Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For Virginia Democrats, A Primary That May Not Be

One of the most interesting things to FHQ about the ballot in the Virginia primary being set late last week -- no, not the part about Newt and the chocolate factory -- was the news that the State Board of Elections may/will cancel the Democratic primary. The first inclination here at FHQ was to go back to the Virginia Democratic delegate selection plan and see when the caucuses to elect the actual delegates are to take place next year. As it turns out, however, those April 21 and 23 city and county caucuses will not serve as the back up plan for the presidential preference vote. Those meetings will continue to hold the role of beginning the delegate selection process -- identifying those who will be bound to what candidates at the national convention -- but there will be no vote on presidential preference in the process; at a primary or caucus.

Well, that doesn't seem entirely fair. Democratic voters don't get a choice with a canceled primary. Remember, though, that President Obama would have been the only choice on the ballot anyway. [Write ins are not an option.] The primary, then, would have been meaningless. As such, the plan is to continue as if the primary -- for Democrats -- was happening on March 6 simultaneous to the two man contest on the Republican side and allocate/bind the delegates accordingly. Obama would have received 100% of the vote and thus all of the Virginia Democratic delegates.

...and he will at the state convention anyway.

Thanks to Virginia DNC member, Frank Leone, for fielding my questions and filling in the gaps.




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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Republican Delegate Allocation Rules: 2012 vs. 2008

Let the questions be answered.

The RNC released yesterday the final piece of the puzzle in terms of how delegates will be allocated in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.1 Now, FHQ has ben saying all along that, theoretically, the changes to the delegate selection rules would not affect states and subsequently the candidates and their efforts to win more delegates all that much. Again, theoretically. At issue has been whether a state had to in some way abandon either straight winner-take-all delegate allocation or a hybrid system with winner-take-all allocation of at-large (base and bonus) delegates and congressional district delegates for a more proportional method in states with contests before April 1. Some change was inevitable, but because the rules change was treated as black and white -- that Republican winner-take-all states now had to be proportional before April 1 -- the impact of the change has been consistently overstated.

Well, now the unknown is known and we can examine just how much of a change has occurred in state delegate selection rules relative to 2008. Since so many states shifted back the dates on which their primaries and caucuses will be held in 2012, the number of straight winner-take-all states -- those that allocate all of their delegates based on the statewide vote -- was fairly limited. Florida, Arizona, Vermont and Virginia were forced to depart from their past method of allocation. [Of course, already penalized for holding contests before the first Tuesday in March, both Florida and Arizona opted to continue with straight winner-take-all rules under the rationale that they could not be penalized further.] Still other states had winner-take-all allocation but had that split up between the at-large delegates and the congressional district delegates. That latter group of states had in place a set of rules that were already fit for a change. The straight winner-take-all states had a much greater move to make.

With that said, though, what have states done to comply with the new rules on delegate allocation? More importantly, what could states do to comply? Let's take the second question first. There are two main responses that states could have made to most easily comply with the new RNC rules.

One option is to simply keep the same old winner-take-all rules -- straight or hybrid -- and make winner-take-all allocation dependent upon one candidate clearing the 50% mark in the statewide vote. If no candidate reaches that level, the allocation is proportional. But even that has been interpreted to widely varying degrees. For a straight winner-take-all state like Virginia, they could have put in that threshold and moved on. However, for a hybrid winner-take-all state like Ohio, where the winner-take-all allocation is based on votes both statewide and within the congressional district, that sort of threshold was only necessary -- according to the RNC rules -- on the at-large (base and bonus) delegates based on the statewide vote.

