Monday, June 29, 2015

Adjournment Ends Legislative Push for Earlier Presidential Primary in Rhode Island

Legislators at the Rhode Island General Assembly wrapped up their business for the 2015 session last week on Thursday, June 25. Among the items left languishing in committee was a Republican-sponsored bill in the House to shift the presidential primary in the Ocean state from the last Tuesday in April up to the last Tuesday in March.

The writing had been on the wall for HB 6054 for a while, though. A committee hearing back in early May had already basically tabled the discussion. Democrats in the majority had less incentive to shift than did the Republicans behind the bill in the first place. In the time since then, however, the Rhode Island presidential primary position on April 26 has become slightly less enticing to Democrats. New York likely ending up a week earlier on the calendar on April 19 costs Rhode Island Democrats a 15% clustering bonus to their delegation to the national convention in Philadelphia. Ocean state Democrats will still be eligible for a timing bonus of 10% with an April primary.

Rhode Island Republican legislators were differently motivated and wanted an even earlier date to affect a nomination process that is more competitive than on the Democratic side.

With the conclusion of the legislative session, the bill dies and cannot by rule in Rhode Island be carried over to the 2016 session.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two-Step Primary-Caucus Is Out for Texas Democrats in 2016

The Texas Two-Step that gained notoriety -- if not infamy -- under the spotlight of a closely contested 2008 Democratic presidential nomination process is dead for 2016.

For years Texas Democrats have split the allocation of their national convention delegates across both a primary election and a caucus/convention process. Roughly two-thirds of the delegates have been awarded to presidential candidates based on the statewide presidential primary results while the remainder were allocated at the state convention (through Texas senate district conventions).

Again, this has been the standard operating procedure for the Texas Democratic Party through much of the post-reform era. The winner of the primary has tended to be the winner of the caucuses as well. The two exceptions to that rule were 1988 when Michael Dukakis won the March 8 primary, but Jesse Jackson won the caucuses, and in 2008, a cycle that saw Hillary Clinton win the Texas primary on March 4, but lose the overall delegate count in the Lone Star state to Barack Obama, who had won the caucuses later in the day.

That latter outcome brought the Two-Step under increased scrutiny. And it was an interesting microcosm of a narrative tightly woven into the fabric of the 2008 nomination: that Obama was winning low turnout caucus votes while Clinton was claiming victories -- and a greater number of votes overall -- in primaries.1

Despite the 2008 controversy, the Texas Two-Step survived and once again netted the Texas Democratic Party a waiver in 2012.2 That fact, though, brings into focus another portion of what has become standard in the implementation of the state-level rules: The Two-Step is only compliant with Democratic National Committee delegate selection rules with some help. The state party has successfully petitioned the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee for a waiver to hold the "double vote" primary-caucus even though (national) Democratic rules prohibit it.

Basically, the Two-Step has been grandfathered in since the rules were changed. Texas was the lone remaining state to have continually been granted a waiver to allocate delegates through both a primary and a caucus. But that waiver was not granted for 2016. The Rules and Bylaws Committee unanimously rejected the waiver request at its Friday meeting in Washington. The Rules and Bylaws Committee conditionally approved the draft Texas delegate selection plan. But the condition was -- at least partially -- that it drop the caucuses from the allocation equation.

What that means is that Texas Democrats will now allocate all of their delegates proportionally (as mandated by the national party rules) based on the statewide results in the March 1 presidential primary.

As a side note, it hard to resist viewing the denied waiver request as a signal of if not the Clinton campaign's pull on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, then the reality that there are folks on the committee (Harold Ickes comes to mind) that are or have in the past been aligned with the Clintons. That comment is not meant as some form of conspiracy theory. That is how the Democratic process has worked: Surrogates of the various campaigns get involved in the rules process. Given that Clinton folks were not fans of the two-step (and for arguably legitimate reasons) after 2008, it is not a real shock that it would meet its end now.

But why now and not four years ago? Parties holding the White House tend not to tinker as much with their delegate selection rules. And by extension, those in the White House at the head of their parties often prefer to maintain the same combination of rules that got them to the White House in the first place. The denied Texas request is as much about the DNC transitioning to life after Obama as it is about Clinton (and company) not liking the two-step because of 2008. It is naive to think that both are not factors in the change for 2016 though.

1 That narrative was not really backed up by the data, but that did not keep it from being a talking point in and after 2008.

2 Good point from Kyle D.: Due to redistricting issues in 2011-12, Texas Democrats were forced to revise their delegate selection plan as that process played out in the courts.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

2016 Virginia Presidential Primary Survives Tight Republican State Central Committee Vote

By a vote of 42-39 (with one abstention), the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee supported a compromise measure to hold a presidential primary in 2016 and a nominating convention in 2017.

The vote ends the push for a state convention to bind and select delegates to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland from Virginia. The convention proposal called for March 5 district conventions to select delegates to move on to the state convention. It would have been at that proposed March 19 state convention that the first presidential preference vote in the process would have taken place, thus binding the delegates for the national convention.

