Showing posts with label Republican Party. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republican Party. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Uncommitted delegates are not necessarily Listen to Michigan delegates

Leading the day at FHQ...

The Michigan presidential primary is now in the rearview mirror, and while others will move on to the next contests or focus on the perceived threats the results in the Great Lakes state have on both likely nominees, FHQ will do what it does. And namely, that means digging into the delegates. 

For those who are interested in such things, there are a pair of delegate stories out of Michigan -- one on each side -- worth fleshing out some. 

The story of the night in Michigan -- well, it seemed like it had already been flagged as the story well in advance of last night -- was how Listen to Michigan's push for Michiganders to vote uncommitted in protest of President Biden's Gaza policy would fare. Lowball estimates from the group and its allies aside, the group did pretty well. And by pretty well, FHQ means that they were probably wildly successful in capturing the attention of media folks and political junkies desperate for something other than "Biden and Trump win again."

Well, Biden and Trump won again and Listen to Michigan certainly grabbed some attention. Some will try to read the tea leaves on what that portends for the general election in a battleground state -- a fool's errand -- but there are other ways of looking at how uncommitted did in the Michigan primary.

Some of this FHQ contextualized yesterday over at FHQ Plus. Uncommitted 2024 did about as well as Uncommitted 2012 would have done had the Michigan Democratic presidential primary actually counted and not been a beauty contest that cycle. And that is to say that Uncommitted 2024 failed to hit 15 percent statewide to qualify for any PLEO or at-large delegates. Despite that, Uncommitted 2024, just like Uncommitted 2012 would have, managed to qualify in a couple of congressional districts. Then, it was the sixth and tenth districts. Last night saw Uncommitted 2024 qualify in the sixth and 12th districts, receiving just north of 17 percent in each. 

And what does that get Uncommitted 2024 in the delegate count? 

Two delegates. 

One delegate in each of those districts. 

[As of this writing, the Michigan secretary of state has all 83 counties reporting, but the tally may not be complete.]

However, just because there are two uncommitted delegates does not mean that those are two Listen to Michigan delegates. Again, they are uncommitted delegate slots. Uncommitted. Any national convention delegate candidate that files as uncommitted in the sixth and 12th districts can run for one of those two slots. It will be the uncommitted delegates to the congressional district conventions in May who will decide who gets those positions. 

Listen to Michigan may organize its supporters in Michigan to run for and win spots to the congressional district conventions -- more on that process here -- but the group does not have a lock on those delegate slots. Nor does it have the ability to vet potential national convention delegates in the same way that an actual candidate and their campaign can. The group will not have that check

In other words, Listen to Michigan is vulnerable to a knowledgable and organized delegate operation, one that could run or overrun the uncommitted delegate pool in those congressional districts and take those uncommitted slots for their own. 

Yes, FHQ is suggesting that the Biden campaign could swoop in and win those uncommitted delegate slots in Michigan's sixth and 12th districts.  

But they likely will not. That would likely end up being far more trouble than it is worth. Why stir up an angry hornets' nest any more than it is already riled up over two delegates? There really is no need to. Had uncommitted fared better last night, reaching, say, a third of the vote, then maybe there could have been a more concerted effort to contest the selection of delegate candidates to those allocated slots. But as it is -- at two delegates -- why attempt that particular flex?

FHQ is not really sure what the deal with the AP delegate count in Michigan on the Republican side was, but it had been stuck on Trump 9, Haley 2 for the longest time. The Michigan Republican delegate selection plan is weird, but this is not that hard (even with an incomplete tally at this point).

Here is the number one needs to know: 25 percent.

If Nikki Haley slips under 25 percent in the Michigan primary results then she will claim three (3) delegates. As it stands now, she is over that mark and would be allocated four (4) delegates.

Trump will get the rest regardless of whether his total climbs some or falls. Why? 

Well, as of now, Trump is sitting on 68.2 percent of the vote in the Michigan primary. That would qualify him for 11 delegates. If the former president's total rose above 68.75 percent, then he would grab the last delegate, his would-be twelfth. But he would claim that delegate no matter what. Even if Trump stayed right where he is -- under 68.75 percent -- he would still win the last delegate. It would be unallocated based on the results, but all unallocated delegates go to the winner of the primary

FHQ has started rolling out the state-by-state series on Democratic delegate allocation rules over at FHQ Plus. So far there have been looks at rules in...
What's the difference between Democratic and Republican delegate selection rules? FHQ Plus has it covered.

Looking for more on delegates and delegate allocation? Continue here at the central hub for Republican delegate allocation rules on the state level at FHQ. That includes the latest from...

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Trump and Titanic Tuesday 2008

Leading the day at FHQ...

Last night as FHQ was preparing for the week ahead, I looked up and saw that today was going to be February 5. Big deal, right? 

