Showing posts with label campaign strategy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label campaign strategy. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2023

DeSantis is not without Organizational Strengths in the Republican Nomination Race

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...
  • On presidential primary legislating, the Missouri General Assembly once again made Congress look functional. Still, there is one thing in the Show-Me state that just does not add up. And there may be a super penalty problem for a handful of states on the Republican presidential primary calendar. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was back in Iowa over the weekend. And some accounts detail how he impressed Hawkeye state Republicans, but as The New York Times noted...
And while Mr. Trump still leads in the state, according to the latest public polling, his team team had also so lowered the bar for Mr. DeSantis’s first outing with weeks of merciless mocking that by merely showing up and not committing any significant gaffes with crowds that were eager to check him out, he fared well.
Polls and mocking aside, the real coup for DeSantis in the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses was pulling in a long list of state legislative endorsements -- endorsement primary -- in the state before he even touched down to flip burgers, visit barbecue joints or generally retail politick. More than anything else, that group of 37 endorsements speaks to the demonstration of a level of organization that has not been as apparent in recent weeks as the governor's fortunes have swooned according to some metrics. Yes, the aligned super PAC, Never Back Down, has been on the airwaves (continually in the upstate of South Carolina during the evening news hour FHQ can report) and there is plenty of money behind the nascent campaign, but that is a depth of endorsements that speaks to some underlying political strengths in the battle ahead. 

...once DeSantis formally enters the race. Are endorsement the same as organizing folks to come out to caucuses across the Hawkeye state? Not exactly, but it is a positive push in that direction. 

And now for something completely -- well, sort of -- different. Allow FHQ a moment to veer off into general election 2024 territory. Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager at The Washington Post report that President Biden's reelection team is targeting both Florida and North Carolina as possible pickup opportunities in 2024. First of all, if there are any potential flips out there, then Florida and North Carolina are likely the only ones to chase. They were the only two states that Biden lost by less than five points in 2020. However, incumbent presidents and incumbent parties have had a difficult time trying to expand the map in recent years. The Obama team trained its sights on Arizona and Georgia in 2011 before dropping them to focus their efforts on more competitive states as the 2012 election drew nearer. Similarly, the Trump campaign eyed both Minnesota and New Mexico in 2019 before it scaled operations back once the calendar flipped to 2020. Presidents may want to play offense during their reelection bids, but more often than not, they end up playing defense on the same ground they narrowly won during their initial, victorious bid. And often that is a function not of adding states to the fold, but of trying to hold together a winning coalition from the first time surpassing 270.

With the spotlight on Iowa over the weekend, it was nice to see some reporting that actually acknowledged that at this time there is no date for the Iowa caucuses. There is no date. There has been no date. Part of what has enabled both Iowa and New Hampshire to successfully defend their first-in-the-nation turf on the primary calendar over the years is that each is adept in their own ways at waiting until late in the year (if need be) to make a scheduling decision. When threats have arisen, waiting them out has tended to work at least in terms of fighting off threats from other states. National parties? Well, that is a different type of battle. With South Carolina Democrats locked into that February 3 date granted them by the DNC, Iowa and New Hampshire are more than likely, and barring something unforeseen and hugely unprecedented, going to end up in some time in January next year. 

On this date... 1972, George McGovern bested his competition in precinct caucuses in a pair of Mountain West states, Colorado and Utah.. 1984, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart swept the Nebraska and Oregon primaries, extending his dominance in states west of the Mississippi River to that point in the race. 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney handily won late-season primaries in Nebraska and Oregon, increasing his delegate advantage and inching closer to an overall majority in the count.


