College education: Even little 'swing states' get noticed

If Connecticut wants some presidential love and attention in 2016, its voters better be less decisive. For months now polls have shown the state is safely in President Obama's column. With the state's seven electoral votes locked up by one candidate, neither the president nor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has campaigned here.

And it's not just here. More dramatically, thanks to the Electoral College, the presidential candidates have done little campaigning in states with the most voters - California, New York or Texas, because they, too, are not "swing states," the former two strongly aligned with Obama, while Texas is Romney country.

The absurdity of this situation became tangibly apparent when my wife and I visited southern New Hampshire last weekend. My son, Jon, a sophomore at the University of Hartford, was competing in the America East Conference cross-country championships at the University of New Hampshire.

Watching the news in our Dover motel room Friday night, I learned that President Obama was visiting Nashua, N.H. that Saturday, the day of the cross-country meet. While I suspect this would be a lead news story if the president or his opponent was making a visit to Connecticut, in New Hampshire it was presented as "by the way," noted deep into the newscast after stories about a murder, a local renovation project and a Halloween feature.

The next day, after the cross-country races were over and the teams were packing, Air Force One took a low fly over the university on the way to the president's campaign appearance. Ho-hum.

News reports also noted that Michelle Obama would be visiting Tuesday and various other surrogates for both campaigns during the week. This weekend Romney will make two stops in New Hampshire. The first was scheduled for yesterday morning, a ''victory rally'' at the Portsmouth International Airport in Newington. Romney also will hold a rally in Manchester with Kid Rock on Monday night.

Campaign schedules also show Obama and former President Bill Clinton appearing together in Concord today.

All this attention is the result of opinion polls in New Hampshire that indicate the race is a statistical tie. In a close election the state's measly four electoral votes could prove decisive.

New Hampshire, it seems, has come to expect such presidential attention as its birthright. It has the first presidential primary in the nation, and in the weeks leading up to the primary vote it is tough for locals to run to the store without bumping into someone running for president. By evenly splitting their intentions between the two candidates when queried by pollsters, residents have kept the presidential attention focused on their state during the general election as well.

The cause of this disproportionate attention to one small state is the Electoral College system, which made some sense at the time of the founding of the Republic but which the nation should now abandon as obsolete. Four times it has led to the election of presidents who lost the popular vote. It disenfranchises entire states. It's undemocratic.

Of course, it has saved Connecticut from the barrage of presidential attack ads that for months have saturated the airwaves in swing states. There is always a silver lining.

Paul Choiniere is editorial page editor.


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