Actually, for those who follow the presidential primary calendar and its many iterations, it is a date with some significance in the post-reform era. February 5, 2008 was Super Tuesday. It was so super -- so chock full of delegates, in fact -- that some took to calling it Titanic Tuesday. Indeed, both parties allocated more than 45 percent of all of their delegates that cycle on that one day! For comparison, neither party will have allocated any more than 41 percent of the their delegates in all the contests through Super Tuesday in 2024 combined

In other words, when folks look up frontloading in the dictionary -- if they are lucky enough to find it -- then they will see a picture of the 2008 map

What is more, the allocation rules were different than they are today. Okay, they were different on the Republican side. Democrats had and continue to have the same standard proportional rules with 15 percent qualifying threshold that they have had in place going back into the 20th century. 
In 2008, the GOP rules were different.

But in a lot of ways the Republican calendar was not only frontloaded but the rules were sort of inverted. There was no prohibition on winner-take-all rules early in the calendar as there is in 2024 (and has been in some form or another since 2012). And it showed. The map was peppered with plurality winner-take-all states in the 2008 Republican process and all of them save one -- Vermont -- were in contests held in or before February that year. And many of the other states on Titanic Tuesday and throughout February 2008 that were not truly winner-take-all had winner-take-all elements. Most of those, including California, were winner-take-all by congressional district.

John McCain rode success in those early states to a gigantic delegate lead that crested above the majority mark, clinching the nomination for him, during the first week in March. 

The interesting thing to me is that for all the talk of the Trump campaign working the state-level delegate rules for 2024 -- and, ahem, Team Trump did the bulk of that work in 2019 -- they would have killed to have had that 2008 calendar with its particular patchwork of delegate rules for 2024. With that combination, we would be talking about Trump clinching today rather sometime during the first three weeks in March. 

Team Trump definitely would have traded for that if they could have. But the RNC carried over the same basic set of guidelines for 2024 that the national party had in place in 2016. Which is to say that there remained a super penalty in place to prevent most states from going earlier than March and another penalty to nix plurality winner-take-all rules in states with contests before March 15. 

Anyway, it is a fun thought experiment. Changing to 2008 rules would probably not change the outcome in 2024, but it certainly would have changed the pace of how nomination season resolved itself. Happy Titanic Tuesday Remembrance Day. 

Last week a bow was finally tied on the delegate allocation from the New Hampshire Republican primary during the prior week on January 23. Only it was not exactly a nice and neat bow. Instead, as the AP reported it, the New Hampshire secretary of state allocated the one remaining delegate in limbo to Donald Trump, raising his total in the Granite state to 13 delegates. 

How Secretary Scanlan arrived at that was a little, well, weird. And the method used was not consistent with how the secretary's office under previous longtime Secretary Bill Gardner handled the delegate count during the last competitive Republican presidential nomination race in 2016. 

FHQ has started rolling out the state-by-state series on Democratic delegate allocation rules over at FHQ Plus. So far there have been looks at rules in...
What's the difference between Democratic and Republican delegate selection rules? FHQ Plus has it covered.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Haley's Path Forward ...and more in response to New Hampshire

Nikki Haley's path to the the 2024 Republican presidential nomination may have more obstacles.

Leading the day at FHQ...

...for now. 

A day after an expectations-beating performance in New Hampshire, the former South Carolina governor faces a daunting task ahead in her one-on-one duel with Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Mired in the teens in the Granite state as recently as the holiday season, Haley rose as other candidates fell by the wayside. That cleared a path to a head-to-head with Trump, but the results in the New Hampshire primary did little to grease the skids for the former UN ambassador to rise much further. 

In fact, New Hampshire was a good state for Haley on paper: more college educated and fewer evangelical voters (than in Iowa), independents could participate, etc. And she still came up short. Still, the final polls made things looked bleaker than they turned out to be and that is not nothing. But exactly how much that something is worth remains to be seen. 

It buys Haley some time, but not much. And it is tough to chart out a viable path forward to the nomination, much less South Carolina on February 24. Viable path. There is a path, but it entails stringing together what little Haley's campaign can muster in the meantime. She is the headliner on the Trump-less primary ballot in Nevada. Yes, it is a beauty contest primary, and while a win promises no delegates, it may carry the distinction of garnering her more votes than Trump will receive in the Silver state caucuses two days later. Again, that is not nothing, but how much that particular something is worth is hard to gauge. A vote-rich "win" in the Nevada primary coupled with a win the caucuses in the Virgin Islands on February 8 probably does not hurt. 

But what does that buy Haley in two weeks' time? 

Maybe it grants her a bit more time, but it grants her time to consider that she is even further behind in the delegate count and that her home of South Carolina still does not offer much relief. Perhaps the polls in the Palmetto state will have moved by then. Maybe Nevada, the Virgin Islands and/or the campaign will spur such a change. But if the polls do not move, then, as FHQ noted yesterday, the cacophony of winnowing pressures from Republicans in the broader party network are only going to grow louder and the prospect of not just a loss at home, but a big loss, will loom large. 

