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romney.jpgAP Photo/Charles Dharapak

One of the storylines of the 2012 Presidential campaigns that will linger throughout history will be the Mitt Romney "47 Percent" video. Though Romney overcame the momentum that gave President Obama and made a tight contest of the race for a while, the video was one of several items that just gave Romney too high a mountain to overcome. And now it looks like the phrase "47 percent" may be forever etched next to Romney's name in an entirely different manner. As of earlier today, with vote reports - primarily absentee ballots - still trickling in, Romney stands at 47.84 percent of the popular vote. Some media outlets are still rounding up to 48 percent but as votes continue to trickle in and be tallied, there's a very good chance that Romney will remain in the 47 percent range and ensure that he will forever be linked to the phrase.

The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
Click to embiggen

By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.

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President Barack Obama speaks, as a tear streams down his face, at his final campaign stop on the evening before the 2012 presidential election Monday in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Obama returned to where it all started in 2008 when he was fired up and ready to go. On this cold night, as he addressed a crowd in Des Moines on the final stop of his final national campaign, the air was thick with emotion.

Or maybe it was just that cold. Or the stress and strain of a non-stop, historically tight presidential election. Either way, the president was caught with a single tear rolling down his cheek. From the Associated Press report:

"I've come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote," Obama told 20,000 supporters at an outdoor rally in Des Moines, the last of his campaign. "This is where our movement for change began."

A single tear ran down Obama's face as he spoke. Whether it was the product of emotion or the bitter cold was hard to tell.

Natasha Korecki has the full story on the final day of the election.

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Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. strikes the "Heisman" pose while holding Earl Campbell's Heisman trophy, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

There's something about presidential candidates and football, the throw of the pigskin - often on the tarmac to a jet to another campaign stop - that seems like a prerequisite to earning a trip to the Oval Office. It is the most popular sport in America, after all, so enjoy this gallery of candidates and footballs.

AP Photo

We've still yet to elect a President in this election cycle, but last week's superstorm seems to have shone a spotlight on two potential candidates for 2016.

No sooner had the winds from the Hurricane Sandy Superstorm died than New Jersey residents experienced another round of gale-force gusts: the bluster from the state's pugnacious governor Chris Christie. An outspoken conservative, Christie has had no shortage of previous barbs targeted at President Obama. Yet those jabs turned to praise as Christie lauded Obama's swift action in the wake of the storm's landfall along the Jersey coast.

For Christie, it's a shrewd move that sets himself up for a run in 2016 as a moderate, someone willing to work with both sides of the aisle. Or to at least be nice to someone from the other side of the aisle when disaster relief is at stake. In a way, it's the kind of move to the middle that Romney pulled during the first presidential debate which helped reverse the momentum of the campaign. At this summer's Republican National Convention, Christie's keynote speech was largely self-referential, focusing more on himself than Romney, and certainly felt like a speech from someone working his ways up the party ranks. His time in the spotlight during the Hurricane Sandy disaster struck a more positive public figure than his RNC appearance: a man determined to protect his constituents and willing to put politics aside for the betterment of those constituents.

Of course, the candidacy is far from Christie's to have if Romney loses. VP candidate Paul Ryan is a younger, more charismatic man whose libertarian stances appeal far more to the further right/Tea Party electorate. And there is, of course, a Bush: Jeb Bush, to be exact. But Christie's leadership during the post-Sandy crisis will stick in a lot of peoples' minds, especially coming in the final days of the 2012 campaign. If Christie hopes to run in 2016, he'll have a sturdy example to fall back on that will be a bit more difficult for Democrats to assail.

bookerap.jpegMeanwhile, a rising star of the Democratic party was building on an already sterling reputation with his own hyperlocal disaster response. Newark mayor Cory Booker, a renowned Obama acolyte, was hyper- active on Twitter, responding to questions and requests for help from citizens and doling out piles of informaiton. Booker's response was far from the typical politician or community leader. Instead of simply repeating generic information, Booker directly responded to residents, giving the correct phone numbers, passing along personal requests, and even invited residents without power over to his house and feeding them.

While Booker hasn't been as prominent a candidate to take over his party's leadership in the near-future, he is considered a rising star of the Democratic party. And one that's not afraid to occasionally butt up against party leadership: while his brief disagreement with Obama earlier this year seemed testy for Dems, it certainly made Booker more attractive to moderates who are seeking a bipartisan leader. In a way, Booker seems to be appealing as Obama was to voters in 2004 when he delivered his famous DNC keynote.

Regardless of who wins this election, the Democrats will be in need of a new candidate in 2016 and attempting to hold on to the presidency for more than two terms, the first time they would have done that since FDR/Truman.* For starters, VP Joe Biden isn't ruling out a run in 2016, having run for the highest office twice before. One big strike against him, though, will be his age. Experienced Democrats less likely to face the same scrutiny include Maryland Gov. Mike O'Malley, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But Booker is a realistic wild card as a younger candidate as is San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

Of course, this is all assuming we won't see a run from Hillary Clinton who, serving as secretary of state, has evolved into something of a beloved stateswoman, experiencing a complete image rebound from the aftermath of the bruising 2008 Democratic primary race she lost to Obama. While it's not a smooth path for Clinton, if she decides to enter the race in 2016, she would seem to have a leg up on the competition.