Friday, April 7, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- The Long-Haul Strategy of Team DeSantis

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

Henry Gomez and Matt Dixon over at NBC had a nice look at the emerging delegate strategy of the budding DeSantis campaign. A few reactions...
  1. Before I even clicked on the link, my first thought was, "Yeah, Jeff Roe was brought onto the staff at the super PAC and Ken Cuccinelli is running the show over there. This will be a delegate strategy story." It was. Both were involved in the Cruz delegate operation in 2016. Put a pin in that.
  2. Folks linking to this piece keep interpreting it as a "skipping" story. As in, this DeSantis strategy entails skipping Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early states. I did not read it that way. This strikes me as a strategy not unlike that of the former president's. It is a strategy built on the notion that the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race could go on for a while next year. Donald Trump is well-positioned to go the distance. And Ron DeSantis is demonstrating that he at least potentially has the resources, financial and otherwise, to do the same. This behavior is less about skipping those early states than thinking about the full primary calendar. Look, a lot of the 2016 Republican candidates traveled widely in 2015, and not just to the earliest states. There was this whole discussion about whether the SEC primary was working. Working, that is, in the sense that the collective movement of southern states to Super Tuesday would draw candidate attention to the region. Visits occurred to the South and elsewhere, but none of them skipped Iowa, New Hampshire or any of the other early states. Well, some of the candidates did. They skipped the later early states after withdrawing. DeSantis may pepper other states with visits, but keep an eye on him and others as Iowa and New Hampshire approach. They will not be skipping either. 
  3. The most interesting part of the article was this peek into the thinking from inside Team DeSantis. “One thing that we have looked at is that Trump can be beat on the delegate portion of all this. He has never been good at that.” That is straight out of the Cruz playbook from 2016. And it made sense in 2016. In 2023-24? Eh, maybe. Maybe not. This can be filed into that category of "Where is Trump this cycle? Closer to 2015 or 2019?" Trump will have for 2024 some institutional advantages within the party at the state level that he did not have in 2015. He definitely had that in 2019 and worked that to his advantage in the 2020 delegate game. Those connections still exist. But are they as strong? That is the question. And that matters for who fills the delegate slots that are allocated to candidates based on the results of primaries and caucuses across the country. Will those folks selected to fill those allocated slots be as firmly in Trump's corner or can other campaigns potentially exploit the divorce between the allocation and selection processes in the Republican nomination in the way that Cruz did in 2016? RNC rules may make that more difficult for challengers to Trump in 2024. This is the story. Focus on that.

Anything you can do, I can do better. DeSantis scored a congressional endorsement this week and the Trump campaign then conveniently rolled out an endorsement from a member of Congress from right in DeSantis' backyard. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) threw his support behind Donald Trump.

Yeah, those head-to-head Republican primary poll results keep popping up. This time it was a one-on-one between Trump and DeSantis in Iowa (with parallel numbers for a wider race as well). On the one hand, these head-to-heads are make believe. They capture a race that does not exist and very likely will not exist when voting commences in 2024. There will be more candidates in the race, at least initially, than merely Trump and DeSantis. But the supposed value added is to demonstrate that Trump is more vulnerable in a one-on-one race. That is another hypothesis that finds its roots in 2016 and may or may not have been true then anymore than it is now. 

The assumption nestled in all of this, of course, is that DeSantis has the best shot to take down Trump (but can only do so if the others get out of the way). But that is only a partial test. It only gets part of the way toward an answer because it only consistently tests one alternative against Trump. How do the other candidates do head-to-head with Trump? Better or worse than in a multi-candidate race? Clearly, the retort here is likely to be that other candidates are not tested against Trump because they are in single digits in the multi-candidate polls. Fair, but why trust the multi-candidate polls in that case and not for measuring how DeSantis is doing against Trump? 

The head-to-heads only offer spin opportunities for the campaigns. They certainly do not tell us much about how voters and the field will react once votes are actually cast in a multi-candidate race in the early states next year and voters in subsequent states begin to process that information. That picture will develop and change.

