The Presidential Race comes to my hometownWritten by Scott Dreyer
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the USA is having a high-stakes race for president now, with the election to be held on Nov. 8, 2016. Not only is this election important for the future direction of the US, but it is, directly and indirectly, to much of the rest of the world. Several of my students in Taiwan have told me this week they watched part of the debate first debate this week. However, this year the drama is even higher because we have the first-ever woman candidate for a major party Hillary Clinton, Democrat) versus an iconoclastic billionaire new to politics Donald Trump, Republican).
Is it possible to lose the popular vote, but win the Electoral College? Yes, and it has happened four times in US history! The most recent and well-known time was 2000, when George W. Bush won (narrowly) won Florida, and got all its electoral votes. It takes 270 electoral votes to win (See #4 above), and Bush eked out a win with 271 votes. Yes, that year, you can truthfully say, "George Bush won the White House by one vote." Since California and New York have big, Democrat-leaning populations, Al Gore racked up big margins, but since the states are "winner take all," the large margins did not help him at all. In other words, whether you win a state by a little bit, or by a landslide, you get all the electoral votes for that state. Ironically, Gore lost his home state of Tennessee that year, to Bush. If Gore had only carried his home state, he would have won the election. (The take-away? Take care of "the home folks.")
If so many states are strongly Democrat or Republican, where is the "drama" of this race? At this point, in 2016, about 30-some states tend to be strongly for one party or the other. In other words, those states have voted either Democrat or Republican each time in the past four or five presidential elections. The drama comes from the remaining 10-12 states. These states have, in the past four presidential elections, gone for the Democrat some times and the Republican at other times, and the margin of victory is often very small. So, these states are sometimes called "battleground states," "swing states," or just "toss ups." Interestingly, my home state of Virginia, and where DreyerCoaching.com is headquartered, is one of these "swing states." For more than 100 years, Virginia was part of the "Solid South," which meant it was heavily Democrat, since even before the US Civil War. However, the last Democrat to carry Virginia from that era was Lyndon Johnson, who won Virginia in 1964. Starting in 1968, however, due to the national Democrat Party becoming more liberal, Virginia went for Republican presidential candidates, without fail, for almost 40 years! The Democrats finally broke their losing streak in 2008, when Democrat Barack Obama carried Virginia, thanks largely to the huge population and changing demographics of the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. So, George W. Bush (Republican) won Virginia in 2000 and 2004, while Obama (Democrat) did so in 2008 and 2012. That makes Virginia a "swing state." Many observers believe this was a main reason why Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine, a US Senator from Virginia, to be her running-mate. She probably figured that adding Kaine to her ticket would help her put Virginia in the bag. So far, polls show Virginia to be a toss up. Virginia's neighbor, North Carolina, is a battleground state too: Obama won it in 2008, but lost it in 2012. So, it may seem strange, but this election will be decided by how those dozen or so swing states vote, and that is why so much media attention focused on them, and why the candidates visit those few states over and over, and largely ignore the other 30-some states!
Are these "swing states" all of equal importance? The likely answer is, "no." As I mentioned in #3 above, states have different numbers of electoral votes, so the bigger the state, the bigger the "prize" and the more important it is to win. And several "swing states" are huge. Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is the largest battleground state. When George W. Bush narrowly won Florida in 2000 with just a few hundred votes, he won ALL that state's electoral votes, and thus the election. In 2004, Bush carried Ohio with 80,000 some votes, but that gave him ALL the Ohio electoral votes, and thus his reelection. In contrast, tiny New Hampshire has only 4 electoral votes, but in a very close election, that could be the margin of difference! Wouldn't that be crazy: the entire US presidential election being decided by one tiny state like New Hampshire? It is possible!
If Virginia is a battleground state, is Southwest Virginia a crucial area? Yes. Look at the evidence. Last summer, when Trump named Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, their first joint-appearance was in Roanoke, Virginia, my hometown. Just last week, in the last appearance before their Monday debate, Trump visited Roanoke again, this time to a sell-out crowd of 10,000. As mentioned in #6 above, the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia are becoming more and more Democrat, thanks to many people from out of state and other countries moving in. So, for Trump to carry Virginia, he will need to run up big margins in rural Western and Southside Virginia. Elections are exciting, and it is exciting to live in a "battleground state" now-- you feel like you have a front row seat to a national drama.
What are some key points Trump made during his speech?
To learn more about how politics affects life in America, consider joining us for a semester! http://dreyercoaching.com/en/come-to-the-usa/housing
A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.dreyercoaching.com/en/about/scott-dreyer
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