LITTLE ROCK — The candidate getting the most votes for president might not win on November 6.
The partisan majorities in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives may grow narrower.
That is to say we may not have reached bottom on polarization, distrust, dysfunction and gridlock.
For one thing, an immediate thing, we would face the matter of the lame-duck Congress. It would meet by the end of the year to decide what to do about the Bush tax cuts and automatic spending reductions of $1.2 trillion. It would receive no coherent message from the voters.
After that, we could worry about a deeply resented president beginning a second term with most of the voters having opposed his reelection, then working with an inoperable U.S. Senate that lacks a functioning majority for breaking through a filibuster.
If the latest averaging of all prevailing polls provides credible numbers, and if it holds, then Republican Mitt Romney will get more popular votes nationwide, by a percentage point, give or take a fraction either way.
That averaging, by the way, tilts Romney’s way only because of an outlier poll, Gallup, which—logically, to me—finds his lead so strong among white Southerners and likeliest voters that he has a nationwide lead.
All other polls have it tight, most leaning fractionally to President Barack Obama.
Either way, the popular vote means nothing to the American presidency, as Al Gore found against popular-vote loser George W. Bush in 2000.
What matters are votes in the Electoral College as cast by states according to how those states voted, with winners taking all except in two small-state cases. Those are Nebraska and Maine, where electors conceivably could get apportioned by congressional-district outcomes.
There are 538 votes in the Electoral College, so the duly elected president is the one getting 270.
Here’s how I score it today: Romney will win Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
That’s 235 electoral votes, 35 short.
Of the six states truly in play—Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia—Romney probably will win Colorado with nine electoral votes. Let’s go ahead and give him Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, and New Hampshire, with four, though I’m not at all sure of either.
That brings him to 261 electors, nine short.
Let’s give him one more elector for a congressional-district victory in Maine, putting him at 262, eight short.
Obama will win California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
That’s 247 electoral votes, 23 short.
Of those six truly swing states, heavy Democratic early voting in Ohio and Iowa ought to deliver those to him—with 18 electors in Ohio and six in Iowa—and he probably will take Harry Reid’s Nevada, with six.
That gets him to 277 electors, seven over the top.
Let’s give him Omaha, Warren Buffett’s hometown, and thus one congressional-district victory in Nebraska. That offsets the single elector he lost to a congressional district In Maine, leaving him at 277.
It costs Romney one, dropping him back to 261.
There you have it: More people’s votes would be cast for Romney, but Obama would be heading back to the White House from the Electoral College, where, with 270 votes needed, Obama would have 277 and Romney 261.
In the U.S. Senate, the Democratic caucus lead of 53-47 would lose seats in Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana, but take over Republican seats in Massachusetts and Maine.
The latter is where Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s seat is likely to be won by the two-term independent governor, Angus King. He has endorsed Obama and is likely to caucus with Democrats.
So the Democrats’ usually hapless 53-47 advantage in the Senate would become a tad more hapless at 52-48.
The Republicans are likely to hold their workable membership lead in the U.S. House, but lose maybe four seats.
Party discipline and right-wing theology would pass a bevy of conservative bills in the House that would languish ad infinitum in the U.S. Senate and never get remotely near the minority occupant of the White House.
Despair will be mitigated by assurances on each side that the other side also despairs.
John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.
com. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com.