’d need to pull along either of his colleagues.
  13. Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee?  Once the ball had gotten rolling, who knows what they’d have done?  At some point, once that seventh delegation comes around, the question becomes not whether to replace Trump, but with whom to replace him.

So, yes — it is at least possible that, had Hillary stood down, Colin Powell and another Republican could have thrown the election into the House of Representatives, which could have thrown the election to Powell.  The second stage would have, in some respects, been easier than the first part.

To be successful, an effort to get the Electoral College to deadlock would have depended on having worked out the back end of the puzzle first: who’s the best Republican (from the Democratic viewpoint) whom at least seven of the Republican-led state delegations would have voted to confirm?  Romney would have been the easiest sell, except that I’m not sure that he’s any better than Trump from a Democratic perspective.  McCain, very possible.  But this would have required leadership from Hillary Clinton to “save the world” from Trump — a choice among two Republican alternatives to Trump would have been both more realistic and more successful and and it was not forthcoming.  The pitch from many (not all) quarters was to switch to Hillary — and that was, appropriately enough for this election cycle — tone deaf.

So all of that has led to today’s victory for Trump and defeat for everyone else … unless the Houses of Congress refuse to certify the votes on January 6!  But let’s talk about that another time.  (Maybe Colin Powell still has a chance!)  Wait … shut up … stop saying that!  (Seriously!)  Oh no….

UPDATE:  Just saw this list with more names.  Hmmmm….


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)