Again, there is a path forward for Nikki Haley. Only, it is not a particularly good path. And it certainly gets her no closer to the nomination. 

But hey, if she can manage to bankroll it, then why not play it out, grab what delegates she can, cross her fingers that Trump's legal troubles catch up with him and head into the convention in good standing? Yeah, that is a path, too. In theory. It just is not a sustainable path. Whatever incentives the former president's courtroom drama provide to stay in the race, the winnowing pressures will more than offset. And that would affect any "good" standing she may have as the candidate with the second most delegates at the convention.

The convention is way off. Haley's concerns are more immediate. And her path? Filled with obstacles.

All the New Hampshire results are not in, but it looks like the delegate count out of the Granite state is going to end at...
Trump -- 12 delegates 
Haley -- 10

But currently Haley is clinging to her tenth delegate. If she drops below 43.2 percent, then she will fall below the rounding threshold and that tenth delegate will become unallocated. Trump is not in a position to round up unless he approaches 57 percent of the vote. However, he would claim that unallocated delegate formerly in Haley's column because all unallocated delegates go to the winner of the primary. That would push Trump's total to 13 delegates in the state. 



Tuesday, January 23, 2024

2024 has been a weird cycle in New Hampshire ...and more

Leading the day at FHQ...

Happy New Hampshire primary day!

It has been a weird cycle in the Granite state. 

The Democratic primary there today will happen as it always does, but it will not count toward determining the outcome of the nomination after the national party reshuffled its early primary calendar for 2024. [There will be New Hampshire delegates -- reduced by half -- but they cannot be allocated based on the results of an unsanctioned primary.] But all the chatter of bumping the primary and the resulting write-in effort on President Biden's behalf in New Hampshire will likely garner a few seconds more attention than the primary otherwise would in an incumbent cycle for Democrats. And that is to say, not much.

On the Republican side, well, this looks like it. If the last polls, especially the tracker in the field after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended his campaign, are taken as the final results or anything near them, then Donald Trump is in for another romp. A 60-38 win would translate to a 14-8 delegate win for Trump over former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. And that, not the net delegate gap, per se, but the 3:2 loss in a state that is supposed to be "good" for the former UN ambassador, would make it a little easier to bow out with her home state up next. Haley is not on the ballot in Nevada, so South Carolina would be next. And even in the event of a closer than expected loss, Haley would be staring down the prospect of getting whipped at home for a month and a day. In other words, she may have made it out of New Hampshire with a win relative to expectations, but that would not necessarily carry her all the way to and through South Carolina. The winnowing pressures would have grown deafening in that time.

As FHQ said before Haley's third in Iowa took some of the [limited] air out of her sails, "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."

But that it came down to two viable Republicans by New Hampshire -- just the second contest -- is the weirder thing for the Republican contest relative to past cycles. It is one thing to have local Granite staters politically plugged into the politics of it all complain in the year before the primary about candidates not showing up as much as they used to, but it is quite another for folks on the ground in New Hampshire to be talking about how dead things are in the 24 hours leading up the voting. 

New Hampshire typically does at least some of the winnowing -- and the primary may yet in a limited capacity for 2024 -- but most of the winnowing took place in the invisible primary (and after Iowa) before New Hampshire. And a lot of this is it is just the nature of the cycle. After all, there is an incumbent president running on one side and a former president running on the other (and one of them is not even on the ballot in the Granite state). 

Again, it has been a weird cycle. But it is not clear that some of the same forces will not return to New Hampshire for 2028. It remains to be seen if the Democratic National Committee wants to take another shot at shunting New Hampshire to a different slot on the calendar, but the nationalization of the process in the invisible primary preceding New Hampshire will continue to be a factor that likely detracts from the way the New Hampshire primary "used to be."

Over at FHQ Plus... 
I pushed back on what has seemingly become a dominant narrative in how the delegate rules came together on the Republican side for 2024. There has been way too much Trump was heavy-handed in forcing state parties to adopt favorable rules and not nearly enough examination of the actual rules. 

If anything the delegate rules are marginally less favorable to Trump in 2024 than they were in 2020. 

That does not mean that they are not well suited to the former president. Far from it! But there very simply was not much improving Team Trump could have done in 2023. They did some incremental work, but most of it was working the phone lines to defend what they established for the 2020 cycle. That is the story of the Republican rules for 2024.


Monday, January 15, 2024

What if Iowa Republicans used the old Democratic caucus rules? ...and more

Leading the day -- caucus day! -- at FHQ...

In the coming days there is going to be enough written on Iowa's Republican caucuses and the results therein. Who finished second? Did Trump beat the expectations (that many worked feverishly over the last weekend before the caucuses to set)? The questions go on and on.

One thing that struck FHQ in this final weekend before the (in-person) voting phase of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race begins was how candidates campaigned (bundled up!). But not just where they were but how they approached one another in their final pitches to potential Iowa caucus goers. After months of relative quiet -- an implicit truce if not an unofficial alliance -- Trump turned on Ramaswamy. And after going toe to toe on the debate stage last week, DeSantis and Haley continued to attack one another (and also draw contrasts with Trump). 