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • Thursday was a busy day for presidential primary bill movement across the country. There were a variety of changes in Idaho, Maryland and Missouri.
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On this date... 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Wisconsin Democratic caucuses, days after Gary Hart claimed victory in the beauty contest primary. [The caucuses were used to allocate delegates.] 1988, Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) withdrew from the Democratic nomination race, just a few weeks after his lone win in his home state primary. 1992, Bill Clinton took the Wisconsin primary, and President George H.W. Bush swept primaries in Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. 
[As a fun aside, a representative from the Kansas secretary of state's office recently testifying before a committee about the presidential primary bill in the Sunflower state noted that the state held a rare presidential primary in 1992. That was a function of a request, he said, from Bob Dole to ensure that delegates went to the president and not potentially Pat Buchanan in a caucus.] 2015, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) entered the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden won the delayed and then not delayed Wisconsin primary.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Nationalization of the Presidential Nomination Process and Candidate Visits

Over the weekend, FHQ scoffed at a line in Jonathan Martin's New York Times story on the cavalcade of Democratic presidential hopefuls heading to the California Democratic Convention to speak. And although Super Tuesday remains on the same first Tuesday in March date that it was three years ago (and four years before that), Martin raises some interesting points about the nationalization of the presidential nomination process that are worth considering.

But also worth considering is the fact that this Golden state gathering was, at best, weak evidence of that nationalization phenomenon. Martin takes it as fact that since the two dozen Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination have already visited 33 states and territories that the race has, voila!, nationalized. It certainly appears that way. Yet, there remain several lingering questions/points.

The first is that map included in the story -- the one with the dots -- indicated the number of candidates who have visited the various states and not the number of visits candidates have made to those states. That depiction, while noteworthy on some level, is misleading. It makes a state like California look like it is much closer to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina than it actually is. California is closer to the carve-out states in the number of candidates, but not really in the collective number of visits by the candidates.

That is consistent with the pattern of visits during the 2008 cycle, the last competitive Democratic presidential nomination cycle with a sizable number of quality (and qualified) candidates. California notched the fifth most visits during that cycle, behind (in order) Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. All four had earlier (and in some cases non-compliant) dates on the 2008 presidential primary calendar than did the California primary scheduled on Super Tuesday.  The Golden state was well behind Iowa and New Hampshire in the number of visits that it got from candidates of both parties and less behind both South Carolina and Florida. Still, big, delegate-rich, and Super Tuesday California managed the fifth most visits.

And that comparison to 2008 is important because it highlights another shortcoming in Martin's piece. If 14 Democratic candidates trekking to San Francisco on the same weekend to speak before the state party convention is evidence of the nomination process nationalizing, then it is evidence of that trend compared to what? Martin drops this line:
This weekend was no aberration: Democratic presidential contenders have already combined to visit more than 30 states and territories for public events, far more than in any past nominating contest when candidates would spend the vast majority of their time in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But does not really back it up.

The easiest, albeit apples to oranges (to some degree), comparison is to the 2016 Republican process. The parties are different, but some of the conditions are the same. There was a large field of Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in 2015-16. There also was a minimally altered primary calendar of events over which the nomination race would be contested.

That 2016 Republican race, too, drew similar reactions. But instead of California, candidates, their campaigns, other political actors and the press talked about the SEC primary and how it was disrupting the regular rhythms of the nomination process. But the pattern witnessed then was that while there were visits to SEC primary and other states throughout 2015, as actual voting neared attention shifted toward the early states. In other words, the pattern normalized, still weighted -- and fairly heavily -- toward the early states.

One thing that the SEC primary of 2016 and the California primary of 2020 share is a certain branding. And not just branding, but a concerted and early effort to draw attention to the contests. Then Georgia secretary of state, Brian Kemp (R) was talking up the possibility of an SEC primary as early as February 2014, and thereafter there was a fairly constant drumbeat not only about the possibility, but of the formation of and coordination behind that regional contest for Super Tuesday 2016. Kemp and other southern secretaries of state pushed the idea and pushed it hard by hammering home the idea that the South was where the most loyal Republicans in the country are and that the path the nomination went through those voters. Campaigns took notice.

