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Trump expresses support for French candidate Le Pen


French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has put terrorism, immigration and criticism of the European Union at the center of her campaign. | AP Photo


What if America Voted Like France?

When an election ends, the question we most often ask is “why?” Did Barack Obama put together a “coalition of the ascendant”—newly powerful numbers of blacks, Hispanics, college-educated young? Did Donald Trump shock us by summoning an army of the left-behind, who carried economic insecurity and racial resentments to the polls?

But often, there’s another, much simpler answer: Just look at the rules.

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The “terms and conditions” of a political race may well matter more than any other factor. And if you really need a reminder of how crucial the rules of an election are to its outcome—how, for example, a candidate can win 3 million more votes than her opponent and lose—two current examples from across the Atlantic should make the case strikingly clear.

In France, with a Presidential election being watched around the world for the chance a right-wing nationalist or a far-left populist could win, the only certain outcome of the vote Sunday is that there will be no winner : The top two finishers will meet in a decisive runoff two weeks later.

Then there’s Great Britain, which will have a general parliamentary election years earlier than expected—on June 7, to be exact—because Prime Minister Theresa May exercised her power to call a “snap” election. The entire campaign season will run about six weeks from start to finish—a length unimaginable here, where prospective 2020 presidential candidates are already checking flight schedules to Des Moines and Manchester.

Either one of those systems would lead to radically different outcomes in US presidential elections – where a winner can (and often does) become president without a majority of the popular vote, and where the length of the campaign puts huge emphasis on finances, backing, media campaigns, and pure stamina.

The French system is based on a simple premise: no one should lead the nation unless he or she commands an absolute majority of voters. If nobody achieves a majority in the first round, the two winners face off one-on-one. In the U.S., many of our elections—for mayor, governor, House and Senate seats—are held under the same standard. But our Presidential campaigns aren’t: they require a majority of the electoral college , which isn’t the same as the popular vote. While the champions of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are painfully aware of the results this system can produce, the full story of how “absolute majority” voting would change American politics is nothing less than eye-opening.

Since 1960, no fewer than five Presidents have been elected even though more total votes were cast against them than for them: JFK in 1960, Nixon in 1968, Clinton in 1992 and 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, and Donald Trump in 2016.

Now imagine if we had a runoff in place, to assure that our Presidents had popular majority backing. Who would have their portraits on the wall?

It’s highly likely that Al Gore would have won such a contest in 2000; the center/left candidates (Gore and Ralph Nader) outpolled


Obama's back: Former president to hold Chicago event on Monday

Obama's back: Former president to hold Chicago event on Monday

Former President Barack Obama will make his first public appearance next week at an event at the University of Chicago. | AP Photo


House GOP leaders won’t rush health care vote

House GOP leaders during a members-only conference call Saturday vowed to avoid a government shutdown and said they're closer to a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to members who participated on the call.

But Speaker Paul Ryan also downplayed the possibility of a vote next week, the same sources said. The Wisconsin Republican said the chamber will vote on a conference-wide deal when GOP whips are confident they had the votes for passage — but not until then.

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The comment was a subtle retort to a narrative being pushed by top White House officials, who told reporters this week that the House would hold the health care vote on Wednesday, before the close of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. The public expectations-setting from the White House has created pressure for Ryan to move the bill swiftly and secure a win for the president.

But Republican leaders want to avoid an embarrassing repeat of what happened last month, when Ryan had to pull an earlier health care bill from the House floor because he didn’t have enough votes to pass it. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus bucked the leadership and committed to voting no, and moderates also started peeling off. This time, Ryan and other GOP leaders want to nail down the votes first; before calling the legislation to the floor.

The call was initially scheduled to discuss plans to pass a spending bill. Government funding expires on Friday, leaving lawmakers just four legislative days to pass an appropriations package.

Ryan and his top lieutenants were adamant that they will keep the government open, as expected. They did not specify how exactly they intend to avoid a shutdown.

White House officials insisted this week that Republican leaders include funding to build Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Democrats have vowed to block any deal that includes funding for that project, which Trump repeatedly said on the campaign trail he’d force Mexico to pay for. And since the Senate requires at least eight Democrats to pass the bill, GOP leaders eager to avoid a shutdown fight have been trying to convince the White House to drop its demands for wall funding.

Ryan, however, did not delve into details about the wall money and whether it would be included.

The Saturday afternoon conference call, which lasted about 25 minutes and did not include a question-and-answer session, was vague, according to people who were on the it. Lawmakers who spoke included Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

One member who participated described it “most generic” and “milquetoast.”

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The speaker and his team projected an air

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