But, in 2006, no one might have guessed the younger candidate, a first-term senator from Illinois, would be *this close* to re-election to the presidency now. Booker's energy and openness - his Twitter binging is hardly unique to just Sandy response - have helped raise his profile nationally. If there's one thing holding him back, it's a need for more experience in a higher-level office: a run for Senator in 2014 can't be ruled out.

And this leads to the most interesting aspect of all of this. Yes, there's a chance the 2016 presidential could be the Battle of Jersey. But there's also just a good a chance that Christie and Booker could be squaring off much sooner: New Jersey's gubernatorial election is a year away and this seems to be on Booker's mind just as much as any presidential run.

Regardless of what position they're in three years from now, when the next round of presidential politicking will be going in earnest, their unique responses to Sandy have placed Christie and Booker in a bigger spotlight in the national consciousness and has provided a springboard for both a bigger future.

President Barack Obama leaves Fort Lauderdale, Fla. after making a campaign appearance, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012. AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

You can read all of columnist Richard Roeper's column breaking down his prediction on the race for the White House here. But Roeper, the consumate gambler, has been studying the odds and thinks he knows who will be dancing to Hail to the Chief come Wednesday: Barack Obama.

Speaking of odds, this has been the most heavily bet upon U.S. presidential race in history for at least one bookie, according to The Sporting News' The Linesmakers.

"The signs are that up to $16 million U.S. will be riding on the outcome of the U.S. Election," British oddsmaker William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said in a release Saturday.

With just days to go before Tuesday's election, Barack Obama was a heavy -400 (1/4) favorite on Saturday. William Hill listed Republican candidate Mitt Romney as a +300 (3/1) underdog.

Meanwhile, here's Roeper's breakdown on how the state's will fall and what the final count will be:

President Obama and Gov. Pat Quinn had less trouble coming together in 2010. Sun-times file photo

Gov. Pat Quinn got a prime speaking role at September's Democratic National Convention, but since then he's been mostly missing in action as a front-and-center surrogate for President Barack Obama.

That may change between now and Tuesday, but the governor has pretty much stayed home as other top Illinois politicians crisscrossed the country to sing Obama's praises - and two states vital to the president's re-election, Iowa and Wisconsin, are neighbors.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, talking up Obama, after doing live local television interviews as a surrogate for the president in five battleground states. Emanuel traveled to Florida last month to campaign for Obama.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), meanwhile, committed to visits in Colorado and Nevada to boost Obama and other Democrats with Hispanic voters between now and Tuesday.

And Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stumped in Ohio for Obama last week during a visit aimed at targeting fellow Catholics in that battleground state. It marked Durbin's second campaign visit to Ohio in two weeks.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson defended her boss, saying he has done his share to help promote Obama for a second term.

"Over the past two weeks, the governor sent bus loads of Quinn volunteers to Wisconsin. He has also served as an Obama surrogate on national television programs," she said. "As you know, he has contributed the maximum to the president's re-election campaign."

Anderson said Quinn has appeared twice in the past two weeks on CNBC with business anchor Maria Bartiromo and did "many more" programs around the Democratic convention.

"The governor of Illinois balances his state responsibilities with supporting the president's re-election effort as much as possible," she said.

But a potential 2014 GOP gubernatorial rival offered a different take on Quinn's absence from the presidential campaign trail.

"I think a part of it is reflective of the state he's governor of," said state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, chairman of Mitt Romney's Illinois presidential campaign effort.

"When he has the lowest bond rating in the nation, the highest unemployment rates in the nation and [more than an $80 billion] unfunded liability in pensions, I'm not sure that's the profile the president wants to have on the national stage about his home state."

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NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

It's been a big day for presidential endorsements as the 2012 campaign hits the homestretch. First, in the world of reality, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg officially endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election. Having last endorsed a candidate in 2004 (Bush), Bloomberg cited climate change and, more specifically, Hurricane Sandy as his main reason for endorsing Obama. Of course, just yesterday, Bloomberg politely turned down the offer of a visit from Obama on his tour of the Sandy-ravaged East Coast. Still, said Bloomberg in his endorsement:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week's devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Finally, Obama will get the leg up he needs in the swing state of New York.

For his part, Obama said in a statement:

"I'm honored to have Mayor Bloomberg's endorsement. I deeply respect him for his leadership in business, philanthropy and government, and appreciate the extraordinary job he's doing right now, leading New York City through these difficult days. "While we may not agree on every issue, Mayor Bloomberg and I agree on the most important issues of our time - that the key to a strong economy is investing in the skills and education of our people, that immigration reform is essential to an open and dynamic democracy, and that climate change is a threat to our children's future, and we owe it to them to do something about it. Just as importantly, we agree that whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or independents, there is only one way to solve these challenges and move forward as a nation - together. I look forward to thanking him in person - but for now, he has my continued commitment that this country will stand by New York in its time of need. And New Yorkers have my word that we will recover, we will rebuild, and we will come back stronger."

Meanwhile, GOP challenger Mitt Romney also picked up a key endorsement from the land of fiction: elderly Springfield business magnate Montgomery Burns who released the below video in support of the Romney campaign.