But it is funny. Rather than shrug those off and chalk them up as normal caucus fare, those strategic decisions made me think about how things might be or have been different under different rules. Iowa Republicans, after all, will caucus on Monday night, but that process differs from how Hawkeye state caucus goers convened and operated on the Democratic side four years ago. Yes, Iowa Democrats bungled their attempt at a revamped caucus. But FHQ is not talking about that. 

Rather, I mean the difference in how both state parties have traditionally handled the caucuses. Republicans, when they gather in gyms, conference centers and living rooms across Iowa, will hear speeches from candidates or in most cases their proxies and vote by secret ballot on presidential preference. Some will leave. Others will stick around and haggle over party business and choose who will move on to the next stage of the caucus/convention process. 

Yes, the Democratic process in Iowa is new, different and later for 2024. But Democrats, relative to Republicans in the state, have traditionally convened, heard similar pitches, conversed with neighbors, friends and others and then gathered with likeminded supporters to express presidential preference. There is no secret ballot. Individuals physically move to join with the Biden group or the Sanders group or whomever to express presidential preference. Those candidate groups with more than 15 percent of all of those in the room move on to the next round. 

However, the people in the candidate groups with less than 15 percent then become free agents. Their candidates are eliminated in a given precinct and they can realign with a viable group (one with more than 15 precent support). Post-realignment movement helped Barack Obama surge across the state in 2008 and sunk Joe Biden in some cases in 2020, for example. After that process is complete, some folks leave while others hang around to do exactly what Republicans will do after the preference vote tonight. 

But it is that middle part, the difference in process, that sets the Republican and (old) Democratic methods in Iowa apart. And it is exactly that which would have some impact on the stretch run of the campaign. 

Take the Selzer poll of the Iowa Republican caucuses that was released over the weekend:

Yes, Trump has a commanding lead. Yes, Haley slipped into second place. Yes, DeSantis and Ramaswamy, after their full and double Grassleys, are further back in Iowa.

But if the caucus rules were different, then how each of them has talked about the others might have been different down the stretch. Under those old Iowa Democratic rules, Ramaswamy might be above 15 percent in a handful of precincts across the state, but would be well under it in most. His supporters in the caucuses, again, under Democratic rules, would then become free agents. Would Trump have been attacking Ramaswamy over the weekend or courting his voters with a second round after realignment in mind? 

And DeSantis would be facing a similar situation, albeit in the inverse. As opposed to Ramaswamy, DeSantis would likely be above 15 percent in most places, but below it in a handful of precincts. And honestly, at 20 percent, Haley would likely be in a similar but perhaps less vulnerable position as well. In past races on the Democratic side, that is a situation where campaigns of those two candidates might strike a deal. If DeSantis groups slipped under the 15 percent threshold and were not viable in some precinct, then under the agreement, they would realign with Haley supporters to give her a better shot against the frontrunner. And Haley groups would do the same for DeSantis when they failed to reach viability and a DeSantis group made it. Strategically, the collective moves would potentially keep delegates away from the frontrunner. 

Look, this is not the way things will work tonight in the Republican process. But this what-if does shed some light on the impact the process -- the rules of the process -- has on campaign strategy. What has been witnessed in the Republican campaign as the caucuses draw nearer may have been different under different rules. Yes, rules matter. 

Something fun to consider as everyone passes time until caucus o'clock. 

Happy caucus day, everyone!

In the continuing state-by-state series on delegate allocation rules, FHQ examines changes for 2024 in...
  • Oklahoma: The year may be different but the rules are not for Oklahoma Republicans in 2024. All the fun quirks are back again from when the Republican presidential nomination was last competitive.
  • Tennessee: There are frontrunner-friendly delegate rules and there's the Tennessee Republican delegate selection rules. While other states may have moved in a Trumpier direction for 2024, the Volunteer state did not. But that does not necessarily mean it is any easier for non-Trumps.
  • Virginia: After an incumbent cycle using a state convention for delegate selection, Virginia Republicans are back to a primary, but with markedly different allocation rules in 2024 than in 2016.


Thursday, December 21, 2023

Colorado Republicans Eyeing a Primary Switch? ...and more

Leading the day at FHQ...

The Colorado Supreme Court decision to remove Donald Trump from the presidential primary ballot in the state has the state Republican Party exploring a late shift from a primary to a caucus. But that process is more complicated than simply declaring the change. More in a gift article at FHQ Plus.

In the continuing state-by-state series on delegate allocation rules, FHQ examines changes for 2024 in...
  • The US Virgin Islands: Republicans in the territory pushed the limits of the RNC rules in putting together a delegate selection plan for this cycle. ...and paid a price for it.
  • South Carolina: Meanwhile in the Palmetto state, Republicans are back to business as usual in a competitive presidential nomination cycle. But there are some interesting tweaks to an allocation system that has been a model of consistency for much of the post-reform era. 