Similarly, California made an early splash in the 2020 presidential cycle by beginning the process of shifting the more-often-than-not June primary up to March. The argument in an April 2017 press release on the bill was the following:
“A state as populous and diverse as California should not be an afterthought. Moving up the California primary in 2020 makes sense and will give California voters a more significant role. By holding our primary earlier, we will ensure that issues important to Californians are prioritized by presidential candidates from all political parties,” said Secretary Padilla. 
“California is the largest, most diverse state in the nation with one of the largest economies in the world,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Yet Californians’ voices are silenced when it comes to choosing presidential nominees. California is leading the nation on clean air, criminal justice reform, and expanding healthcare for all, and moving up our presidential primary will ensure our state’s voters are heard in the national debate.”
Now, there has been a lot of ink spilled over the potential impact of the California primary move. Much has focused on the structural impact: the shift of so many delegates to an earlier point on the calendar, the impact of early voting, among others. But almost all also mention the diversity that California (and for that matter other Super Tuesday states) bring to a process that includes not only a diverse Democratic primary electorate, but a diverse field of candidates. Again, candidates have, as they did four years ago with the SEC primary, taken notice.

But does that represent a nationalization of the process or evidence of a nationalization of the process? One way to approach this is to reject the null hypothesis; that candidates appearing in states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina is not because of a nationalization of the process.

And FHQ would argue there are at least two factors standing in the way of us rejecting the null in this case. They are two factors that I raised back in 2015 in the context of similar lines of argument about the SEC primary. Candidates are not going to states other than the four carve-outs because of some nationalization process. No, instead, they are heading to California and Puerto Rico and West Virginia and other states because...
  1. It's the field [size], stupid. More candidates means more potential overall visits. More candidates also means that if everyone is heading to Iowa, then perhaps no one is heading to Iowa. In other words, the value of an Iowa visit is less if one are venturing around the Hawkeye state with 23 other candidates than if one is competing there with five other candidates. Candidates have to stand out and if they are all going to Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, then them may be less likely to stand out. And standing out is something that these 24 Democratic candidates have to do. 
  2. Calendar certainty. Another related factor is that the calendar formation for the 2020 cycle has been not only orderly but slow compared to past cycles in this century. It is a lot easier as a candidate and/or campaign to make a decision to go to California if that campaign has a fairly good idea about where it fits in the calculus of winning the nomination. California's position on the calendar is no more nor less known now than it was in the lead up to 2008, for example. But 2019 does not feature the sort of rules defiance that 2007 saw. There is no Florida. There is no Michigan to disrupt the early calendar as was the case in 2007. That left campaigns at that time with a dilemma. They could only plan ahead so far when the beginning portions of the calendar remained in flux as the Florida and Michigan issue was unresolved. All that was known to campaigns at the time was that Iowa and New Hampshire would be first. All subsequent contests were obscured by the uncertainty. Contrast that with 2019. The carve-out states indeed have February carved out. And a delegate bonanza hits just after on Super Tuesday in early March. Other states may yet join Super Tuesday -- but that is unlikely at this point -- but the basic outline of the calendar has been preserved. A slow on-ramp through February toward Super Tuesday. That certainty helps campaigns plan and plan ahead for the next steps in the sequence.
To be fair to Martin, he is absolutely right that cable news (nothing new) and online tools (especially social media) help to if not nationalize then uniformize the coverage of presidential campaigns. But whether that has a nationalizing effect on the process itself is a trickier question to answer. It creates more national appeals from campaigns or attempts to go viral, but that is hardly evidence that the "stranglehold on the time, money and attention of the White House aspirants in the year leading up to the primaries" that Iowa and New Hampshire has been broken. It is probably a bit premature to come to that conclusion. If anything, the expectation should be that attention will ramp up in the earliest states beginning in the fall. They are, after all, the first voting moves in the sequence. But if there is a break in that pattern -- a reversion to carve-out state-focused campaigning as fall works its way to winter, then we may have some evidence of a break in that stranglehold.