The second option is for states to either just switch to straight proportional allocation or to shift to allocating the at-large (base and bonus) delegates proportionally, leaving the congressional district delegates to be allocated winner-take-all. FHQ has always operated under the assumption -- let's call it an unofficial hypothesis -- that state parties would do whatever is necessary to comply with these sorts rules changes, but make the least amount of change possible. That is why I say it is harder for a straight winner-take-all state than a state that already has the allocation split into statewide and congressional district votes. There are easier outs for the latter simply because they can stay relatively close to what they had previously than a straight winner-take-all state. Regardless, either type of state could, at a minimum, make the allocation of the at-large (base and bonus) delegates proportional and be done. At the opposite end of the spectrum, states could just make everything proportional and break with a winner-take-all past.

Fine, so what have the states done?

Well, in looking at the table below, FHQ has a few observations. The first, and perhaps the biggest, is that the states on the calendar through February have made no changes to their delegate allocation from 2008. They were already compliant with the 2008 method or were penalized for an early primary or caucus date and stuck with the 2008 rules knowing the RNC would not punish them further (...or daring the national party to do so). There is a chance, then, that if this nomination race resolves itself quickly, the rules changes will have no impact. Well, the new winner-take-all/proportional rules will not have had an impact. The new calendar restrictions -- no states before the first Tuesday in March other than the exempt states -- will play a bigger role in that scenario.

If, however, the race stretches into March, that is when we may start seeing the winner-take-all/proportional changes influence the race. Looking at the March states and matching 2012 to 2008, the most frequent response to the rules changes was for states to tack on a conditional element to their allocation rules. Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia -- all Super Tuesday states -- added a conditional element to their allocation rules. Winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon a candidate receiving over 50% of the vote, statewide and/or on the congressional district level.2 This is an important point. That 50% threshold is really going to play a role if the field has been winnowed down to just two candidates. Actually, FHQ has made this point before: The fewer candidates there are, the more likely it is that someone breaks 50% of the vote, and subsequently takes all the delegates in any of these conditional states. Those January/February states become very important. In fact, that lull throughout much of February may be a killer for any candidate clinging to just a modicum of viability at that point. Voters will start limiting their choices to those who are most likely to win and if the likes of Bachmann and Santorum and whoever are not already out, that stretch will be very difficult to survive through.

Obviously, in a scenario where there is a Clinton/Obama-type struggle for the 2012 Republican nomination, these rules are going to matter. But if Romney wins Iowa and wins where he is "supposed to" after that, the former Massachusetts governor will win the nomination and the rules won't play that much of a role. Looking at both the changes to the calendar and the changes the states have made, I can see something in the middle of those two extremes being most likely. The early contests get split, but it favors Romney, the February dead period puts significant strain on the candidates trying to stay in the race but without the resources to make it happen, and Romney breaks 50% in some of these conditional winner-take-all states on March 6. That would put a significant amount of pressure on any other candidates from a delegate math perspective. At that point, it becomes a matter of making up the delegate deficit for any non-Romney candidate. Some later winner-take-all contests would theoretically help, but there are very few straight winner-take-all states to completely shut out Romney as the calendar enters April. There are a handful, but likely not enough.

The bottom line is that there are no changes to the rules up front. Those start kicking in in March. But at that point, it could be too late for those changes to make any difference. If anything, history tells us that the nomination will wrap up sooner rather than later (...and that has been true in strictly proportional Democratic races with similar calendars). The question now is how long will this race last? The race needs to last long enough for the rules to kick in, which will, in turn, draw the race out even further. That is not how people have been thinking about this. Instead, the standard thought is that the new rules will prolong the process.

Now the process just has to get to a point where those rules would matter. We shall see.

2008 vs. 2012 Republican Delegate Allocation
January
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
IA28121033Caucus3Caucus
NH12--------Prop.Prop.
SC25--------WTA/CDWTA/CD
FL50--------WTAWTA
February
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
NV28121033Prop.Prop.
CO36211023CaucusCaucus
MN40241033CaucusCaucus
ME2461053CaucusCaucus
AZ29--------WTAWTA
MI30--------WTA/CD--Prop./at-largeWTA/CD--Prop./at-large
March
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
WA433010--3CaucusWTA/CD--Prop./at-large
AK27310113Prop.Prop.
GA764210213Top 2/CD--Prop./at-largeWTA/CD
ID32610133Caucus (80% Prop.)Prop.
MA41271013Prop.Prop.
ND28310123CaucusCaucus
OH66481053Conditional WTA/at-large--WTA/CDWTA/CD
OK431510153Conditional WTAWTA/CD
TN582710183Conditional WTA*Conditional WTA
VT1731013Conditional WTA/at-large--WTA/CDWTA
VA49331033Conditional WTA/at-large--WTA/CDWTA
VI9--6-3CaucusCaucus
WY29310133Prop./CD--Convention/at-largeProp./CD--Convention/at-large
KS401210153WTA/CD--Prop./at-largeWTA/CD
AL502110163Conditional WTAConditional WTA
AS9--6--3CaucusCaucus
HI2061013CaucusCaucus
MS401210153Prop.Conditional WTA
MO522410153CaucusWTA
PR23
10103CaucusCaucus
IL69541023LoopholeLoophole
LA461810153Caucus/CD--Prop./at-largeCaucus/CD--Prop./at-large
April
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
MD372410--3WTA/CDWTA/CD
TX15510810343Prop.Conditional WTA
DC19--1063WTAWTA
WI42241053WTA/CDWTA/CD
CT281510--3Conditional WTA/at-large--WTA/CDWTA
DE1731013WTAWTA
NY95811013Conditional WTA/at-large--Top 2/CDWTA
PA72541053LoopholeLoophole
RI19610--3Prop.Prop.
May
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
IN46271063WTA/CDWTA/CD
NC55391033Prop.Prop.
WV3191093LoopholeWTA/CD--caucus
NE35910133ConventionConvention
OR281510--3Prop.Prop.
AR361210113Conditional Prop.Conditional Prop.
KY451810143Prop.Prop.
June
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
CA17215910--3WTA/CDWTA/CD
MT26310103CaucusConvention
NJ50361013WTAWTA
NM2391013Prop.Prop.
SD28310123Prop.Prop.
UT401210153WTAWTA
No Date
StateTotal DelegatesDistrict DelegatesBase DelegatesBonus DelegatesAutomatic Delegates2012 Rules12008 Rules2
GU9--6--3CaucusCaucus
MP9--6--3CaucusCaucus
1 Source: Republican National Committee Counsel's Office
2 Source: The Green Papers
3 Key: WTA = winner-take-all; WTA/CD = winner-take-all by congressional district and statewide; conditional WTA = winner-take-all if candidate clears 50%, proportional otherwise; top 2 = top two candidates all allocated delegates if no candidate receives a majority; prop. = proportional; caucus = caucus; convention = convention; loophole = delegates directly elected (on primary ballot)

NOTE: FHQ should note that this RNC release is not a death knell for our examination of the state-by-state rules. The above is a 30,000 foot view of the process, but there is still a lot under the hood that is worth talking about in greater detail. That obviously could not be forced into on giant post. Continue to be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks under the 2012 Republican Delegate Allocation series label.

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1 Below is the summary of delegate allocation from the Republican National Committee:
2012 RNC Delegate Summary

2 Tennessee has a higher 66% threshold. It will be very difficult to a candidate to get to that mark in a multicandidate field.



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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't Bet on the Iowa Caucuses Going Anywhere in 2016

No, FHQ wouldn't even bet on it if Ron Paul won the caucuses on January 3.

Now, I won't go as far as to say that it won't happen, but the odds are against Iowa's caucuses being removed from its position at the front of the calendar. And in the end that will have very little to do with Iowans or campaign surrogates there saying the caucus process was "hijacked". Assuming Paul does win the caucuses and then fails to capture the Republican nomination, that really is no different than Iowa caucusgoers choosing wrong in the past in nomination races in both parties. As FHQ has said previously, Iowa's role isn't to predict the nominee, but rather to winnow the field. Iowa caucusgoers don't necessarily anoint the frontrunner, they usually pare the field down to either that candidate (if the invisible primary has been at all conclusive) or the frontrunner and another couple of candidates (if the invisible primary has been inconclusive). Iowa's success rate at picking the nominee isn't/wouldn't necessarily be any better or worse than any other state in that position.

But I don't want to defend Iowa's position on the calendar again.

...not that I am.

FHQ is just mindful of the reality of the process that produces a presidential primary calendar every four years. The decision of whether to keep Iowa and/or New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina up front is up to the national parties. If the parties want them there, then there those contests will be. If not, the delegate selection rules will be crafted in a way as to (attempt) to prevent that. And sure, that brings up a perfectly valid point: Why couldn't Iowa Republicans and Democrats just pull a Florida and ignore the national party rules if those rules didn't protect Iowa's spot at the head of the queue?

They could. But the problem is -- and Romney is demonstrating this to some extent this cycle -- that candidates can keep Iowa at arms length if they feel they can win the nomination without Iowa. No, FHQ doesn't mean skipping. No candidate would ever skip the first state, but they could choose to limit their time there, biding their time until the right point. That, however, takes a certain type of candidate; a frontrunner or a self-/well-financed challenger. Iowa Republicans are really worried about that -- those internal factors like candidate visits/spending -- instead of the RNC changing the rules and reshuffling the order at the beginning of the process -- an external factor.

Let's look at those externals first and then revisit the other end of the Iowa equation. First of all, if a Republican wins the White House next year -- regardless of whether the Iowa caucuses correctly predict the nominee -- then Iowa will not be an issue in 2016. It may be, but it isn't likely. Why? Parties in the White House rarely tinker with their rules; especially if the objective is to renominate/reelect the president (see Klinkner, 1994). If there is one thing the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee said last year, it was that their main objective -- the party's really -- was to reelect President Obama. They were not going to discuss anything -- and certainly not a contentious "Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn't be first" debate -- that was going to rock the boat. Buttressing that issue, there is no evidence that the Democratic Party would push Iowa from its lofty perch. If anything gives a state party an argument for being in a particular position on the calendar (early, in other words), it is the other party in the state holding down an early position. And in Iowa's case, there is a tradition of the two parties holding caucuses on the same date.

It is slightly more likely that Iowa would be in danger if Obama is reelected. The Republican Party would potentially be willing to reexamine just about anything within their 2016 nomination process -- Iowa's position included -- if they lost in 2012. And the Democratic Party would be more willing to go along if there is some consensus -- intra-party and inter-party -- behind moving Iowa from the top or reforming the system in some small measure. [BIG ifs.]

No, I think what is most probable -- even if Ron Paul wins on January 3 -- is that Iowa is simply left alone. Neither party was particularly interested in opening up that Iowa/NewHampshire debate in the last round of delegate selection rule tweaking and it isn't clear that they would want to in the future. It's complicated as I think much of the writing on FHQ will attest. This whole thing -- the Iowa conundrum -- has more to do with the dynamics of this race and within the Republican Party right now. If there was a clear frontrunner right now and a win in Iowa  was viewed as the first win in a string of fairly sure victories (think George W. Bush in 2000), then said frontrunner will be there and so will the other candidates. However, if you have no clear frontrunner and instead someone who is kind of sort of ahead in the polls (or at least consistent in them) and overspent and got burned in Iowa four years prior, then you have a recipe for an indecisive Iowa result. It really is as simple as that. The dynamics of the last two Republican races have hurt Iowa -- as it would have a great many other states that could have been at the front -- if the measure is defined as Iowa choosing the eventual nominee. But that isn't Iowa's role in this process and that is part of the reason they aren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon.




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Friday, December 16, 2011

Deal Would Push Consolidated Texas Primary back to April 3

Add one, subtract one.


As soon as Ohio rejoined Super Tuesday on March 6 an apparent deal between the Republican Party of Texas and the Texas Democratic Party has the Lone Star state on the verge of shifting its presidential primary -- along with the primaries for other offices -- back a month from March 6 to April 3. The deal was necessary to accommodate the need for time for the federal courts to resolve the redistricting dispute in the state, redraw the lines and leave enough time for the elections to be properly administered. With Texas now shifting off the Super Tuesday line on the calendar -- pending approval from the federal district court in San Antonio1 -- the already less Super Tuesday relative to 2008 loses 155 Texas delegates. That leaves Super Tuesday as the date on the calendar with the most delegates at stake and brings April 3 -- with the addition of Texas -- up to the date with the third highest number of delegates on the line in the Republican nomination race; just ahead of April 24 (New York, Pennsylvania, etc.) and behind only Super Tuesday and June 5 (California, New Jersey, etc.).

However, the move does have consequences as FHQ alluded to in our Texas post this morning. Sure, Rick Perry is going to have to win some contests (Iowa and South Carolina???) to survive long enough for the southern contests on March 6, but now the Texas governor can no longer rely on Texas on Super Tuesday. And once this gets into March, it may take more than wins -- more like wins with attendant large delegate margins -- to survive and advance. In other words, with Texas pushed even further back on the calendar, Perry's chance of survival, much less a path to the nomination, takes a hit.

And even though FHQ got some resistance from the Republican Party of Texas -- the communications director and an Executive Committee member -- on the likelihood of RPT altering its allocation rules from proportional back to conditional winner-take-all, I can't help but wonder if the party may petition the RNC for a shift. As of now, the RPT line is that the October 1 deadline to finalize rules with the RNC has passed and the current proportional allocation is set in stone. [Sorry. These sorts of questions haunt me. It is a constant quest for a definitive answer where no wiggle room exists.] There may be no wiggle room here, but RPT could argue that their decision-making calculus would have been different had they known the courts would intervene in the redistricting fight and put the March 6 primary date in jeopardy. Now, the RPT argument is that the matter is settled and such a plea would fall on deaf ears at with the national party. That is entirely possible and signals that there may be no desire to make a change within the party. That may be true now, but this bears watching over the next [insert some definite period of time here]; whether sentiment within the state party changes on the matter of delegate allocation.  

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1 According to those close to the process, the courts left it up to the two state parties to hash out.




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Kasich Signature Places Ohio Presidential Primary Back on March 6

Ohio is back on Super Tuesday.

...again.

On Thursday, December 15, Governor John Kasich (R) signed HB 369 into law. The legislation passed by both chambers a day prior not only sets the new congressional district boundaries, but consolidates the once split presidential/US House primaries with the primaries for all remaining offices. The move -- the fourth shift of the year for the Ohio presidential primary -- puts the Buckeye state back in a position to potentially influence the Republican nomination race. That is a much easier proposition from March 6 than it would have been all the way back on June 12 in the next to last position on the calendar. As have mentioned previously, Ohio would be a unique state on March 6: the only Rust Belt state in a sea of southern/northeaster primaries and western caucuses.

UPDATE: One other note about this bill that is of great importance in the long journey that has been the setting of the Ohio presidential primary date is that because HB 369 was passed with an emergency clause, it took effect upon Governor Kasich's signature.



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2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: South Carolina

This is the third in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180º change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 


The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).


For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.


NOTE: Please also see A Follow Up on South Carolina Republican Delegate Allocation.

SOUTH CAROLINA

[NOTE: See also our additional examination of the post-sanctions delegate allocation in South Carolina.]

One note that FHQ has failed to mention to this point in the series is that there is a subsection to Rule 15 in the Rules of the Republican Party that not only carves out an early -- February, in theory -- position for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, but it also exempts those four states from the proportionality requirement to which every other state is party. That exemption means very little in Iowa and New Hampshire as FHQ has shown, but in South Carolina, the rule is of great consequence in light of state party rules on the matter of allocation (see Rule 11.b).

The South Carolina Republican Party, by rule, allocates its national convention delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district and statewide. Unlike some subsequent states FHQ will examine soon, however, South Carolina -- because of that exemption -- will not have to set a minimum threshold (50% of the vote or greater) by which winner-take-all allocation is triggered. If a candidate wins the statewide vote by one vote (with, say, 20% of the vote) that candidate is entitled to all of the at-large delegates (26 delegates before the 50% penalty for hold a primary before February). The same holds true for votes on the congressional district level (3 delegates per 7 congressional districts; 21 in total before the 50% penalty). Note also that there is no minimum vote percentage floor required to win delegates. That said, it is unlikely in a slightly (to greatly) winnowed field post-Iowa/New Hampshire that a candidate will win South Carolina with less than 30% of the vote. Both John McCain and Mike Huckabee cleared that threshold in 2008 in a very narrow victory for McCain. That isn't to say such an outcome cannot happen, but it isn't, perhaps, likely.

Through the first three contests, then, there is no change in the allocation rules in 2012 versus 2008. The sequence is the same, the spacing between contests is similar -- albeit without a Michigan primary between New Hampshire and South Carolina -- and the rules are the same. The only difference -- potentially -- are the dynamics of the race.

That may or may not change with the next state on the list: Florida. Things may get quirky with the Sunshine state.

Delegate allocation score: 0 [No change from 2008.]
Cumulative allocation score: 0 [No change through three contests from 2008.]

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1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories or account for the fact that there is no public information on Republican delegate selection in some states at this point.


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Deal to Conditionally Split April Texas Primaries Emerges in Ongoing Talks to Resolve Primary Date Dispute

Nolan Hicks at the San Antonio Express-News is reporting that multiple sources have confirmed that there are ongoing discussions about a deal moving a consolidated Texas primary -- including the presidential primary -- from March 6 to April 3. Furthermore, congressional, state legislative and other races awaiting new district boundaries would have primaries on that April date dependent upon whether the time between the primary and a court decision on the lines allowed enough time for implementation. Without the necessary time, those primary elections would be moved back to a late May date.

There are a host of interesting questions here, but FHQ will focus on the presidential primary aspect of this from which two main questions arise. First of all, this opening brings back to the fore the question discussed here yesterday: Would a shift  to a post-April 1 primary date cause the Republican Party of Texas to reconsider its method of delegate allocation -- switching back to a conditional winner-take-all system based on both the statewide results and the congressional district results from a proportional allocation?1 On that point, FHQ actually got some interesting pushback from Chris Elam, the Republican Party of Texas communications director. In a series of Twitter exchanges -- best summed up here -- Mr. Elam made clear to FHQ that the current RPT delegate selection rules were submitted to the RNC before the October 1 deadline laid out in the Rules of the Republican Party, were approved and are set in stone now that that point has passed. Asked about any desire within the RPT to change back to winner-take-all rules, Mr. Elam said that it was premature to speak of such a change given that no decision has been made by the courts -- nor has a deal been cut between the two state parties -- and deferred to the unanimous vote on the rules change at the State Republican Executive Committee meeting on October 1.

There is nothing wrong with that explanation, but FHQ still detects a bit of wiggle room for the RPT on this issue. Let's look at those RNC rules a little bit more closely. Rule 15.c.12:

No delegates or alternate delegates shall be elected, selected, allocated, or bound pursuant to any Republican Party rule of a state or state law which materially changes the manner of electing, selecting, allocating, or binding delegates or alternate delegates or the date upon which such state Republican Party holds a presidential primary, caucus, convention, or meeting for the purpose of voting for a presidential candidate and/or electing, selecting, allocating, or binding delegates to the national convention if such changes were adopted or made effective after October 1 of the year before the year in which the national convention is to be held. Where it is not possible for a state Republican Party to certify the manner and the date upon which it holds a presidential primary, caucus, convention, or meeting for the purpose of voting for a presidential candidate and/or electing, selecting, allocating, or binding delegates to the national convention in effect in that state on the date and in the manner provided in paragraph (e) of this rule, the process for holding the presidential primary, caucus, convention, or meeting for the purpose of voting for a presidential candidate and/or electing, selecting, allocating, or binding delegates to the national convention shall be conducted in the same manner and held upon the same date as was used for the immediately preceding national convention.
There are few things there. One is that quite a few states made decisions to set primary or caucus dates after October 1. The four carve out states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- and just yesterday, Ohio, all set dates following the deadline codified in the rules. Rule 15.e goes on to describe the possibility of a waiver being granted for states whose parties cannot -- for whatever reason -- meet that deadline. That FHQ has heard, there has been no talk of any of those five states asking for or being granted a waiver on those grounds. [That doesn't mean there wasn't one.] The four carve out states may have been granted such a waiver or simply just blamed the Florida move for setting up a post-October 1 domino effect. In Ohio, the Republican Party shrewdly included a conditional provision in their RNC-sanctioned rules; adding a proportionality element to the at-large delegate allocation should the primary be scheduled before April 1. In the event that the redistricting dispute in the state left the primary date unsettled or forced it to a post-April 1 date, the rules would revert to winner-take-all statewide-congressional district as they had been in 2008.

Again, if RPT has the desire to change the delegate allocation rules, could it not argue before the RNC that the decision to shift to a post-April 1 date was triggered by court action that was out of the state party's hands to a great degree? In other words, could the argument successfully be made that the decision-making pre-October 1 would have been different had the party known it was going to have a post-April 1 presidential primary? Possibly, but it could also be that such a move is more trouble than it's worth and that Texas National Committeeman and RNC legal counsel, Bill Crocker, may not want to push too hard on that issue. [The counterargument is that Mr. Crocker would be well-positioned to help push such a change through.] Much of that depends on whether the desire is there within the RPT to make that happen. It's a big if.

...but that brings us to...


The second question has to do with how Texas Governor Rick Perry fits into all of this. It is apparent that the Perry campaign wants the primary as early as possible. It is also apparent that the Republican Party of Texas wants to follow the rules from the RNC.  But it is still perplexing to FHQ that any change was made at all to the Texas delegate selection rules. The rules utilized by the state party in 2008 would have been compliant with the new RNC rules before or after April 1. Again, the 2008 rules were winner-take-all by congressional district and statewide conditional on a candidate receiving over 50% of the vote. That is something that is completely within the letter of the law in the new RNC rules. Period.

So why the change? That is a very interesting question. If we assume -- as appears to be the case with the early primary date preference -- that the Perry campaign had some motivation (influence?) over the process of setting/maintaining the primary date, then was there some motivation to switch to proportional allocation as well?2 The San Antonio Express-News article indicates that there is some pressure on RPT chair, Steve Munisteri, to keep the primary in March, so it is not a stretch to consider that the Perry camp put similar pressure on the party to change the rules.

But why? If the Perry folks are banking on an early Texas primary, why dilute the influence of the state by making the results proportional when that is not required? Why not leave the winner-take-all element in the plan in order to run up the score in the delegate count? It is all curious.

Now sure, the extent to which the Perry campaign was involved in all of this is an unknown and this is all quite speculative. However, it is undeniable that the Republican Party of Texas did not have to alter its delegate selection rules to comply with the RNC rules changes on proportionality. Something drove that decision and if it was even partially due to the Perry campaign, it is a counterintuitive calculation on their part with a delegate count as the backdrop.

Hat tip to Michael Li at txredistricting.org for the news of the deal.

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1 Yes, that would require those newly drawn congressional district boundaries, but recall that that portion of the plan -- the actual assignment of delegates based on numbers disaggregated into the new districts -- does not happen until the state convention. That isn't an issue, then.

2 It is worth noting that Perry signed the bill that dealt with the primary -- SB 100 -- before he got into the race. The bill maintaining the March 6 primary date was signed in June before Perry entered the presidential race in August.


