Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Trump's firewall isn't the delegate rules, it's his support ...and more in response to Iowa

Leading the day at FHQ...

Over at FHQ Plus yesterday, I had a long takedown of the notion that Donald Trump has a firewall in the state-level delegate allocation rules across the country. 

Look, the rules Team Trump crafted for 2020, and for the most part defended for 2024, are not a bad thing for the former president. But no firewall provides any real safety if it is a conditional firewall. And for the next month, true success in the delegate count for the Republican frontrunner is going to depend on how often he hits 50 percent in states and in congressional districts in many cases. 

If the results in Iowa demonstrated anything it was that Trump's support among Republicans is his firewall. Yes, the Hawkeye state is state that is well-suited to the former president, so one should use some care not to extrapolate too much from the caucus results. But still, a majority is a majority in Iowa and that does not mean nothing. But if the caucuses prove to have been a harbinger of things to come, then Trump will likely rack up a lot of delegates in March. 


Speaking of delegates...
As it stands now, the delegate count coming out of Iowa will end up somewhere around the following:
DeSantis -- 9 (21.2 percent)
Haley 8 -- (19.1 percent)
Ramaswamy -- 3 (7.7 percent)

That is no different than it was last night before I turned in, but overnight there was an interesting shift and a delegate moved to unallocated. And how do the Iowa Republican rules work in the case of an unallocated delegate? Here is what FHQ had to say on the matter last month in our rundown of the Iowa rules:
Hypothetically, there is one unallocated delegate after rounding and Donald Trump has won a little more than half the vote. His raw, unrounded share of the delegates ends up at 20.47. On the other hand, Asa Hutchinson receives a little more than one percent of the vote (but under 1.3 percent) and his raw, unrounded share lands on 0.48 delegates. Hutchinson would receive the last delegate because his remainder is closer to the .5 rounding threshold than Trump. He would gain one delegate and Trump would stay on 20 delegates.
Well, overnight Ron DeSantis saw his vote share drop from 21.3 percent to 21.2 percent. Big deal, right? Actually, it meant that his raw delegate share dropped below the rounding threshold, lowering his total from nine to eight delegates and leaving one delegate unallocated. 

But that also left him with a fairly high remainder. The unallocated delegate came down to Trump (20.4 unrounded delegates) and DeSantis (8.48 delegates). DeSantis has the highest remainder under the rounding threshold, and as such, the unallocated delegate goes (back) into his column. 

Rounding rules at work!

[Yes, it is more than a little eerie that the very same .48 remainder I made up for Hutchinson in the hypothetical above was the remainder DeSantis ended up on.]

Maybe New Hampshire shakes things up next week, but I stand by this from that Firewall piece over at FHQ Plus:
First, let’s dispense with the obvious: Trump remains a heavy favorite to become the Republican Party standard bearer atop the ticket in the general election. Haley may or may not become a disruptive factor in her bid for the presidential nomination, but if she does, it is more likely to be in the form of a speed bump rather than a total roadblock.
DeSantis placing second in Iowa had many on cable news last night speculating about whether that may have blunted any momentum Haley had or has heading into the Granite state next week. It also had them -- and this was true on Fox News last night and NPR this morning -- falling back on the tired 2016 adage that Trump does well when his opposition is divided among several candidates. 

Maybe, but it is not as if DeSantis coming in third last night and joining Ramaswamy among the winnowed candidates was going to set his supporters rushing off to Haley. Some DeSantis folks may gravitate toward Haley, but many, maybe even most, would likely drift over to Trump, bolstering the former president's prospects even more moving forward. Still more may have decided to stay home rather than participate in subsequent primaries and caucuses. 

It just is not clear at this point that a continued split in Trump's opposition is hurting the opposition. It may just be that Trump has majority support and the opposition cannot be helped (...at least not to a winning position). 

Perhaps DeSantis and Haley need each other to limit Trump's delegate haul through the early part of March. Of course, that sort of three person race is not sustainable long term. The winnowing pressures are only going to pick up in the days ahead. And besides, one them will have to figure out how to not only win, but win consistently to derail Trump. 

On to New Hampshire.



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