Republican leaders are divided over proposals advocated by state lawmakers from their party that would award presidential electoral votes in a proportional way, a move that may give their future candidates an edge.
“It’s something that a lot of states are looking at, and in some cases I think they should look at it,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told reporters after being re-elected to his post yesterday at a gathering in North Carolina. “It is a state issue, but personally I’m pretty intrigued by it.”
Other party leaders said it’s a bad idea to award electoral votes by congressional districts won instead of winner-take-all, as is being discussed in Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” former Mississippi governor and onetime RNC chairman Haley Barbour said in an interview airing this weekend on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”
Barbour, who along with his nephew, RNC member Henry Barbour, is close to Priebus, said such changes may not always benefit Republicans.
“I don’t think anybody can predict with any form of precision who it’ll help from this election to the next,” Barbour said.
Terri Lynn Land, an RNC member from Michigan who is a former secretary of state there, said she isn’t in favor of changing the awarding of electoral votes, at least for now.
“I think we need to fix our primary process first,” Land said during an interview at the RNC meeting in Charlotte. “I don’t know that I’m sold on all that.”
Glenn McCall, an RNC member from South Carolina who is serving on a study committee researching ways to make the party more competitive in elections, said any changes would likely need to be phased in over several presidential elections.
“I personally agree with the Electoral College, but I’m open to more discussion about it,” he said. “It’s probably something we should look at.”
The states discussing the proposal all backed President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in November’s election. They are also controlled by Republicans at the state level.
The prospects of Republican-backed legislation in Virginia appeared doomed for this year, after key Republicans there, including Governor Bob McDonnell, said they opposed the bill, the Associated Press reported.
Electoral College votes are awarded based on the size of each state’s congressional delegation, with one given for each House member and one for each senator. Nebraska and Maine are the only two that award them on a proportional basis.
The president won the popular vote with 65.9 million votes -- or 51.1 percent -- while Romney received 60.9 million votes, or 47.2 percent. Obama won electoral votes, 332 to 206.
Had Virginia allocated its electors by congressional district in 2012, Romney would have won nine electoral votes there to Obama’s four, the AP said.