David Jackson, USA TODAY
Expect to hear more and more talk that one of the presidential candidates could win more votes -- but lose the White House because the opponent wins the Electoral College.
As it stands now, Mitt Romney leads President Obama in the popular vote -- 47.7% vs. 46.7% -- according to the average of polls complied by the RealClearPolitics website.
But, according to averages of polls in individual states, Obama right now leads in those states with a total of 294 electoral votes, compared with 244 for Romney, according to RealClearPolitics.
Recall that we've had recent experience with this: In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote,but lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush (after resolution of the dispute over Florida).
It's also happened in two other elections with two major candidates: In 1888, when Benjamin Harrison defeated popular-vote-winning president Grover Cleveland; and in 1876, when Rutherford Hayes scraped by Samuel Tilden after disputed returns in four states. (We're not counting the multi-candidate election of 1824, decided by the House of Representatives.)
If it happens again, expect to hear more calls to abolish the Electoral College -- but don't expect anything to change.
Smaller states would likely block any effort to eliminate the Electoral College because it gives them the prospect of power.
In this election, for example, battleground states include New Hampshire (four electoral votes), New Mexico (five), and Nevada (six) -- any of which could make the difference in a tight election.
Why is there an Electoral College?
Because of compromise by the framers of the Constitution -- some of whom wanted direct popular election of the president, while others said Congress should pick the chief executive.
A state's number of Electoral College members is determined by the number of members it has in Congress, and those numbers all change every 10 years based on population shifts.