This morning I listened to the breathless analysis of the Ames Iowa "straw poll" which will follow a beauty contest debate, swim suit, evening gown and talent show on Thursday evening. This was hyped as serious prediction stuff despite the historic record that the straw poll winner does not readily equate with the Iowa caucus winner which does not link very well to the party nominees which may not have squat to do with the eventual Presidential victor.
That means that there is some value to reviewing what the Founding Fathers set up for us. Iowa was, of course, not even a gleam in some pundit's eye in 1789. Here's the section of Article II of the Constitution which describes the selection of the Chief Executive:
Clause 2: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
Clause 3: The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.
Clause 4: The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.Did you notice that there is not a single mention of any citizen-at-large casting a vote?
A very strong case can be made for the wisdom of having state legislatures chose electors by some methodology undefined here. Those relatively few individuals would most assuredly have the benefit of some governmental understanding, experience and judgment. We might be able to find disagreement but we would be hard pressed to deny that they were generally literate and informed.
The result would be much more likely less of a popularity contest. The campaigns would be much more focused and much less expensive. The candidates would be considerably more capable. The results might be decidedly superior to what we have got now.