But that proposal never came up for a vote. The primary compromise came up first and was passed. That clears the way for a March 1 Virginia presidential primary, placing the commonwealth alongside other southern states with primaries on the SEC primary date. With Virginia locked in as a primary state and one scheduled for March 1, the focus turns toward compliance with the Republican National Committee rules on proportionality. The Republican Party of Virginia allocated at-large delegates proportionally four years ago, but the congressional district delegates were awarded in a winner-take-all fashion. That latter allocation method will have to be altered to bring Virginia into compliance with the national party rules.

That decision will likely be officially made at the State Central Committee's September meeting.

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Iowa Republicans Trying to Find the Right Balance in 2016 Delegate Allocation


It is a real shame that Jennifer Jacobs' Des Moines Register story on the Iowa Republican Party's deliberations on delegate allocation in 2016 was released after 5pm on the East coast and on a day with so much other news. This really is an interesting, if not important, story.1

The question Iowa Republicans are wrestling with now is something that FHQ discussed at the beginning of May. Basically: How does a state party make the transition from non-binding caucuses in one cycle to being a binding caucus state in the next? What kind of delegate allocation rules do you, as a party, craft? And how?

As Iowa Republican Party officials let on to Jacobs, the process is tricky. In reality, it is that much trickier because Iowa has the first contest. It is all well and good to just select a method of delegate allocation at random, but all things held equal, Iowa Republicans theoretically have a different calculus on this than most if not all other states. Very simply, it is more difficult for Iowa to devise rules on delegate allocation when other states 1) have tried and tested a particular method over time and 2) will likely see a significantly winnowed field of candidates in a March 1 or April 26 primary.

South Carolina Republicans, for instance, have a pretty good idea of how a winner-take-most (winner-take-all by congressional district) plan works. There is a reason the party has used that method for as long as it has. California Republicans utilize a similar allocation plan to South Carolina's, but with a June primary, the list of surviving viable candidates will look decidedly different from the group that will brave the mid-winter cold of Iowa four months prior.

If you are the Iowa Republicans, how do you plan for the possibility that the winner of your early/first contest may not actually still be around later in the process, much less at the convention? How do you bind those delegates in a way that accounts not only for that but also reflects the results of the caucuses?

For starters, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann says that the party is leaning toward a proportional rather than winner-take-all method. As FHQ argued before, such a move is at least partially one made to preserve the state's first-in-the-nation status. No, Iowa is not affected by the proportionality requirement -- none of the carve-out state are -- but the RNC is unlikely to look on a move to adopt winner-take-all rules favorably.

So, no winner-take-all.

However, as FHQ mentioned repeatedly in 2011-12 and already here in 2015, there are a number of variations to the proportional method of delegate allocation as defined by the Republican National Committee rules on delegate selection. In the thought experiment FHQ constructed in initially bringing up the Iowa delegate binding question, due to the likely large field and depending on how the rules are written, Iowa could be proportional, but with a threshold that could make it winner-take-all or nearly winner-take-all. If, for instance, Iowa Republicans set a minimum threshold for receiving any delegates at 20%, then it is not inconceivable that with such a large field, only one candidate would break that barrier. And he or she would potentially be awarded all of the delegates (either statewide and/or at the congressional district level). Iowa would become a backdoor winner-take-all state.

What that demonstrates in reality is that state parties have a great deal of latitude under the national Republican guidelines in setting these delegate allocation rules. And the proposals in Iowa appear to be closer to a truly proportional distribution of delegates. As Jennifer Jacobs describes it:
Candidates would be awarded a percentage of delegates that roughly matches the percentage each candidate wins in the Iowa caucuses. For example, say former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wins 20 percent on Feb. 1. He'd be assigned 20 percent of Iowa's 30 delegates. That's six delegates.  
The proportional numbers would be rounded to the nearest whole delegate, so a candidate would have to earn at least 3 percent of the vote in the caucuses to get just one delegate.
This is a proportional plan with no threshold other than a candidate getting a share of the caucus vote large enough to round up to one delegate.2 It is a more open plan rather than a closed one, limiting the number of candidates who may qualify for delegates.

FHQ should also note that this plan Jacobs describes is a truly proportional plan, allocating delegates proportionally based on the statewide results alone. The plan described does not split the allocation across statewide and congressional district results. In other words it makes no distinction between at-large and congressional district delegates in the allocation. To be very -- VERY -- clear, the plan Jacobs describes separates the allocation and election/selection parts of the delegate process. All delegate slots (regardless of whether they are at-large or congressional district slots) are allocated to candidates based on the statewide results in the likely February 1 caucuses. Delegates to fill those allocated slots are elected/selected at either congressional district conventions (12 congressional district delegates) or at the state convention (at-large delegates). Those delegates are then bound to vote for the candidate to whom their slot was allocated.