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Is confusion inevitable in the Nevada Republican Party primary/caucus situation?

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • A belated look at the recent DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting. Yes, Iowa and New Hampshire stole the headlines -- and for good reason -- but there was some other interesting stuff that transpired in St. Louis. Some thoughts on Iowa, New Hampshire and all the rest: All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
In the wake of the filing deadlines passing for both the Nevada presidential primary and the Republican caucuses in the Silver state over the previous two days, Natasha Korecki of NBC News had a piece up about the confusion the two contests may create for Nevada Republican voters next year. 

It is not the first time the notion of voter confusion has arisen in the context of the double dip elections taking place in Nevada in 2024. But it does raise some questions. Why are Nevada voters different from other voters who have encountered similar two-pronged processes like this in past cycles? Why (or maybe how) is the Nevada primary and caucus situation different from states that have had both previously? Is any of this primary/caucus conundrum in the Silver state unique at all? 

First of all, FHQ is of a mind that Nevada voters are not substantively different from voters in, say, Nebraska or Washington. Both had Democratic caucuses for allocating delegates and a state-run beauty contest primary as recently as 2016. Voters did not appear to be anymore confused than usual at the process in either case. Sure, more folks showed up to participate in the primaries than the caucuses, but that is not a new feature of the caucus/convention process. They are low turnout affairs by nature (if not design). 

Yet, one difference between those two sets of contests from 2016 and the Nevada situation in 2024 is their timing, or rather the time between the two events. Nebraska and Washington Democrats had March caucuses before May beauty contest primaries. That two months buffer (and the sequencing!) was different than what will take place in Nevada next February. Only two days will separate the state-run beauty contest primary on February 6 from the Republican party-run caucuses on February 8. And the binding contest will follow the beauty contest. So maybe that is a little different. 

But still, confusion? Texas Democrats did not seem to be muddling through the Texas two-step all those years. For much of the post-reform era Democrats in the Lone Star state held a primary and caucuses on the same day. The primary allocated about two-thirds of the delegates while the post-primary caucuses allocated the remainder later in the evening. [Incidentally, while the Texas two-step died on the Democratic side starting with the 2016 cycle, Republicans in the state have revived it and will use it again in 2024.] Voters seemed to make it through that process. Delegates were allocated. And all of it happened with no buffer between the two contests. 

But the real difference between Nevada in 2024 and some other earlier similar examples is that there will be interesting cross-pressures in the Silver state next year. Some debate-qualifying candidates will be urging Nevadans (at least to some extent) to participate in the primary for which they already have a ballot in the mail. Others, and it is most of the big-name candidates, will be trying to get out the vote in the caucuses two days later. 

That is different than previous examples. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were on the primary and caucus ballots in Nebraska and Washington. Barack Obama and Clinton were both participants in both phases of the Texas two-step in March 2008. None of those candidates were working against another group of candidates who were only vying for delegates or attention in one or the other of the two contests in a given double dip state. 

What this Nevada Republican situation is akin to is like what happened in the Michigan Democratic primary in 2008. Under rules new to the DNC that cycle, candidates were not supposed to campaign in states like Michigan (or Florida for that matter) that held unsanctioned primaries earlier than allowed by the national parties. But some Democratic candidates -- Obama and John Edwards among others -- went a step further and removed their names from the January 15 ballot in the Great Lakes state. Clinton did not. The former group asked their supporters to vote for "uncommitted" in the primary in the hopes of swinging some delegates in any subsequent fight, but that Obama and Edwards were not on the ballot had some impact on turnout. 

And it is likely that the split filings across contests will have some impact on turnout in the Nevada beauty contest primary. But that dampening effect and any felt by the primary being a beauty contest may be masked to some extent by the convenience of voting by mail on a ballot provided to all registrants. Even without that masking effect, the turnout is very likely to be higher, if not much higher, in the primary than in the caucus. And participation in the primary may even be a drag on later caucus participation. 

That may or may not also be by design. 

From around the invisible primary...


Monday, October 16, 2023

In Nevada, a choice between a symbolic win and delegates

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Over the weekend, The New York Times had yet another "Trump is working his connections in state parties to affect the delegate rules" stories. The article and others of its ilk keep falling into the same trap in considering the depth of Team Trump's efforts without contextualizing either it or the lacking outreach from other campaigns. It was not all bad, but we go over the good, the bad and the ugly from the piece. All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Today is the filing deadline in Nevada for the state's newly established presidential primary. It comes a day after filing closed for the Republican caucuses in the Silver state. 

Since the Nevada Republican Party is prohibiting candidates who file in the primary to also file in the caucuses, the nearly overlapping filing deadlines offered a split screen comparison of sorts. Some candidates -- Mike Pence and Tim Scott -- opted for the primary while others -- Donald Trump, Doug Burgum, Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron DeSantis -- have filed in the caucuses. 

