Let us suppose that the Republicans nominate Donald Trump, as now seems likely, and the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton, as also seems likely. (Note to Senator Sanders' supporters: I said "likely," not "certain.") A group of mainstream Republicans organizes a third-party campaign for, perhaps, Mitt Romney. Without the official party organization behind him, Mr. Romney appears on the ballots of only some states, and wins a few of them. Let's imagine that Mr. Romney wins enough electoral votes to deprive both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump of 270 electoral votes, the number they need to win. We might place Secretary Clinton with about 250 electoral votes, Mr. Trump with 220 electoral votes, and Mr. Romney with 68 electoral votes.
As all political aficionadi know by now, the election will then be thrown to the House of Representatives, which under the constitution must choose the next president from among the top three recipients of electoral votes. The field will now consist of only Clinton, Trump, and Romney. Each state gets one vote -- Delaware counts as much as California -- and each state's delegation must vote, if at all, only for Clinton, Trump, or Romney. At present, 33 states have Republican majorities in the House, 14 have Democratic majorities, and 3 are tied. We know that Secretary Clinton will get exactly 14 votes. If a majority of the Republican states vote for Mr. Romney, then he will receive at least 17 votes and become the next president. The joke is that the second-highest finisher becomes the vice president, and if Mr. Romney receives 20 or more votes, then Secretary Clinton's 14 votes will put her ahead of Mr. Trump.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first female vice president of the United States.