That binding mechanism beyond the caucuses (and the Iowa state convention) is the other part of the calculus that Iowa Republicans are dealing with now. How long does that -- the bind -- last at the national convention and under what conditions? Actually the considerations in Iowa add another wrinkle. Again, from Jennifer Jacobs:
If the nation rallies around one favorite candidate in the states that follow Iowa, the convention will be easier, Kaufmann said. Iowa GOP officials could pass a rule that says if only one candidate's name is placed in nomination, all of Iowa's delegates are bound to cast their first vote for that one candidate.  
But what if more than one Republican is up for nomination at the convention? One idea is to reshuffle the delegates so that "all of Iowa's votes will go to candidates who have officially been placed in nomination," said David Chung, a member of the party's governing board. That way, votes aren't being cast for candidates no longer in the race. If there are, say, three candidates in the nomination fight, 100 percent of Iowa's delegates would be divided among those three, in proportion to the number of votes each got in the caucuses.
Now, both scenarios represent planning that is innovative but is also unique to either Iowa, the 2016 cycle or both. We might call these contingencies a "rebinding" of the delegates. That, however, is a loaded term. In a fractious party -- state or national -- rebinding gets right to the heart of the fairness of the process. Yet, what the proposals indicate is a conscience effort on the part of the Republican Party of Iowa to create a formula that can adapt to the changes that will almost certainly occur as the Republican presidential nomination process moves from its official kickoff in Iowa to the national convention in Cleveland. The party is seemingly trying to create a formula that always makes an attempt to accurately reflect the results of the caucuses.

Overall, these are difficult issues to tackle. And the uncertainty of the cycle to this point is driving a lot of contingency planning. Since Iowa is the first delegate selection event, the rules behind its delegate selection process almost have to be complicated enough to accommodate a broad candidate landscape, a landscape that will evolve over the course of primary season (based on the results of other contests, the influx of super PAC money and other factors).

The new RNC delegate binding rules have brought or will bring about rules changes at the state level. In total, that may end up being a lot of rules changes. The more rules changes there are, there greater the potential for unintended consequences. That may be consequential.

...or it may just end up being overplanning on the other side of the 2016 election. It is interesting to consider the implications though.

1 Results may vary on just how interesting or important it is to you, valued reader, but for FHQ, well...

2 Depending on how the rules are written, a candidate being awarded one delegate could have to get 3% of the vote or a share that would round up to 3%, say, 2.5%. As is often the case, though, often times delegates will be awarded sequentially starting with the top votegetter and working down the vote-based rank ordering. The rounding more often occurs on the actual delegate awarding rather than the vote share. Let's use the Santorum example from Jacobs' description, but assume that he won 19.9% of the vote.
30 (total Iowa Republican delegates) X .199 = 5.97 delegates
Santorum's total haul would not be 5.97 delegates. That would round up to 6 delegates. There are no fractional delegates. However, states deal with rounding differently to account for the fact that there are no fractional delegates allowed. Some always round up while others round up only if the fraction is higher than .49. The rounding rules impact the candidates at the top end of the rank ordering, but that is minor in view of the fact that those further down the list could get shut out of the allocation due to how the rounding rules are constructed. The 2012 Iowa Republican caucus results offer a nice example of this issue.

2012 Iowa Republican Caucus Results and Delegate Allocation
CandidateVote (%)Delegates
(Rounded Down)1
(Rounded Up)
1 Delegates are rounded up only if the fractional delegate is greater than .49. Fractional delegates at or below .49 are rounded down.
2 The Perry number is not rounded up as the rest are because there were only three delegates that remained to be allocated by the time the sequence worked down the list to him.
3 Remainders in this case means any delegates left unallocated due to the rounding rules, not the candidates who received a smaller share of the Iowa caucus vote than Rep. Bachmann. 

To reiterate, the top votegetters are only marginally affected. In this instance there are minimal differences in the delegate gaps between candidates based on the rounding rules. However, those candidates with smaller vote shares may or may not qualify for any delegates depending on the rounding. With a sequential, top-down allocation with round up rules, Bachmann gets shut out of delegates where she gets two delegates under different rounding rules.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Local Officials Object to Prospect of New York Losing Bonus Delegates Due to April 19 Presidential Primary

John Spina and Jennifer Fermino have the story at The New York Daily News:
Some irate local officials are warning New York will lose dozens of delegates to the 2016 Democratic convention following a successful push by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to move the party’s primary from Passover week.

Moving the primary from April 26 to April 19 would deprive New York of bonus delegates, which the Democratic National Committee doles out to states that cluster their primaries on one day.
FHQ addressed the potential loss of bonus delegates in our post covering the Assembly passage of the April 19 presidential primary bill earlier this week. This is a classic example of political trade-offs. On the one hand, New York Democrats would have received a double bonus for holding an April 26 primary; a 10% bump for an April primary and a 15% boost for clustering with up to five other neighboring (or contiguous) states. The price of that bonus -- due to the scheduling on April 26 -- was the Passover holiday conflict. Jewish voters would have been forced to vote during the holiday, vote absentee or not vote at all.