[It is not clear that Nikki Haley filed or not in the caucuses, but if the former UN ambassador has not yet filed in the caucuses, then the primary will be the only remaining option.]

The choice confronting the campaigns is one between a symbolic win in the primary two days before the Nevada Republican caucuses or of claiming some share of a small pool of delegates on the line in the February 8 caucuses. That the campaigns standing behind known quantities like the former vice president and a current US senator from South Carolina (one with significant financial backing) opted to forgo even a small share of delegates suggests something about the state of their campaigns and their thinking about how Nevada fits into the broader 2024 Republican presidential nomination process. 

For starters, the qualifying threshold for delegates in the Nevada caucuses is relatively low. "All candidates who receive the percentage of vote required for one or more delegates" qualify under the standing rules of the Nevada Republican Party. The state party suggests that is roughly 4.5 percent.1 And all things considered, that is a pretty low bar. 

Yet, Pence and Scott have taken a pass on any of those delegates by filing in the beauty contest state-run primary. That strongly suggests that both campaigns view the odds of succeeding in the caucuses as long and/or that, even set so low, the qualifying threshold is too high. There are also alternative ways of looking at either of those. The odds can be seen as long because the rules put in place for the caucuses by the state party appear to advantage Donald Trump. As for the delegate threshold, it may be less that the bar is too high and more that the payoff is so low in the Silver state. After all, there are just 26 delegates at stake that will be divided among the qualifying candidates. 

Through that lens, the gamble may be worth it to Pence and Scott. A win in a statewide primary -- even a beauty contest -- with likely more participants than the caucuses later in the week may grab some attention. That may be worth something. But what exactly that something equates to is harder to pin down and likely destined to quickly dissipate. The effects may not wear off before the caucuses two days later, but will certainly trail off well in advance of the next contest, the South Carolina Republican primary on February 24. 

Is that worth more than taking some small share of 26 total delegates in Nevada? 

In the very short term (next February), maybe. But long term, probably not. At some point candidates are going to have to start treating the race for the Republican presidential nomination as a process to keep delegates away from Trump. Delegates, after all, are the currency of the process in the end. And whether a campaign views Nevada as a lock for Trump or not, it is probably a mistake to cede any delegates. 

However, it is worth pointing out that the Nevada Republican caucuses of 2024 are not some Harkin-in-Iowa-1992 scenario. Pence and Scott may have opted out of the Silver state contest where candidates are vying for delegates, but others have filed for the caucuses. And that may be enough to trim some delegates from Trump's total in the state. There is no winner-take-all trigger, so there is only so much that the former president can run up the score on the rest of the field. 

Still, proportional states are where the field has to collectively dent Trump's haul.

From around the invisible primary...
  • In the filing primary, Tim Scott filed in South Carolina today ahead of the deadline there at the end of the month. And DeSantis opted for the Nevada caucuses on the last day of filing.
  • The AP has a go at a Trump-bolsters-his-campaign-in-Iowa story. Folks are making the obvious comparisons to Trump's 2015-16 efforts in Iowa, but here is another: this slow build feels a bit like the pace of the Romney operation the Hawkeye state in 2011. There are differences, of course. Iowa was never really a good fit for Romney in the 2012 cycle. That is not exactly the case for Trump in the state in 2023. But polling suggests a weaker Trump advantage there than nationally. And while Trump 2023 may be emphasizing Iowa differently, he has not exactly pushed all of his chips into the Iowa-or-bust pot. ...because he does not have to. 
  • Over in the money primary, Q3 reports continue to be released. President Biden and the DNC jointed posted a $71 million figure for the period ending on September 30. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum raised $3 million in July-September. Former Vice President Pence raked in $3.3 million for the quarter but debt accrued to this point is starting to be a drag.

1 There is some wiggle room on that figure based on the full language of the rule, but that is a story for a separate post. Plus, how NVGOP interprets its own rules matters in this context regardless of any variation in interpretation of the qualifying threshold.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The 14th amendment and presidential primary ballot eligibility

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • Add Missouri Democrats to the 2024 presidential primary calendar. Democrats in the Show-Me state finally released a draft delegate selection plan with proposed details of their process for 2024. That and delegate allocation will look different for Massachusetts and Montana Republicans than it has in past cycles. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Discussion about former President Donald Trump and his eligibility under the 14th amendment given the events of January 6, 2021, have been en vogue during August, set off first by a pair of conservative scholars associated with the Federalist Society and then reignited in recent days by Michael Luttig and Lawrence Tribe, writing at The Atlantic. FHQ has kept most of it at arm's length, choosing to focus instead on the evolving state-level delegate allocation rules on the Republican side. Mainly that is a function of the whole thing being compartmentalized in my head as a general election question.  

