The question who really won the 2000 presidential election between then vice President Al Gore and then Texas Governor George W. Bush continues to be debated, even though it was not the first time in American history that the electoral college went against the popular vote in choosing the president. The decision was verified by the Supreme Court and subject of more political analysis and reviews of the Constitution than any action in the last century, but the question remains, Did Al Gore with the presidential election in 2000? And, the simple answer is not simple.
No, Al Gore did not win the presidential election. He won the popular vote, but president’s in the United States are not elected via popular vote. They are elected via the electoral college. In the midst of the debate over who won Florida, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that whoever won the election would be doomed to a one-term presidency and that is he had the DNA of a former president as well, he would go down in history as one of the most lackluster of all presidents (Collins, 2000). Others have called the election scandal or even a failure of American democracy (Pomper, 2001).
Despite the naysayers, this President Bush is not the first American president to lose the popular vote and win the election. Two other president with familial history in the White House, Benjamin Harrison and John Quincy Adams, won the office without winning the popular vote (Collins, 2000). A third, Rutherford B. Hayes, was called “The Fraudulent” during his time in office (Collins, 2000). The sad thing for President Bush is that because of the closeness of the race in Florida, no one takes into account that a single other state could have made the difference as well.
While Pomper claims that the other thing the 2000 election showed was that the electoral college puts undo weight on the smaller states, the numbers show otherwise (Pomper, 2001). In an analysis of the actual vote total for the 2000 General Election, Bush received 50,456,002 votes and Gore had 50,999, 897 votes meaning that Gore won the nation by just over 540,000 votes (“Official 2000 General Presidential Election Resutlts, 2001). In Florida, he vote difference was less that 600 votes.
“To understand how close the election in Florida was, consider the likely outcome iof the approximately six million voters all were flipping coins. Over multiple trials of six million coin flips, the median lead for heads or tails would be about 600 votes. ” (Erikson, 2001). So, if we accept Florida as a statistical dead heat and ignore its impact on the election, there is one state that determines the fate of the nation: California. In the 2000 election, Gore won California by an impressive 1. 3 million votes (“Official 2000 General Presidential Election Results”, 2001).
That means all of California’s 54 electoral votes went to Gore. This pokes a huge hole in Pomper’s argument that the smaller states were over-valued in the electoral college. Gore won the popular vote based solely on his performance in California. In fact, if his 1. 3 million vote lea from California were erased, Gore would have lost the popular vote by about 750,000 votes. Throughout his article Pomper tries to break down the election into and us versus them, red versus blue mentality, saying that Gore won more heavily in East and West Coast states while Bush won the great majority of the interior of the nation (Pomper, 2001).
And, the simple fact borne out by the numbers is that by eliminating one state from country, George Bush would have won the nation without dispute. Why choose to eliminate California? For no reason at all other than to show the similarities to the argument that some people make claiming that Gore should have been named president. They want to eliminate the results from a single state, Florida, in naming the president. That type of picking and choosing whose vote to ignore is just the kind of thing the electoral college was put in place to avoid.