The Hill, which is a respectable but clearly right-leaning news source, gives us some of the GOP's November talking points if President Obama loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College:
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the politicians whose past criticisms of the Electoral College system would draw new scrutiny if there is a split verdict in this year’s presidential election.Other Electoral College opponents are listed, all of them Democrats. Supporters of the status quo are also listed; they're a mixed group (Joe Biden, for instance, has opposed changing the system, as well as Mitch McConnell).
... Obama said he supported eliminating the Electoral College as a Senate candidate during a WTTW television debate against Republican Alan Keyes in 2004.
...Shortly after the 2000 election, as a newly-minted Senator-elect, Clinton called for direct elections of the president. She argued the country has changed since the Electoral College was put in place.
... Five days after the 2000 election, [Senator Charles] Schumer called the U.S. voting system "antediluvian" and called for a study of simplified procedures. He, too, favored scrapping the Electoral College but said three-fourths of the states would never ratify an amendment....
Yes, it's true that the Electoral College is ridiculous. But it's also true that both campaigns have been trying to win 270 electoral votes, not 50% of the popular vote plus 1 -- and Mitt Romney is on the verge of losing that contest. If this were a popular vote race, the candidates wouldn't be practically living in Ohio and other swing states -- Mitt Romney would have taken up residency in Texas, or somewhere else in the Deep South, and he'd be trying to run up the score there, while the president would be spending so much time here in the Northeast that they'd assign him his own traffic lane in Midtown Manhattan.
But this is why it's going to be a problem if Obama loses the popular vote. The "hypocrite Democrats" message is going to be the polite edge of the Republican election-stealing wedge, while nastier right-wing operatives burrow into whether some poor Democratic elector in Ohio or Wisconsin ever had a tax lien or missed a mortgage payment or drove drunk. Maybe the GOP won't be able to steal the election, but it won't be for lack of trying.
So let's hope Kos is right when he says registered-voter polls are more accurate than likely voter polls. Let's hope RAND and TIPP are right and Gallup is wrong. Let's hope Obama's get-out-the-vote operation is as amazing as it claims to be. Because it's going to get ugly otherwise.