But with the presidential primary a Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signature away from an April 19 date, the Passover conflict is averted, but the 15% clustering bonus is gone. No cluster, no bonus.

Former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver (D), who pushed for the earlier date is, according to Spina and Fermino, "trying to convince the DNC to still award New York the bonus delegates." Unless Connecticut and Rhode Island bring up legislation in special sessions, that is probably unlikely. The DNC has no rules-based discretion to award bonus delegates to states that do not meet the criteria. [The focus is on the two New England states because the Pennsylvania legislature is currently considering whether to move its April 26 primary to March 15. If that move occurs, New York would be dependent on its two eastern neighbors to achieve the clustering bonus anyway.]

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

April 19 Presidential Primary Bill Passes New York Assembly

The New York Assembly on Wednesday, June 24 passed S5958, moving one step closer to scheduling the presidential primary in the Empire state for April 19.

The Assembly version (A8310) of the April 19 bill was taken up after being moved from the Election Law Committee to Rules and added to the calendar. On the Assembly floor, A8310 was replaced by the state Senate-passed version and then passed by the Assembly.

All this after former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, announced yesterday that the April 19 date had been agreed to to avert a conflict with the Passover holiday a week later (on April 26). If signed into law by Governor Cuomo, S5958 would move the New York presidential primary to a spot on the calendar where the contest would stand alone.

This would cost the New York Democratic delegation a 15% delegate bonus for clustering contests with Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. By moving, New York would cost Connecticut and Rhode Island their chance at the same clustering bonus. Under the rules set forth in the Democratic Call to the Convention, three neighboring states are required for a state to qualify for the bonus. While Connecticut and Rhode Island lose out due to the potential New York shift, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania continue to qualify so long as Pennsylvania maintains its position. Legislation in the Keystone state would move the Pennsylvania primary to March 15.

Despite that loss, New York Democrats would still receive a 10% delegate bonus for holding an April primary.

The Republican National Committee does not include any delegate bonuses in its rules.

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Kansas Republican to Caucus on March 5

The Kansas Republican Party has settled on March 5, 2016 as the date of the party's presidential caucuses.

Coming off the state convention in late January, Kansas Republicans announced that they had tentatively set the date of the 2016 caucuses for March 5. In the time since, what the party described then as "will probably" changed to "will" be on March 5 by the time Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold testified in favor of legislation canceling the 2016 presidential primary in the Sunflower state. The date has subsequently been added to the party's calendar of upcoming events.

March 5 caucuses for Kansas Republicans means that both parties in the state will share the same delegate selection date for the first since Kansas last held a presidential primary in 1992. The first Saturday in March date is also the same date Kansas Republicans used four years ago. This time the party will be competing with more than just distant US territories. As of now, the Louisiana primary also shares that date (on the Republican primary calendar) with Kansas.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

2008 Republican Delegate Allocation Rules by State

1. FHQ will not dive too far into all of this now. This is, along with the 2012 post, should serve as a baseline to which the 2016 rules as they come more into focus can be compared.

2. The Republican delegate allocation in 2008 may be a better prism through which to view the aggregate patchwork of rules that will govern the 2016 Republican presidential nomination process at the state level. FHQ says that because the expectation is that there will be a handful (to a great deal) more winner-take-all states in 2016. The addition of the proportionality window in 2012 had something to do with the 11 winner-take-all states in 2008 dropping to just 6 in 2012. Two of those five states (Connecticut and New York) voluntarily adopted more proportional rules even with later primary dates outside of the proportionality window. Missouri switched a caucus with no formal rules in 2012. Only Vermont and Virginia had primaries scheduled in the 2012 proportionality window, forcing a change to a more proportional method of allocation from a truly winner-take-all plan.

3. In the aggregate, it appears that most of those winner-take-all (2008) turned more proportional (2012) states went from the truly winner-take-all category in 2008 to the truly proportional category in 2012. When we push the examination down to the individual (state) level, the shuffling is more complex (see previous paragraph).

4. Again, FHQ should note that those states in the hybrid category tend to be more like proportional states than truly winner-take-all states in terms of the underlying allocation. Together, hybrid and proportional states comprised two-thirds of the total delegates available in the 2008 Republican presidential nomination process. Importantly, 10 of the 11 winner-take-all states were on or before February 12, 2008 (the week after Super Tuesday). John McCain won all of those early truly winner-take-all states except Utah. That provided a significant delegate cushion for the Arizona senator over his challengers.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Ted Cruz, Texas Primary Polls and Delegate Allocation in the Lone Star State

There is a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll out this morning showing Ted Cruz leading in the 2016 presidential primary race in the Lone Star state. That Cruz leads and is ahead of another Texan -- former Governor Rick Perry who is in second -- is already being treated as the main headline number from the survey results.

FHQ doesn't know about that take away.