But then came questions about and lawsuits pertaining to Trump's eligibility for presidential primary ballots. There have been questions raised in first-in-the-nation New Hampshire and in Arizona and lawsuits filed or threatened in the Granite state and Michigan as well. But in FHQ's eye, those actions face a much steeper climb to success in the courts. And that is not to suggest that the case for Trump's eligibility on the general election ballots across the country are a slam dunk. [David Frum is probably right.] But those general election access challenges would be a cleaner proposition than the comparative legal thicket challengers would wade into with respect to primary ballot eligibility. That is probably why Baude and Paulsen, the conservative scholars who started all of this, did not dwell on the primaries but in a handful of passing references in 120 plus pages. 

The primary side of the equation is messy (or messier) for a few reasons. First of all, a primary is an election for a nomination and not an office. Does the 14th amendment address eligibility for nominations? Yes, a primary is a step toward an office, but it does not solely hand someone said office if a candidate wins it. Furthermore, presidential primaries are different than primaries for other offices. The winner of a presidential primary will not necessarily appear on the general election ballot. Ted Cruz, for example, won the 2016 Texas Republican presidential primary but was not on the ballot on the presidential line in the Lone Star state in the November general election. When Cruz won his Senate primary in 2018, he was on the general election ballot.

And then there is the whole issue of primaries -- well, nominations -- being the business of political parties, entities that have certain free association rights under the first amendment. Sure, that veers into questions of political parties opting into state-run (and subsidized) primary elections, a complication that arises in other contexts. The linkage to a state sponsored election may serve to weaken the argument against primary eligibility. 

All of this merely scratches the surface. There are probably other complexities in addition to those above, but each and every one of those would be added to list above and on top of the ones that will be raised in any challenge to Trump's eligibility to appear on the general election ballot should it come to that. The primary questions are just messier, but that does not mean that someone more litigious than I will not wander down that path. In fact, they already have. But they have quite the legal minefield to get through.

A new survey of the Republican presidential nomination race in Utah from Deseret News offers an interesting hypothetical in terms of delegate allocation in the Beehive state next year. First, the results from the poll:

So Trump is ahead but by a narrower margin than in some other states. How would the delegate allocation look in this situation? 

Before FHQ answers that, I should note that the Utah Republican Party adopted rules in June 2023 that carried over the allocation rules from 2020. Yes, the party will use a caucus system rather than the state-run primary option in 2024, but the basic allocation scheme is the same. No one has a majority in this poll, and thus no candidate trips the winner-take-all trigger. Two candidates -- Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis -- hit the 15 percent qualifying threshold called for in the Utah rules and would be entitled to a proportional share of the 40 delegates at stake in Utah. 

But there is a catch. Under Utah Republican Party rules, if three or more candidates clear the 15 percent hurdle statewide, then they are entitled a proportional share of the delegates based on the qualified vote, the combined vote of just those over 15 percent. If, however, two or fewer candidates win 15 percent statewide in the caucuses on Super Tuesday, then the threshold is dropped altogether. All of the candidates who could mathematically round up to a full delegate would claim a share. That would take delegates away from Trump and DeSantis under the results above (assuming there was a universal 15 percent qualifying threshold that applied in all cases except when one candidate wins a majority). 

Yes, there are still 13 percent who are undecided in this survey and Super Tuesday is a long way off. But this is one of those rules quirks that bears watching. [Yeah, there are a lot of them in the Republican process.]

From around the invisible primary...

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Saturday, August 5, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] Newly adopted California Republican delegate allocation rules offer clear benefits

The following is cross-posted from FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription newsletter. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 

But the plan is a gamble for Trump and the state party for different reasons:

Did FHQ not just discuss California delegate allocation rules?


But the California Republican Party executive committee jettisoned that widely circulated (and panned) plan in favor of an alternate version, a version that seemingly balances the party’s desire to draw candidates into the Golden state and the Trump campaign’s push to maximize its delegates in the contest next year. Those benefits are clear enough on the surface, but neither is guaranteed. 

And that means the revised delegate allocation scheme for 2024 is a gamble of sorts. For California Republicans and for Trump. Delegate allocation rules can be a zero sum game and the friction that developed in and around the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday, July 29 from multiple sides was evidence of the high stakes involved. 

What changes did the California Republican Party make? And what does that mean for the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination?

The adopted changes

The initially proposed changes offered by the California Republican Party set up a plan with a few notable features:

  • A proportional allocation of the 13 at-large (and automatic/party) delegates based on the statewide vote with no qualifying threshold and no winner-take-all trigger (should one candidate win a majority of the vote statewide)

  • A proportional allocation of the 3 delegates in each of the 52 congressional districts based on the results within each congressional district. The top finisher in a congressional district vote would receive two delegates and the runner-up would receive the remaining delegate. Like the allocation of the at-large delegates described above, there would be no winner-take-all trigger should one candidate win a majority of the vote within the district

That method differs from the system the state party utilized in 2020 and it is also different than the plan adopted on Saturday. The newly adopted plan — the allocation plan California Republicans will use in 2024 — shed the separate allocation scheme for at-large and congressional district delegates and returned to a system that resembles the 2020 plan with one big exception: there is no qualifying threshold. But exactly like the 2020 delegate allocation among Golden state Republicans, the 2024 system will have the following provisions:

  • All 169 delegates, including at-large, automatic/party and congressional district delegates, will be pooled (meaning they will all be allocated as one bloc). Again, that is just as it was for 2020.

