It's the white whale of American elections: elusive, mythical and never realized. But could it finally happen this year?
The likelihood that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will each net 269 electoral votes in November, instead of the 270 needed to win, is actually not so farfetched -- and for close observers of the Electoral College system, a tie would set off a wave of constitutional and political mayhem that would make the 2000 Florida recount seem like a tidy affair.
Election results in key states would immediately be subject to legal challenges. Electors, normally an anonymous batch of party insiders elected to ratify each state's winner with their electoral votes, would be lobbied to change their votes by friends, neighbors and political leaders.
Ultimately, the House of Representatives could elect the next president, even if that candidate lost the popular vote.
"What it would reveal is that we have, in some sense, a profoundly undemocratic mechanism for dealing with a tie," said Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard University, and a critic of the Electoral College. "I think there would be an enormous outcry over that."
holy cow, but that's a slim shot, right?