Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Missouri

This is the ninth 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.


Missouri Republicans will caucus on March 17. It will be the first time since 1996 that the party has held caucuses as a means of allocating delegates to the national convention instead of a primary. Note that FHQ will spend very little time discussing the non-binding primary that is taking place this evening. In the delegate count, it is meaningless as compared to the other two contests in Colorado and Minnesota today. The latter two bear the distinction of having voters -- caucusgoers -- actually cast votes in a process that will ultimately choose delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

[The very short version of why the primary became non-binding and the caucus came to be is that a deep division within the Republicans in the majority in both houses of the Missouri General Assembly over whether to maintain a non-compliant February primary or move back to a compliant March primary kept the caucuses in both the state House and Senate at loggerheads all year in 2011. The one bill they were able to pass -- to move the primary to March 6 -- also contained a provision that stripped Governor Jay Nixon (D) of the appointment power that allows the Missouri governor the ability to fill vacancies to statewide office. That bill got a veto and the special session efforts thereafter to either move the primary back or cancel the primary outright failed. That was the very short version!?! As short as I could make it. For the full story click on the "Missouri" label here or at the bottom of the post and scroll down, down, down through all of the 2011 Missouri posts.]

February diversion aside, then, how exactly will the Missouri Republican caucuses work next month? Well, it won't be unlike what has happened in Colorado and Minnesota tonight. Missouri Republicans were apportioned 52 delegates by the Republican National Committee. Here is how those delegates breakdown and how they are allocated to the convention in Tampa:2

  • 25 at-large delegates: At-large delegates will be selected at the Missouri Republican state convention on June 1-2. As has been the case in most of the other caucus states thus far with the exception of Nevada, there are no rules dictating the method in which delegates are selected from one step of the process to the next. There is no proportional. There is no winner-take-all. There may be some of each in some precincts with the former more likely in competitive precincts and the latter more prevalent in less competitive precincts or in precincts where caucusgoers committed to one candidate or another stick around not only for the presidential preference straw poll vote but for the actual selection of delegates to the county level as well. Unlike what has happened in Iowa or Colorado, the at-large delegates in Missouri are bound for one ballot at the national convention to the candidate they pledged to at the state convention.
  • 24 congressional district delegates: Similarly, the congressional district delegates -- 3 for each of the 8 Missouri congressional districts -- are allocated and pledged based on the selection during the April 21 congressional caucuses across the Show Me state. 
  • 3 automatic delegates: The Missouri Republican call for convention also contains two other lines about the actions to be taken at the state convention relevant to the automatic delegates from the state: 1) "Pledging all delegates and alternates to support a Republican Presidential Candidate as provided in this Call to Convention." and 2) "Electing a man and a woman to serve as members of the Republican National Committee from the state of Missouri." What that means is that all the delegates will be bound and that two of the automatic delegates -- the national committeeman and national committeewoman will be elected at the state convention. The only possibility -- and FHQ isn't really suggesting that this is anything remotely approaching a reality -- for a free agent is the state party chairman and that position would seemingly be covered by the binding mechanism described above. [What party chair would cross the rules and an entire convention?]
The interesting thing about all of these non-binding precinct caucus states moving forward is going to be not when the precinct caucuses are but when the district and state conventions are and more importantly what the dynamics of the race are at those times. Colorado has a very early state convention in April and the race could be ongoing at that point. This is far different than the caucus situation on the Democratic side of the ledger where proportionality is rigorously observed throughout the process with some rounding error at the margins that may differ from the precinct level results. That layer is missing on the Republican side. There is no guide for how this will progress once the later stages of the caucus process take place. In the hyper-frontloaded era (200-2008), and perhaps even stretching back into the 1990s, the formula in Republican caucus states was fairly simple: hold a non-binding precinct caucus and then line up behind the presumptive nominee at the district or state convention when all the other candidates have withdrawn from the race or no longer remain viable (if they were to begin with). 2012 is different. Mock all you like, but there is a reason the Paul folks are competing in these caucuses. No, they may not be winning the straw poll votes on presidential preference, but as Dr. Paul himself said this evening, they are winning the votes to push Paul delegates on to the next rounds. Throw in some Santorum delegates and things might be interesting at some of these district and state conventions. The more competitive it ends up being the more likely the ultimate allocation is likely to be approximately proportionate to the precinct level vote.

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

2 Below is the call to the Missouri Republican convention spelling out the rules of delegate allocation:
Missouri Republican 2012 Call to Convention

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