“This is a concept that’s got a lot of possibility and a lot of potential,” said Washington-based Republican strategist Phil Musser, acknowledging that the debate would “incite different levels of partisan acrimony.” Musser also predicted that more pressing economic issues would likely take priority in most Republican-led statehouses.
In Pennsylvania, Senate Republican leader Dominic Pileggi this week renewed his call for the Republican-controlled Legislature to revamp the way it awards electoral votes by using a method based on the popular vote that would have given Romney eight of the state’s 20 votes.
Democrats quickly criticized it as partisan scheme.
“It is difficult to find the words to describe just how evil this plan is,” said Pennsylvania state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat. “It is an obscene scheme to cheat by rigging the elections.”
Gov. Tom Corbett, who supported a related proposal from Pileggi last year, had not seen the new plan and could not say whether he supports the new version, the Republican governor’s spokesman Kevin Harley said.
In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker has said that changing how electoral votes are allocated was an “interesting idea” but that it’s not one of his priorities, nor has he decided whether he supports such a change.
It’s gotten a lukewarm reception in the Republican-controlled Legislature as well. No proposal has been introduced yet and no lawmaker has announced any plans to do so, but the state Assembly speaker, Robin Vos, first proposed the change back in 2007.
“I am open to that idea,” Vos said in December as lawmakers prepared for the start of their session. “But I would have to hear all the arguments.”
All 10 of the state’s Electoral College votes went to Obama last fall under the current system. If they were awarded based on the new system, the votes would have been evenly split between Obama and Romney.
Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent an email plea urging people to sign a petition against the change: “We can’t sit silently by as they try to manipulate the democratic process for political advantage,” Barrett wrote. “We can’t let them attack the very democratic institutions and rights that others have sacrificed so much to gain — just because they don’t believe they can win in a fair election fight.”
So far, Republicans have only advocated for the change in states that have supported Democrats in recent elections. The view is predictably different in states where the Republican nominee is a cinch to win.
“The Electoral College has served the country quite well,” said Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere, who doubles as a national party vice chairman.
He continued: “This is coming from states where it might be an advantage, but I’m worried about what it means down the road. This is a system that has worked. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about changes, but we have to be very careful about any actions we might take.”