First of all, lest I be accused of not heeding the previous warnings, let me echo the call to "Ignore those polls!" Yes, with each passing day the race gets a little closer to votes actually being cast. Still, one should approach Iowa and New Hampshire poll numbers with caution at this point. And polls in states that will follow them -- and subsequently draw heavily on those earlier contests' results -- should be accompanied with an even larger grain of salt.

Secondly, warnings aside, the Tribune poll does give us an opportunity to map out delegate allocation in Texas, assuming the poll numbers are the election results. Again, it is super early in this process, but this particular poll makes for an interesting simulated delegate allocation run.

Texas Republicans  do have a new delegate allocation plan in place for the 2016 cycle. For the first time, Republicans in the Lone Star state will split the allocation of their national convention delegates across both a primary election and a caucus/convention system. Three-quarters of the 152 delegates will be allocated based on the results of the primary election on March 1, while the remaining quarter will be allocated at the June state convention.1 That convention fraction of the delegation -- 38 delegates -- is taken from the at-large pool of delegates. Texas has 44 at-large delegates for 2016. That leaves just six at-large delegates to be allocated based on the statewide results in the Texas presidential primary (and also 108 delegates to be allocated based on the primary results in each of Texas' 36 congressional districts -- three delegates in each district).

Let's put those 38 delegates on the back burner for a moment and focus on the 114 delegates to be allocated in the presidential primary part of the Texas Republican delegate selection rules. If we assume that the Tribune poll represents the results of the Texas presidential primary, then...

That 20% number that Cruz reaches is seemingly significant and probably more so than the fact that the Texas senator is ahead of the former governor in the Lone Star state. 20% is important because the Texas Republican delegate allocation plan requires candidates to receive at least 20% of the vote to be allocated any delegates.

So Cruz wins all 114 delegates?

Well, that seems to be the case since Cruz is the only candidate to clear the 20% barrier in this poll. And hey, that would be nice from a simplicity of delegate allocation perspective as well. However, if you have read this site for a while (and even if you have not), you will understand that simplicity and delegate allocation do not often go hand in hand. It is possible for a state to set 1) a minimum threshold of the vote that a candidate must receive to win any delegates and 2) a minimum threshold for a candidate to receive all of the delegates.

Texas is not one of those states. The sort of backdoor winner-take-all scenario that can take place even within the proportionality window (March 1-14) is far less possible in the Lone Star state.

Texas does have a 20% threshold that candidates must attain in the primary to receive any delegates and a 50% threshold for a candidate to receive all of the delegates. But the overall allocation is split across not only two tiers (a primary and the state convention), but it is also separated by statewide and congressional district results. That differentiation makes it more difficult for any one candidate to win all 114 Texas presidential primary delegates.

Let's parse that out. If we assume that the 20% Ted Cruz received statewide in this poll and the hypothetical presidential primary is evenly distributed across all 36 congressional districts, then Cruz would do quite well in the resulting delegate allocation.2 If Cruz got 20% and Perry 12% in each of the 36 congressional districts, then Cruz would win the three delegates from each of those 36 districts. The senator would be the only candidate above the 20% threshold.

But it is likely a stretch to assume that Cruz would win 20% in each district. It is likely that Cruz would do much better than 20% in some districts and much worse (even losing to another candidate) in others. This is a long way of saying that even if Cruz was the only candidate over 20% statewide, he would be unlikely to win all 108 of the congressional district delegates. In 2008, John McCain won a majority of the statewide vote in Texas, but still yielded some congressional district delegates to Mike Huckabee.

That still leaves the six at-large delegates -- the remainder of those at-large delegates not allocated at the state convention -- to be allocated. It is already unlikely that Cruz would take all of the congressional district delegates assuming the poll reflects the primary results. Even under the scenario where the 20% of the vote number is evenly distributed across all 36 congressional districts, it would be impossible for Cruz to win all 114 presidential primary delegates.

That is due to the way in which those remaining six at-large delegates have to be allocated under the Texas Republican delegate selection rules. While only one candidate can clear 20% of the vote on the congressional district level and win all three delegates, that is not true at the statewide level. If only one candidate clears the 20% barrier statewide, then that candidate splits the leftover at-large delegates with the candidate with the second most votes statewide. Cruz could win all of the delegates in the 36 congressional districts, then, but Perry would still take two delegates based on the at-large delegate allocation rules.

What about those other 38 at-large delegates to be allocated at the state convention? How will they be allocated? This process is less clear and is hidden behind something of a shroud of mystery. The only guidance for how those delegates will be allocated is this:
The State Republican Executive Committee shall prescribe the process for each state convention delegate to cast their vote for their presidential preference by electronic or paper ballot. 
That could be winner-take-all or it could be proportional. The former is more likely if a presumptive nominee is known by the time of the state convention. If the nomination is unsettled at that point, it provides the SREC the latitude to set a method of delegate allocation that is most likely to attract the candidates (or most likely to decide the nomination). For now, however, there is not a clear answer as to how a quarter of the Texas Republican delegation will be allocated and bound to candidates.

