Friday, May 5, 2023

Checking in on 2024 Republican Delegate Math

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Extended thoughts on the new Georgia presidential primary date for 2024 and updates in Iowa caucus legislation and Nevada Democrats' draft delegate selection plan. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
With Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) having now set the date of the presidential primary in the Peach state, one of the biggest remaining unknowns in finalizing delegate numbers for 2024 was resolved yesterday. Many gaps remain. 

There are still nine jurisdictions that do not have contest dates at all yet for Republican delegate selection to commence. However, outside of the uncertainty with the Missouri presidential primary (or likely caucuses), most are small states or territories. None have delegates in large enough numbers to fundamentally change the basic contours of the delegate terrain across the entire calendar. But there are states with official dates at the moment that may change dates and may have a greater impact on all of this. Pennsylvania comes to mind. Additionally, the states with gubernatorial and state legislative races this fall will also have some effect on the final delegate totals for each state. Republican control there affects at-large delegate totals. 

Although important, none of that is going to do much to change the basic delegate outlook other than at the margins. So what is missing is a denominator (the final overall total number of delegates) and the placement of nine-ish contests on the calendar. But again, that is only likely to alter things at the margins. 

What can be said now, with Georgia in place on the calendar, is that roughly half of the delegates will have been allocated in the Republican presidential nomination race by mid-March next year. Notably, the calendar will hit the 50 percent allocated mark right around the same time that the Republican prohibition on winner-take-all allocation ends on March 15. 

That suggests a few things. First, the Republican race will only be over by that point if all the viable candidates other than the delegate leader have dropped out of the race. It could happen. This is how candidate Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2020. However, with winner-take-all states on the horizon in the Republican process, 2024 Republican candidates may have some incentive to stick around. That is particularly true since one of those truly winner-take-all contests, Florida, sits right there on the winner-take-all side of the proportionality window. And with two Floridians likely to contest the Republican nomination, that is not an insignificant primary. 

Second, the reality of this projected math may or may not have some influence on the remaining states left off the board at the moment. If decision makers in those states and territories are looking to stay ahead of an unknown point on the calendar where some candidate may clinch the nomination, then this halfway point may serve as a dividing line of sorts for them. Before that line, a state or territory contest may get lost in the shuffle of other primaries and caucuses in multiple and larger states, but after it, voters may have less or no say in who the nominee will be. 

Finally, the sweet spot in the 2024 presidential primary calendar is likely to be in the two week stretch between March 19 and April 2. The former is the point on the calendar when winner-take-all rules kick in with a flourish in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio, and the latter bookends things with (likely) primaries in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. A candidate may not secure the nomination in that span, but it is likely that a large enough delegate advantage will have been accrued by that juncture in the calendar to make the delegate math nearly insurmountable. The writing may be on the wall before then, but the math will likely catch up with it at this point. 

But again, that is just a rough estimate.

FHQ started the week talking about state legislative endorsements and we will end the week on a similar note. Ron DeSantis (R) pulled in another notable backer in the endorsement primary yesterday when New Hampshire state House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R) threw his support behind the Florida governor's nascent bid for the White House. Democrats dominate the New Hampshire delegation to Congress and the Republican governor in the Granite state is considering his own nomination run, so this passes as a pretty sizable get for Team DeSantis in the first-in-the-nation primary state. 

Not to harp on the Georgia primary being scheduled, but here is one more thing that popped into my head about Raffensperger's decision yesterday. It did not used to be this way in the Peach state. It used to be that, like the vast majority of other states, the Georgia legislature made the decision on the setting of the presidential primary date. But the Georgia General Assembly has a quick session that ends in mid-spring that, in turn, made it hard for the state to 1) be adaptive and 2) place the primary in a position on the calendar that "matters."

That was the impetus behind the 2011 change to Georgia election law that ceded the authority to schedule the presidential primary to the secretary of state. It bought decision makers in the state some time to survey the landscape and choose a date that made Georgia a distinct player. Early on, after the change, that continued to mean a Super Tuesday primary. 

But Raffensperger's decision to schedule the 2024 presidential primary in the Peach state for March 12 comes at a time that is roughly in line with where the decision was made by the General Assembly and Governor Deal (R) back in 2011. There was no -- well, maybe limited -- surveying of the landscape, but instead, an early decision on the matter. And it may or may not have made a difference in terms of making Georgia a player in next year's races, but it certainly will quiet all the question about whether he would find common ground with Georgia and national Democrats hoping to bump up the date of the primary. 

On this date... 1980, Colorado Democrats caucused. 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Texas primary while Jesse Jackson scored an upset victory in Louisiana's primary. 1992, President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton were both three for three in primaries in Indiana, North Carolina and Washington, DC. The wins for Bush secured the president enough delegates to claim the Republican nomination. 2011, five Republicans -- Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum -- vying for the 2012 presidential nomination debated in a Fox News-hosted forum in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the first debate of the cycle. 2012, President Barack Obama won Democratic caucuses in Florida, Guam and Michigan. Note the caucuses. A cycle after state parties in Florida and Michigan defied national party rules on timing, both conducted caucuses to avoid the same fate in 2012 because the state-run primaries were still not compliant. 2015, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee joined the field of candidates contesting the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 


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