Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Florida

This is the fifth 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.


Why, or perhaps more appropriately how, is the Florida Republican presidential primary winner-take-all?

FHQ has been meaning to address this for a while now, so here goes.

Under normal circumstances -- those where the state of Florida actually follows the timing rules set by the two national parties -- Florida Republicans would allocate their delegates in much the same way that South Carolina did earlier in the cycle. Unpenalized, Florida would have allocated 81 delegates (three in each of the Sunshine state's 27 congressional districts) winner-take-all based on which candidate won each congressional district. The remaining 15 at-large delegates would have been allocated, well, those delegates would have been allocated based on the statewide results.2 The rules indicate that those at-large delegates would have been allocated winner-take-all, but in this alternate universe, where Florida is actually obeying the rules, winner-take-all allocation would have been in violation of the RNC rules if the contest was held prior to April 1.

But, of course, Florida jumped into the territory of the "carve out" states and lost half of its delegation in the process. On September 30, when the Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee chose to place the Florida primary back on January 31 -- where it started the year based on the state law passed in 2007 that was altered creating the above committee in 2011 -- it set in motion everything  witnessed in the time since. Sure, most of us were paying attention to where Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina would end up on the calendar after the Florida move, but in the meantime the RNC finalized plans to strip the Sunshine state of half of its delegates.

It was that move -- the official sanction -- that triggered the change to a straight winner-take-all allocation of the Florida delegates. [The same rule was triggered in 2008.] According to the final, unmarked paragraph in the Republican Party of Florida delegate selection rules, if the RNC fails to seat a full delegation from Florida, all the remaining delegates are designated at-large.3 That, in turn, meant that all 50 delegates would be winner-take-all based on the statewide vote as described in paragraph B of Rule 10. And that is in violation of rule 15b.2 that requires states holding contests prior to April 1 allocate delegates proportionally. [See definition of proportional here.]

In response to a second Florida violation, the RNC was quite limited in what the delegate selection rules allowed as far as further sanctions were concerned. Digging deep down into RNC rule 16e, all of the non-compliant states -- including Florida -- lost all three of their automatic delegates (rule 16e.1) and were further penalized, losing prime convention floor seating and hotel assignments as well as VIP passes (rule 16e.3). The only stone left unturned when the RNC once again confirmed these penalties at its winter meeting in New Orleans just after the New Hampshire primary was rule 16e.2, the rule that gave the RNC the latitude to further decrease a violating state's delegation.

No further sanctions are coming from the national party, but that doesn't mean that the saga is complete. Well, let me restate that: No further changes for Florida are coming from the national party unless the delegate selection process as currently laid out in the Sunshine state is contested by a registered, Republican residing, in this case, in Florida (Rule 22). Discussions of this sort of challenge have been going on since November and have continued recently. The recent Miami Herald account indicates that such challenges are supposedly to be adjudicated in May sometime.

...and as Marc Caputo at the Herald pointed out, that will likely occur after the nomination has been wrapped up.

As of now, however -- when it counts on Tuesday -- Florida Republicans will allocate their 50 delegates winner-take-all based on the statewide vote in a closed primary. But sure, IF things are still competitive then, it could be a real mess.

FHQ would advise not betting on that.

1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.

2 The three automatic delegates would have given the Republican Party of Florida 99 total delegates.

3 The following is Rule 10 of the Republican Party of Florida rules. It covers the party's method of delegate selection.
Republican Party of Florida Delegate Selection Rules: Rule 10

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