As it stands, it is still pretty good to be first. And campaign visits data will continue to reflect that.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- The Difficulties in Harris Locking Down California

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that were...

It is not any secret that the Kamala Harris campaign is making every effort to make the senator's home state of California its strategic centerpiece.

There is no lack of elected Democratic officials in the Golden state, and Harris has rolled out a steady drip, drip, drip of endorsements from statewide office-holders to those in the state legislature. In addition, her campaign is stocked with those seasoned in California politics. And it should be noted that her home state is a known ATM for Democratic presidential nomination fundraising; one where Harris has already shown some promise.

In sum, that is a recipe -- home state with a natural fundraising base and elected officials and campaign staff are eager to get on board -- for an attempt at warding off the competition.

But, of course, that is much easier said than done. While Team Harris is attempting to make California in 2020 to her what Iowa was to Tom Harkin in 1992, that is no small task.


For starters, Harris is not to California now what Harkin was to Iowa in 1992: an experienced legislator. That has its pros and cons in presidential nomination politics to be sure. More importantly, however, California is not Iowa. There are too many delegates there for other campaigns to leave on the table; to cede outright to Harris. That will draw other campaigns in, but to what extent?

From the perspective of Sean Clegg, a strategist with the Harris campaign, the forecast looks something like this:
"We believe the early primary, early voting, and the cost of communicating will make it virtually impossible for all but the top two or three candidates to play in the state in a meaningful way."
There is a finite amount of money floating around out there, and two to three candidates (including Harris) making a legitimate statewide push in California sounds about right. Others may make a play at some specific congressional district delegates in the state, but that is a tougher move that requires the type of targeting, the know-how of which may be concentrated in only a few campaigns (the most resourced).

But that is the way to "beat" Harris in California: a serious challenger or two and a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy from others. The goal? To minimize any significant delegate advantage the junior California senator takes from the state.

The last two competitive Democratic presidential nomination cycles have seen candidates establish small but durable delegate advantages early on. Obama in 2008 used a caucus strategy along with a post-Super Tuesday winning streak through the remainder of February to develop a lead in the delegate count that he never relinquished. Similarly, Clinton's strength among African American voters in the 2016 SEC primary states laid the groundwork for a delegate lead that never really contracted between her and Sanders.

If one is in the Harris campaign, then, California is absolutely part of a path of least resistance to a similar delegate advantage (assuming there are also victories -- actual or relative to expectations -- in the early states). But that sort of 80-100 delegate advantage in California alone is unlikely. In the past, it has required the winning candidate to approach or exceed 60 percent of the vote statewide in a contest with a significantly winnowed field. Now, strange things -- atypical to past nomination cycles -- may occur with a less winnowed field and a 15 percent threshold stretched across the allocation of statewide and congressional district delegates.

However, even if the opposition to Harris is able to minimize the delegates she gains from the Golden state any advantage may play into a larger delegate acquisition elsewhere on Super Tuesday. And if other candidates are drawn to spend money to close the gap with Harris in California, then those are resources not being spent elsewhere. It is that zero-sum game that provides Harris with a structural, calendar-based advantage at this point.

But it is an advantage that probably cannot hold up or be fully realized without some success first in February. And that success is built during the invisible primary.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. Announcements: Sanders is in, skipping the exploratory phase counter to previous reporting. Weld is exploring on the Republican side. Tammy Baldwin is not running. Merkley signals that perhaps he is inching away from a White House bid.

2. #MoneyPrimary: Sanders has also joined the group of candidates who, after launch, have quickly taken in donations from all 50 states. Bullock's PAC has done some limited spending in the early states. Brown becomes the latest Democrat to shun corporate PAC money. One outside group is working to insure that a black candidate is on the Democratic ticket.