Is it interesting that Cruz is ahead of Perry in this poll? In a world starved for data, I suppose. But again, this is a poll of a post-carve-out state. To the extent the data matter, it is more useful as an illustration of how the Texas Republican delegates may be allocated next year.

UPDATE (2:30pm):
Please also note that the Republican Party of Texas amended their party rules on March 7, 2015 (after FHQ's January post). Included in those changes is a provision in Rule 38 to eliminate the convention allocation part of the Texas delegate selection rules if the Republican National Committee does not approve of a plan with allocation split across two differently timed (on the calendar) contests.

1 The full Texas delegation is comprised of 155 delegates, but three of those delegates -- the automatic delegates -- are not pledged to any candidate based on the results of either tier of the Texas Republican delegates allocation process for 2016. Those three delegates also do not count toward deriving the primary to caucus/convention ratio of delegates to be allocated.

2 The poll, however, does not break the results down by congressional districts. All we are left with, then, are assumptions of how that might look.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Still Unresolved, New York Senate Passes Bill Scheduling an April 19 Presidential Primary

The New York state legislature is working to finish up its business for 2015. However, a number of matters that have yet to be fully addressed have pushed the expected adjournment of the body back at least into next week.1 One of the issues that remains unresolved is the the date of the 2016 presidential primary. As of now, New York law schedules that election for the first Tuesday in February, a date non-compliant with national party rules.

The inter-chamber discussions have centered on an April 26 date, but that that date falls in the middle of Passover week in 2016 has created some friction, elevating a bill -- one of five total bills dealing with the presidential primary -- calling for an April 19 presidential primary. That bill, S5958, advanced through the state Senate on Thursday, June 18 by a 36-27 vote largely along party lines (four Democrats voted in favor of the measure).2 As of Friday, June 19, now has an identical companion bill -- A8310 -- in the Assembly.

The Democratic-controlled lower chamber now has a couple of bills that would shift the presidential primary to April 19. But there are also three previously introduced bills that would move the election to April 26. The later date would align the New York presidential primary with similar elections in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. It is also a date that has the approval of the Democratic National Committee (or was proposed by the DNC).

As FHQ has explained (and this is well explained in the Capitol New York piece by Bill Mahoney), New York Democrats are motivated to hold the primary on April 26 because of the delegate bonuses associated with the date. The 10% timing bonus would be available on April 19, but the 15% clustering bonus would not without concurrent elections in neighboring states.

That there is a companion bill in the Assembly can be taken as a good sign that April 19 is closer to a go than not, but this matter is not closed. Democrats can attain a 15% timing bonus for a contest in May (or later). How tempting that ends up being to Democrats in the Assembly remains to be seen. However, with the end of the session already having been pushed back, a quick compromise may be the path of least resistance.

1 The state Senate is set to gather on Tuesday, June 23.

2 The committee vote was a more narrow 13-10 to move the legislation to the full chamber. In addition to those 13 Republican yeas, 2 Democrats voted for the bill in committee but reserved the right to vote against it on the floor (which they did).

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Friday, June 19, 2015

March 19 a Possibility for Virginia Republican Presidential Nominating Convention

FHQ dealt with the primary or convention question in Virginia a week ago, but Adam Wollner at the National Journal has incrementally advanced Travis Fain's Daily Press story with some interesting additions. Namely this:
But [conservative activist Russ] Moulton said his allies on the state central committee are eyeing March 19 as a possible date for the convention, which he argued could actually give the state even more influence because it could award all of the delegates to the winner, instead of dividing them up among several of the top finishers.
Most of the primary states are pretty much locked into position on the presidential primary calendar at this point because the bulk of state legislatures have adjourned for the year.1 This possible primary to convention switch in Virginia makes the Old Dominion something of a wildcard in all of that. And if Virginia Republicans 1) settle on a presidential nominating convention and 2) schedule it for March 19, then the party would have the option of reestablishing the winner-take-all allocation rules the party utilized before the 2012 cycle.

It has been hypothesized that caucus/convention states would benefit the Rand Paul campaign in 2016 like they did his father in 2012 (and to a lesser degree 2008). That may be true. But this is dependent upon two factors. First, when is the caucuses or convention scheduled? But also, what allocation rules does the state party adopt?

If a state party opts for precinct caucuses (with a presidential preference vote) before March 15, then the resulting allocation of delegates to the national convention will have to be proportionate to the vote shares received by the candidates in that original vote. Again, the RNC has eliminated non-binding caucuses for the 2016 cycle. Delegates, then, will be bound to candidates based on the results of those early votes. In 2012, the majority of Republican caucus states held caucuses before March 15. Only Missouri held first round caucuses after that point, and only Montana and Nebraska held consequential state conventions after mid-March.

