Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: West Virginia

This is the thirty-sixth 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.


The story with West Virginia Republican delegate allocation is simple: see Illinois. Well, as FHQ hopes our readers will understand, it is never really as simple as that. Yes, in terms the allocation of congressional district delegates in the Mountain state, the plan is exactly like the method used in Illinois: a loophole primary. Primary voters cast ballots for congressional district delegates directly. And as was the case in Illinois -- unlike Pennsylvania -- those delegates' candidate affiliations are listed with the delegate candidates on the ballot. The twist in West Virginia is that, unlike Illinois, at-large delegates are also directly elected on the primary ballot.2 With the exception of the automatic delegates, then, all of the delegates who will attend the Republican National Convention in Tampa will be selected in the primary election.

West Virginia delegate breakdown:
  • 31 total delegates
  • 19 at-large delegates
  • 9 congressional district delegates 
  • 3 automatic delegates
As FHQ has described in the past, loophole primaries -- even in instances when the delegates' candidate affiliations are listed on the ballot -- tend to favor the front-running and/or establishment candidate. That candidate is typically the one who is the most successful in enlisting the help of known political quantities in a state as delegates. And while that may be true in 2012 as well, this cycle and the candidate filings in West Virginia offer an interesting mathematical possibility. Now, to be sure, Mitt Romney did quite well in Pennsylvania by virtue of having locked in Pennsylvania Republican Party activists to delegate slots. As I said before Pennsylvania, Romney voters did not necessarily have cues other than name recognition that online-organized Paul voters had: a list of Paul-aligned delegates. That offered an interesting test case of name recognition versus organization and name recognition won over a small faction of organized Paul voters.

Similarly, there is an open door to Paul voters in Pennsylvania neighbor, West Virginia, as well. Romney will very likely have name recognition on his side in the Mountain state primary -- His name will be listed next to his delegates. -- but will more and potentially less disciplined Romney voters lose out mathematically to fewer Paul voters. Let me explain. The Romney campaign overfiled delegates in West Virginia. Instead of 19 at-large delegates, the Romney campaign filed 24. Instead of three delegates in each of the congressional districts, the Romney campaign filed at least seven. By contrast, the Paul campaign filed the bare minimum number of delegates in the state: three in each of the three congressional districts and 19 at-large delegates. All told, that means that Romney's likely greater number of total votes statewide and in each of the congressional districts will be split among a greater number of delegate slots. Voters are selecting delegates individually, not as candidate slates. That means that Romney voters may split their vote because the Romney campaign overfiled.

Paul voters, on the other hand, will not be diluting their voting power. If Ron Paul voters are voting for all of Paul's delegates and not for some of the uncommitted slots, then all of those Paul votes will go to all of Paul's delegates. They won't be split like the Romney vote.

The big question watching the West Virginia returns is whether there is enough of a split among Romney votes to allow Paul delegates to make up the likely differential between the two candidates statewide? We shall see.

[Hat tip to the anonymous commenters who asked about delegate vote dilution in the Question Time comments.]

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

2 The at-large delegate slots in Illinois are chosen at the state convention.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: North Carolina

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Indiana

Delegate Selection is Never Easy in Nevada

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