3. #StaffPrimary: Klobuchar adds staff in Iowa. And she is not the only one with a budding team in the Hawkeye state. Iowa is not the only early state where there is a battle for staff. South Carolina is witnessing its own race for campaign talent. Campaigns are looking beyond the first states too. Bringing on staff in California is a signal of the intricacies the Golden state adds to the early half of the 2020 calendar.

4. #EndorsementPrimary: Harris continues to notch notable California endorsements, adding the support of Gov. Newsom, Rep. Lee and activist, Delores Huerta. Delaney continues a small scale build up by adding more county chair endorsements in Iowa. And the chase is on for the endorsements of the newest members of Congress; the newest superdelegates.

5. Travelogue: Candidates spent quite a bit of time in Iowa and New Hampshire over the long the Presidents Day weekend. Among the candidates who have not been to either of the first two states yet, Bennet will make his maiden trip this week to Iowa.  Jim Clyburn's daughter has become a go-to shepherd for candidates trekking to South Carolina.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Skipping Early States, 2020 Edition

Edward-Isaac Dovere at Politico reports on the strategizing among the nascent campaign team in former Vice President Joe Biden's orbit:
"...a tight circle of aides has been brainstorming a range of tear-up-the-playbook ideas for a White House run, according to people who’ve been part of the discussions or told about them. 
On the list: announcing his candidacy either really early or really late in the primary process so that he’d define the field around him or let it define itself before scrambling the field; skipping Iowa and New Hampshire and going straight to South Carolina, where he has always had a strong base of support; announcing a running mate right out of the gate and possibly picking one from outside of politics; and making a pitch that he can be a bridge not just to disaffected Democrats, but to Republicans revolting against President Donald Trump."
It is kind of early in the cycle for the "skipping states" discussion, but with 2020 giving all indications (at this time) of being a wild nomination cycle on the Democratic side, perhaps it is an idea worth exploring anew.

The premise remains the same: pick a spot on the calendar/state contest where you are more likely to succeed, win then/there, and keep winning on the way to the nomination. Simple, right?

In reality, that has proven easier said, or maybe strategized, than done. It did not go as planned when Al Gore focused on the Southern Super Tuesday states in 1988, and it did not work for Rudy Giuliani twenty years later when he attempted to resurrect a similar strategic path by putting everything on the late January Florida primary. Both campaigns foresaw their respective foci as springboards. Gore from a delegate haul in his home region that would give him enough of a lead to make it difficult for others to catch up. And Giuliani from a winner-take-all Florida win into a series of contests a week later when half the country would be voting.

Both lost.

Gore split the South with Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson, leaving behind his natural base of support and with no delegate advantage to show for it. Giuliani lost Florida to John McCain and the Arizona senator -- winner in New Hampshire and South Carolina -- used that series of wins to effectively wrap up the nomination a week after Florida on Super Tuesday.

Now, FHQ does not want to make too much of just two cases, but they are instructive with respect to the prospective "Biden to skip Iowa and New Hampshire" strategy in 2020.1 Nominees -- or frontrunners in real time during the primaries -- do not skip states. Those campaigns do not cede wins, delegates, and attention to their opponents for a month.

But the allure of South Carolina to Biden is clear and under a rationale much like those above. A win in the Palmetto state with its heavily African American primary electorate would serve as an important hypothetical precursor to wins across the South. And many of the states of the region -- with similar primary electorates -- vote just a week later. That would be an extension of the Clinton success story from 2016. Wins fueled by African American support across the region built the delegate advantage by which the former secretary of state claimed the nomination. Actually, that is the surest path to the modern Democratic nomination.

But skipping Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada is no way to start any march to the nomination even with the "South Carolina gateway to the rest of the South" as the centerpiece. That lowers expectations in any of the first three states to zero and raises expectations on anyone camping out waiting in South Carolina. However, expectations can be lowered or rather tempered without ignoring the first three of the carve-outs.

Romney's "keep Iowa at arm's length" strategy in 2012 is a decent guide. There was a lot of talk of the former Massachusetts governor skipping Iowa in 2011 to focus on New Hampshire, but while he did not spend a ton of time and effort there, Romney was there. That is lower expectations, but not to zero, not ceding the state to the competition.