  • All 169 delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the statewide results. That, too, is just the same as under the 2020 rules

  • If any candidate wins the California primary with more than 50 percent of the vote, then all 169 delegates will be allocated to that candidate. Just like the 2020 plan, California Republicans have included in their 2024 rules a winner-take-all trigger or winner-take-all threshold. 

However, unlike 2020, more candidates will likely be eligible for some share of the 169 delegates available because there will no longer be a 20 percent qualifying threshold, the highest bar allowed under Republican National Committee rules. That is a big difference. 

How big? 

The impact of 2020 versus 2024 rules

Pretty big.

Using the results from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary with the 2020 and 2024 California Republican Party allocation rules highlights the scale of the change.1

With no qualifying threshold, as under the 2024 rules, five additional candidates would have been allocated delegates as compared to the 2020 rules. And candidates with as little as two percent support would have claimed at least some share of the pool of 169 delegates.2 But importantly, the top two candidates — the only two who would have cleared the 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates under the 2020 rules — would have lost a significant chunk of delegates in the transition from 2020 to 2024 rules. Sanders would have lost 34 and Biden, 26. 

Now, imagine that Sanders pulled in closer to half of the voters in the last California primary. Pretend Elizabeth Warren was not in the race and that the 13.2 percent the Massachusetts senator won went to Sanders instead. Under the 2020 California Republican allocation rules, Sanders would have won 108 delegates compared to 84 delegates according to the 2024 plan. What is clear is that Sanders would pay a price in delegates won without a qualifying threshold

FHQ raises the second scenario because Trump is currently hovering around the 50 percent mark in polling both nationally and in California. The penalty for not hitting the winner-take-all threshold, which is in the 2024 California Republican delegate allocation rules, would be significant, but it will be greater in the absence of a qualifying threshold. It makes strategic sense to secure the former threshold, but it is a gamble. 

If Trump does not hit it, then the price is steep and the net delegate advantage coming out of the California primary would likely differ very little from the original 2024 rules proposal that Republicans in the Golden state floated. However, if Trump does eclipse the 50 percent barrier and trips the winner-take-all trigger, then it is clearly close to a death knell for his opposition. A +169 is tough to overcome even if Super Tuesday’s results are mixed and states with truly winner-take-all rules lie ahead on the calendar. 

It is not that there are not advantages for Trump in this change (either relative to 2020 or the alternate 2024 proposal), but the new rules do place a great deal of pressure on the campaign to make it happen.


But why is there not a qualifying threshold?

That is the gamble the state party is making. 

If more candidates are eligible for delegates, then that may be enough of a carrot to lure candidates of all stripes into the state to campaign and spend money. In theory that makes sense. But in practice, the cost/benefit analysis may not work in the favor of California Republicans who are championing this revised plan. 

The candidates will go to California. They always do to raise money. But turning around and spending that money (in a variety of ways) in the Golden state may not offer as much bang for the candidates’ buck as it might in other states. Yes, California is the most delegate-rich state out there — and promises 169 delegates to anyone who can clear 50 percent in the primary — but it is also prohibitively expensive to reach voters and in turn win votes/delegates. And as long as Trump is threatening to hit the winner-take-all trigger, it may be enough to ward off concerted investment in the state. 

But where this plan is clever is in the fact that it potentially motivates all of the candidates. It draws the Trump campaign in to expend resources in the state to win all of the delegates. Yet, it potentially entices other candidates to take a risk to keep Trump under the majority mark and minimize the former president’s net delegate advantage coming out of California and Super Tuesday. 

And that is just it. Much of the above discusses California in isolation. But the California primary is not an isolated event. It falls on Super Tuesday when roughly a third of the total number of delegates will be allocated. Few may be able to run a truly national campaign leading up to March 5. And few may choose to incorporate California directly into their investments for Super Tuesday.3 The options may be better (and cheaper) elsewhere. 

Still, the Trump campaign is calling the change in California a win for them. And it may be. But only if the former president can win a majority. And that is not a sure thing.

1 FHQ is using the 2020 Democratic results because the California Democratic primary was both early (as the 2024 primary is) and competitive. The 2020 Republican primary in California was also on Super Tuesday but uncompetitive, and the 2016 Republican primary in the Golden state was later and fell after Donald Trump’s viable opposition had withdrawn from the race. 

2 That allocation outcome depends to some degree on how California Republicans choose to round. All fractional delegates are rounded up starting with the top vote-getter and progressing from there in descending order of vote share. Under different (and more conventional) rounding rules, even more candidates would have qualified for delegates (and with less than one percent support).

3 Candidates may choose to indirectly hit California through national ad buys instead.