In a conversation with a fellow political aficionado about the upcoming presidential election, a thought occurred to me on how, if Donald Trump appears to win a narrow majority of the electors, the Republican party establishment might nevertheless elect a party stalwart such as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or John Kasich. The event that would kick off the party's search for a constitutional loophole will be if Secretary Clinton wins the popular vote but Mr. Trump wins the electoral vote. Let's suppose that the Trump-Pence ticket wins 275 or so electoral votes in November.
Except that it won't: the electoral vote isn't counted until mid-December when the electors meet in their state capitals to cast their vote. Imagine that the national Republican party persuades six of Mr. Trump's electors to cast their presidential votes for some other Republican, for example, Mitt Romney. The actual electoral tally will then be 269 for Mr. Trump, 264 for Secretary Clinton, and 6 for Mr. Romney. Mr. Trump still wins, doesn't he?
No, he doesn't. A majority of the electoral vote is 270. No candidate having received 270 or more electoral votes, the House of Representatives will then choose among the top three finishers in the electoral race: Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Romney. Each state gets one vote. The Republicans currently control more state delegations than do the Democrats, and the Republicans in the House must then go on record as to whether, in their opinion, Mr. Trump or Mr. Romney is better suited to be President. Considering how the Republicans in Congress are distancing themselves from the Trump portion of the campaign, they may be reluctant to stand on the House floor and cast their votes for him. In that case, Mr. Romney could become president despite not having been on the ballot in any state.
In fact, the delicious dilemma into which the House Republicans will be placed is so great that if the popular vote does not produce a clear winner, for example, if elections difficulties in one state give us another 1980, it would be tempting for one Democratic elector to vote for Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan so that if the electoral race isn't conclusive, the House has a second Republican available. I can't imagine any Republican delegation casting its state's vote for Mrs. Clinton, but I can see them grasping at a way to avoid their party being under four years of Mr. Trump's leadership.