"Well," I say to my wife, "I'm looking forward to living in Brigadoon."
"Uh huh," she says, not looking up from her crossword puzzle.
I wait a few minutes for the gravity of my announcement to sink in.
"Well," I finally say. "I guess the gravity of my announcement has left you speechless. I imagine you're in a state of shock."
"About your going to Brigadoon to live?" she says. "Will you be coming back home to visit?"
"I thought maybe you'd go with me," I say. "I thought maybe we'd both go to Brigadoon to live. I thought maybe we'd become Brigadoonians."
"And why," she says, "might we do that?"
"Because," I say, "the end days are here. George W. Bush is about to be re-elected president of the United States. But not president of Brigadoon. So I thought we might want to move to Brigadoon."
"I see," she says. "You're a real Cassandra."
"What's a Cassandra?" I say. "Sounds like a new Japanese car."
"Woman in Greek literature who could predict the future," she says. "But only the calamities of the future, not the good things."
"Well, I'm not a woman in Greek literature," I say, "and I have enough American male instinct to know that Bush is going to get re-elected. Six weeks ago the polls had Kerry ahead. Last week they had Bush ahead by 11 points."
"Let's see now," she says. "The election is seven weeks away. If there's been a big change in one direction in the last six weeks, can't there be a big change in the other direction in the next seven weeks?"
"Not when the president's got the Big Mo," I say. "The Big Mo is very important. It influences others to change their vote from Kerry to Bush."
"You know, don't you," she says, "that more people voting for one guy than for the other isn't what makes someone president."
"Don't be silly," I say. "Of course more people voting for one guy than for the other is what makes someone president."
"How many people do you think voted for Bush in 2000?" she says.
"I donít know," I say, "but it must have been more than voted for what's-his-name."
"Wrong-o," she says, whipping her World Almanac out of her knitting basket. "Bush got 50,459,211 votes. Gore got 51,003,894 votes. That's 544,683 more than Bush got."
"Then why, Miss Smarty-Pants," I say, "is Bush president and Gore isn't?"
"Because, Dumbo," she says, "it's the electoral vote, not the popular vote, that decides who's president. If one more Californian votes for Bush than for Kerry, Bush gets all 55 of California's electoral votes. Nebraska and Maine are the only states that give electoral votes proportionate to the popular vote."
The Truth, Mainly
"I knew that," I say. "I was just seeing if you knew it too. So what's your point?"
"My point," she says, "is that if you're planning to move to Brigadoon because Bush is running 11 points ahead of Kerry in the popular vote, you might want to check out the electoral vote before you buy your ticket."
"Hah?" I say.
"And the Sep. 5 Denver Post has a story about electoral votes," she says. "It says that 28 states are pretty well settled in for one candidate or the other. Ten of themwith a total of 161 electoral votesare safe Kerry states. Eighteenwith a total of 147 electoral votesare safe Bush states. The other 23 states are swing states within the margin of error, too close to call."
"Hah?" I say.
"It takes 270 electoral votes to elect," she says, "so Kerry needs 109 more from those swing states to win. Bush needs 123 more to win."
"Hah?" I say.
"Right now," she says, "the Post says Bush is a little bit ahead in 10 of the swing states with 136 electoral votes. Kerry is a little bit ahead in 11 of the swing states with 84 electoral votes. Two of the swing stateswith 10 electoral votes between themare divided equally."
"Hah?" I say.
"That means," she says, "that you shouldn't pack your bags yet. It means that for the next seven weeks, things are going to be awfully interesting right here in the U.S. Even for a wanna-be Brigadoonian who gets confused by numbers. OK, civics lesson's over. You can go out and play now."
"Hah?" I say. "Hah?"
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail