Thursday, December 15, 2011

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 180ยบ 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).


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.]

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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