But if there is a break from that pattern in 2016 and caucus states opt for slightly later dates on the calendar, then there could be a number of winner-take-all caucus states. On the surface, that seemingly creates an alternate caucus strategy for the Paul campaign. Virginia is one of those wildcard states. Senator Paul's home state of Kentucky is another. But how many other states could fit into that post-March 14 space on the calendar is an open question. The answer to that question, though depends on state level rules and how much control Paul-aligned forces have within state Republican parties in those caucus states.

Iowa and Nevada are locked into early calendar spots, but are exempt from the proportionality requirement. Nevada Republicans have already voted to proportionally allocated their national convention delegates. Iowa is still a question mark. Next in line are Colorado and Minnesota; caucus states where state law controls the date. Both are locked into positions before March 15 at this point. That means proportional allocation.

Outside of Kentucky and Virginia, that leaves Alaska, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and the territories. How well the Paul campaign can affect decision-making in those states depends on the extent to which Paul-aligned folks are involved in those state parties. Given the events of 2012, Maine is probably tops on that list.

But digging too deeply into this does ignore one rather large point: Even if all of those states are scheduled after March 14 and all are winner-take-all, they still only cumulatively comprise 228 delegates. Add Kentucky and Virginia and that's 322 delegates. Add those late conventions in Montana and Nebraska and that total rises to 376. That is still only about a quarter of the delegates necessary to clinch the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Sure, one can also add to that any delegates proportionally won in other states, but all of that is a plan built on a lot of ifs.

Still, it is fun trip into the rules weeds.

1 This list includes Virginia. Wollner mentions in his National Journal piece that the Virginia presidential primary would "likely" be on March 1. If Virginia holds a presidential primary during the 2016 cycle, it will be on March 1. For the primary to fall on a date other than March 1, the law would have to be changed, and the legislature adjourned for 2015 at the end of February. There currently are no plans to convene a special session.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Never a Dull Moment in Nevada

FHQ is going to flag this typically great story from Jon Ralston on the not-so behind the scenes maneuvering ahead of leadership elections at the county level within the Nevada Republican Party. It is a nice extension to the story of the recently failed attempt in the Silver state to switch from a caucus/convention system to a primary.

Then as now, it is a story of 2016 possibilities with 2020 implications. Which is to say, this is a political battle with both short and long term incentives for state and national interests. There in the desert, Nevada has an early spot on the presidential primary calendar, but is also a battleground state in the fall. All that creates a matrix of cross-cutting incentives.

And throw in the candidates too.

In this one case, all of those interests are pulling in different directions (or parts of them are anyway). Consider that the Rand Paul campaign and those aligned with it in Nevada are attempting to advantage the Kentucky senator in the Silver state caucuses in 2016. This is not a mystery. It is inside baseball, but it is not really happening behind the scenes. And lest FHQ be accused of pointing fingers at the Paul campaign, note that this is not the first instance in political history in which self interest has played a role. It isn't even the first example in presidential nomination politics, believe it or not. The post-reform era began after all with the recommendations of the McGovern-Fraser Commission. The first nominee on the Democratic side after those reforms were instituted for the 1972 cycle was George McGovern; the same McGovern from the aforementioned commission. The Paul campaign is not doing anything that other candidates would not do.

However, they are doing it in Nevada. And the last thing that Nevada needs -- if it wants to protect that early calendar position in the future -- is more uncertainty, more chaos or more dissension in the Nevada Republican delegation. Think about this for a moment. The national parties are either indifferent to or like having Iowa and New Hampshire first because after having occupied the first two spots on the primary calendar for nearly half a century, the national parties know what they have in those states more or less.

They have a reasonable idea about how Iowa and New Hampshire will affect the process. That isn't the case in Nevada. Well, actually it is, but for all the wrong reasons. The only certainty in the Nevada (Republican) caucuses is uncertainty. After two cycles in the spotlight of the early calendar, Nevada is batting 1.000 in creating headaches for the Republican National Committee. And since the RNC-backed effort to switch to a presidential primary in the Silver state fell through and the Paul campaign is already working to help Paul out in the state, that intra-party rift and those headaches may return for round three in 2016. Again, if the only certainty is a headache, then it makes it likely that the headache symptoms will be dealt with in the future.

Of course, Democrats nationally and in Nevada do not mind seeing any of this. But it may only be Nevada Democrats that end up paying a price. One factor that bolsters the protected statuses of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is that political actors of either partisan stripe are of one mind when it comes to first in the nation/South privilege: Keep it at all costs (even if it means agreeing with the other party). Nevada Democrats should enjoy the ride now. By maintaining the caucuses for 2016, it makes it less likely Nevada will be continue to be first in the West in 2020. Another flawed Republican caucus there makes it much more likely that the RNC dumps the Silver state. Not having an early Nevada Republican caucus undercuts Nevada Democrats' case for keeping theirs (not completely, mind you, but it would make Nevada unique among the carve-out states). The national parties want certainty and if Republicans tap another western states, national Democrats will want to cede any potential organizational advantage in that state.

