Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Colorado

This is the seventh 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.


As unique as the Nevada caucuses were -- in terms of being the rare binding caucus -- the Colorado caucuses represent a different atypical attribute. The rules behind most caucuses are within the domain of the state parties, but in Colorado -- and as we will see later today, Minnesota as well -- the basic structure of the presidential precinct caucuses is derived from state law. While that state law dictates the date (or dates) on which the caucuses can be held, who can participate and where caucuses can be held among other requirements, the state parties are not without influence over the process. The Colorado state parties just have slightly less control over every aspect of the process than most of the remaining caucus states.

On the Republican side, the Colorado Republican Party has some latitude in allocating the 36 delegates apportioned to it by the RNC. The four step caucus process starts with the precinct caucuses tonight -- the only event other than the state convention on one uniform date -- and moves through county assemblies (February 17-March 28) and then congressional district assemblies (March 29-April 13) before finishing at the state convention on April 14. Delegates are chosen in the precinct caucuses to move on to the county caucuses, and so on through the remaining steps of the process.

  • 21 of the national convention delegates from those who have moved on to that step will be selected at the congressional district assemblies (3 delegates for each of Colorado's seven congressional districts). 
  • 12 of the remaining 15 delegates -- the at-large delegates -- are chosen at the state convention from among the delegates who have been selected to attend the state convention. 
  • The final three delegates are the Centennial state's automatic delegates (the state party chair, the national committeeman and the national committeewoman). 

A few notes on the delegate selection process in Colorado:

  1. Technically, the delegates selected throughout the process and more importantly those selected to go to the Republican National Convention in Tampa are unbound to any candidate. 
  2. However, and this is an important point that is not receiving much attention today, if a delegate has pledged support for a candidate, then that pledge is valid until the candidate to whom that delegate is pledged withdraws from the race, releases his or her delegates or is not nominated.2 
  3. Not to repeat what we said in the post on Iowa delegate allocation, but there are no formalized rules for selecting delegates at the precinct level to move on to the county assemblies. In other words, the number of delegates moving out of any given precinct caucus, may be proportionate to the vote for the candidates, but it is not required. It may be that those county assembly slots go to the folks that hang around at the meeting the longest. [This is the part that causes so many to say that organization matters in caucuses. Being organized enough to contact and make sure that your supporters claim those spots is a big deal.]
  4. Due to the above, as FHQ has said in the past, it is naive to think that there is no transference of presidential preference from one caucus step to the next. But for Colorado, as was the case in Iowa, there is no requirement that it be proportional or winner-take-all.
  5. Finally, the whole process will be complete and delegates will be selected to go to the national convention by April 14. That is a fairly big deal when taken with the "National Delegate Intent Form". Though Colorado delegates are unbound, not all are likely to be unpledged. No, FHQ doesn't want to get mired in a discussion of semantic, but those two -- unbound and unpledged -- are terms that can and often are (accurately) used interchangeably. The only truly unbound delegates from Colorado are the three automatic delegates and those unpledged delegates who emerge from the congressional district conventions.
1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.

2 The catch here is that delegate preference is not necessarily known the night of the precinct caucuses. Delegate candidates can chose to run pledged to a particular candidate or unpledged, but that preference has to be made official 13 days prior to either the congressional district assemblies (in the case of congressional district delegates) or the state convention (in the case of at-large delegates). The Colorado Republican Party keeps tabs on this by requiring each potential national convention delegate file a "National Delegate Intent Form".

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