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Thursday, December 15, 2011

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: New Hampshire

This is the second in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180º change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 


The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).


For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.


NEW HAMPSHIRE

Who thought New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner's only job was to, well, depending on who you ask, either set the date of the presidential primary in Granite state or tear a hole in the space/time continuum by ruining the calendar every four years? Obviously, any secretary of state has additional duties, but the secretary of state in New Hampshire has a role to play in the allocation of delegates to the national presidential nominating conventions as well. In some states that allocation method is set by the state parties and in others it is set by state law.

Now, FHQ doesn't want to get into a broad discussion of this, but the state party has the ultimate say in how its delegates are allocated to the candidates for the national convention. Where state law governs this process, it is usually done with the blessing of the state parties. Court challenges on this sort of political matter typically are settled in favor of the party. The nominating function is after all a party function. Most often where these conflicts arise is over the issue of who can participate in primaries (opened or closed).2 Rarely have we seen this come up in the area of primary dates or delegate allocation, but that could theoretically happen as well if a state party wanted to bring a challenge to court.

Needless to say, New Hampshire is one of those states where the allocation method is codified in the New Hampshire revised statutes. The law -- RSA 659:93 -- grants the secretary of state the power to:
"...apportion delegates to the national party conventions among the candidates voted for at the presidential primary by determining the proportion of the number of votes cast for each presidential candidate to the total votes cast for all presidential candidates of the same political party, rounded to the nearest whole number."
Furthermore, the law sets a minimum percentage of the vote whereby candidates qualify for delegates (10%).

With the penalty for holding a contest prior to February, New Hampshire's total delegation will be only 12 delegates, so there won't be a whole lot to go around. Regardless, like Iowa, there have been no changes to the allocation method on the Republican side in New Hampshire. The proportional method that is in place was in place in 2008 and stretching all the way back to at least the 1984 cycle (The last revision to the law was in 1981.). The new Republican National Committee rules regarding delegate selection, then, had no effect on New Hampshire. The Granite state was proportional already.


Delegate allocation score: 0 [No change from 2008.]
Cumulative allocation score: 0 [No change through two contests from 2008.]

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1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories or account for the fact that there is no public information on Republican delegate selection in some states at this point.

2 The precedent for this is the Tashjian case in which Connecticut state law restricted primary participation to partisans only. The Connecticut Republican Party challenged that law, wanting to add independents to the mix and won based on a parties right to freedom of association under the first amendment.


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2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Iowa

This is the first in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180º change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 


The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).

IOWA

The rules for Republican delegate selection in the Hawkeye state are no different than they were in 2008. FHQ could leave it at that, but let's dig into this a bit because the process in Iowa merits some discussion.

First of all, no one will know anything about exactly how the 28 Republican delegates from Iowa to the Republican National Convention in Tampa will be allocated until after the state convention. As of this writing, no date has been set for that convention. It was held in mid-July in 2008. That is a point after which the Republican presidential nomination is likely to have been decided -- unless you buy into all this terribly premature and very [Let me emphasize that more: VERY] unlikely brokered convention talk. This is notable because, according to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Republican Party of Iowa, "no delegate shall be bound by any pre-convention caucus and each county shall cast its vote by polling its delegation at the [state] convention."2

In other words, Iowa's non-binding precinct caucuses on January 3 will have very little to do with the ultimate allocation of delegates in the state. Now, as I've mentioned, it is naive to assume that there is no transference of presidential preference from one step of the caucus/convention process to the next -- that a Paul supporter can't make it through the process to the state convention, for instance -- but the fact that the state convention will take place after the nomination is wrapped up makes the point moot. Those 28 delegates will likely go to Tampa lined up behind the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.

Binding or not, those caucus results on the night of January 3 will continue to winnow the Republican field. And that will be the point at which that winnowing begins in earnest.

Delegate allocation score: 0 [No change from 2008.]

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1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories or account for the fact that there is no public information on Republican delegate selection in some states at this point.


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