It is all about certainty and the Nevada experiment has provided all the wrong kind.

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How is the DNC Involved in the New York Presidential Primary Situation?

Legislation is currently active in New York to bring the presidential primary back into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules. However, the effort to move the election from the first Tuesday in February to April 26 is facing a backlash from a group of 71 Democratic legislators. And the sticking point is not pushing the presidential primary out of February; a position that while non-compliant would keep the Empire state very early on the calendar. Instead, Democratic legislators in New York are upset that the proposed calendar position for the presidential primary election is in the middle of Passover week.

Now, that is a story in and of itself. The state legislature in New York is winding down its work for the session and not resolving the issues surrounding the scheduling of the presidential primary next year would have New York on the wrong side of national party rules (with a February primary). Any delay -- any impasse -- means that a date change is in some jeopardy. Things get prioritized differently when that legislative countdown clock is ticking toward zero hour.

But what is odd is to whom Democratic lawmakers in New York have chosen to air their grievances. The letter the group of 71 sent was sent to the Democratic National Committee.


To FHQ that is the real story in all of this. Why would legislators choose to reach out to the DNC? There are national party rules prohibiting February presidential primaries and significant penalties that come along with that. Beyond that, however, there is nothing in the Democratic delegate selection rules for 2016 that explicitly schedule the New York presidential primary for April 26. There may be some pressure from the DNC to do that, but there is absolutely nothing preventing New York legislators of any partisan stripe from agreeing on a primary date anywhere on the calendar between March 1 and sometime in early to mid-June.


That is a lot of dates from which to choose. And as FHQ has mentioned there is incentive for New York Democrats to want that April 26 date, Passover conflict aside. It means bonus delegates tacked onto the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next July; extra delegates for a later primary scheduled concurrently with similar contests in potentially five other states. Yet, if New York Democrats want to take advantage of those bonuses, they would have to be on April 26.

There may also be pressure that is being exerted on the New York Democratic Party and/or legislators   by the DNC to keep a partially Democratic-controlled state (or group of states) later on the calendar. These sorts of rumors emerged in 2011; that Democrats were attempting to schedule contests in states the party controlled later in the process as a means of influencing the Republican nomination. The hope then as presumably now would be to produce a more conservative nominee chosen by a frontloaded group of more conservative states.

Again, however, that is potential pressure folks in New York are getting from the DNC. That is a lot different than rules violations that give the national party some reason to penalize a state. There is something missing in the reporting on this story. It does not make any sense that New York Democrats would point the finger at the national party. The way this process -- the scheduling of presidential nominating contests -- works should mean that those legislators should be pointing their fingers at each other.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for sharing news of the Passover conflict with FHQ.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation Rules by State

1. FHQ will not dive too far into all of this now. This is, more or less, a baseline to which the 2016 rules as they come more into focus can be compared.

2. This nicely highlights what FHQ said throughout the 2012 cycle: There just were not that many truly winner-take-contests. Though Idaho and Puerto Rico ended up allocating all of their delegates to the winner (in this case, Mitt Romney), those two were the only early (proportionality window) states that had conditional winner-take-all provisions that were triggered. The six truly winner-take-all states comprised only 9% of the total 2286 Republican delegates.

3. There could have been many more categories added to this, but FHQ erred on the side of simplicity. That "hybrid" group includes loophole primary states like Illinois where delegates are elected directly, winner-take-most (winner-take-all by congressional district) states like South Carolina and a host of other conditionally winner-take-all states. As FHQ mentioned in the rundown of 2016 proportionality rules changes, even if you reallocate delegates in states that fall in this category, the changes are not very much different than a proportional allocation. Again, this is a catch-all group of sorts, but with a tighter definition of proportionality for 2016, some of these states -- those in the proportionality window -- will likely drift over into the proportional category. Others with contests that fall on or after March 15 may end up in the winner-take-all category (see possibly Ohio).

4. While that "hybrid" group is still something of a mystery, the wild card in 2016 will be what happens with the bulk of the caucuses states; those with no formal rules binding delegates to candidates. Given the changes to the national party rules -- There is now a requirement that delegates be bound based on the results of the primaries or caucuses (with some caveats). -- the previously non-binding caucus states will have to devise rules for allocating delegates. As most have to start and complete the caucus/convention process between March and early June, most of the first steps in the process will be early. Whether those states fall in the proportionality window remains undetermined. But that does have an impact on the types of delegate allocation rules those states will be able to adopt. But in 2012, there were more delegates available in the "no formal rules" states than there were in truly winner-take-all states.

Links to state-level delegate allocation rules (click to see details of each state's plan):

  • 2012 vs. 2008
  • Iowa
  • New Hampshire
  • South Carolina
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Arizona
  • Michigan
  • Wyoming
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Kansas
  • Alabama
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Puerto Rico
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Washington, DC
  • Wisconsin
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • North Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Nebraska
  • Oregon
  • Kentucky
  • Texas

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