What do you do if you aren't winning and know you can't win? Change the rules.
That is exactly what the GOP strategy appears to be when it comes to the 2012 presidential election. Under the current system, Obama — even a relatively unpopular Obama like now — will probably win re-election (although, of course, once he starts campaigning, his numbers will go up). So the GOP is doing all it can do… to change the current system.
And here's the scary part: what they are doing is legal. The scheme works like this:
Every political junkie knows that the presidential election isn't a truly national contest; it's a state-by-state fight, and each state is worth a number of electoral votes equal to the size of the state's congressional delegation. (The District of Columbia also gets three votes.) There are 538 electoral votes up for grabs; win 270, and you're the president.
Here's the rub, though: Each state gets to determine how its electoral votes are allocated. Currently, 48 states and DC use a winner-take-all system in which the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of its electoral votes. Under the Republican plan—which has been endorsed by top Republicans in both houses of the state's legislature, as well as the governor, Tom Corbett—Pennsylvania would change from this system to one where each congressional district gets its own electoral vote. (Two electoral votes—one for each of the state's two senators—would go to the statewide winner.)
So, by taking away the winner-takes-all system in Pennsylvania and a few key Democratic states (i.e., Michigan), and perhaps with a healthy amount of gerrymandering (which Republicans do well) within those states, Republicans can essentially rack up electoral votes that they wouldn't have under the current system.
Keep on eye out. More to come.