In a supposedly wide open race, candidates cannot give away anything. And on the Democratic side, get to 15 percent and qualify for and claim whatever delegates you can. Now, if Biden can do that without so much as looking Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada's way, then bully for him. But activists and volunteers, not to mention voters in those states will likely not be receptive to such a snub.

The skipping strategy throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Quickly, about that entering/announcing late strategy:
Biden may announce late, but if the campaign seeks to do this properly, then the announcement will not really come as a surprise.


Campaigns have to raise money and hire staff to run the operation. That is groundwork that has to be laid well in advance, and the public will see signs of progress (or lack thereof) during the invisible primary regardless of any announcement. To wait on building that campaign infrastructure is to, again, cede it to the competition. Biden stayed on the sidelines too long in 2015, and though the chatter of a possible run was there, donors and campaign operatives were not. They had signed on elsewhere and were not willing to switch.

Betting at home?
Biden announces early and plays in all of the carve-outs to some extent if he plays at all.

1 The Politico article is another cut in the death by one thousand cuts that the Nevada caucuses continue endure. Presumably, if a Biden campaign is skipping Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on South Carolina, then they are skipping third in the order Nevada as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jeb Bush, Puerto Rico and Backdoor Winner-Take-All Delegate Allocation

It is not some mistake that Jeb Bush is in Puerto Rico this week for a fundraiser and town hall meeting.

According to law in the territory, there is to be a primary election next March; on the third Sunday in March unless that date conflicts with Easter or Palm Sunday.1 In 2016, it does. Instead of being on March 20, then, the Puerto Rico primary will fall on Sunday, March 13; just at the tail end of the proportionality window.

But why would a candidate make the effort to venture into Puerto Rico in April in the year before a presidential nomination race at the prospect of gaining some proportional share of the territory's 23 delegates? The answer is twofold. First, and Lesley Clark at McClatchy raises this, is that there are potential primary and general election ramifications in Florida's Puerto Rican community to making an appearance in and talking about issues important to folks on the island and in the continental United States.

That is true, but there are broader strategic implications at play here as well that piggyback on that Florida-Puerto Rico connection. The Florida primary is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15. Florida Republicans are also talking about a winner-take-all delegate allocation plan. However, it is unclear if those plans include a truly winner-take-all allocation method or the more-often-used (sans national party penalty) winner-take-most allocation. Let's assume here that it is the former (and FHQ thinks it will be).

The Puerto Rico primary is situated just a couple of days earlier, just inside the proportionality window on March 13. If the party utilizes the same type of allocation plan it used in 2012, then it has the potential to be a backdoor winner-take-all contest. There are no congressional districts in Puerto Rico, so there cannot be any differentiation between congressional district delegates and at-large delegates. All 23 are at-large delegates. That has the practical implication of making the Puerto Rico Republican delegate allocation either truly proportional or truly winner-take-all. Given, the date of the primary, it cannot be the latter.

Recall, however, that a party can include certain thresholds in its delegate allocation plan to guide the process (and still meet the proportionality requirements). In 2012, Puerto Rico Republicans required candidates to received at least 15% of the vote to be allocated any delegates, but if one candidate wins a majority of the vote, then that candidate is awarded all 23 delegates. The latter threshold was cleared by Mitt Romney in 2012 when the former Massachusetts governor won nearly 90% of the vote.

That backdoor winner-take-all scenario in Puerto Rico plus a win in winner-take-all Florida (outside the proportionality window) is a significant one-two punch (over 120 delegates). If a candidate can pull that off in what appears to be a protracted race (at that point), that is important. The key here is that there is less difference between a winner-take-most contest and a proportional contest than there is between a winner-take-all primary or caucuses and everything else. Not all states after March 14 are rushing to be winner-take-all. But some are, and if this race keeps going, targeting those winner-take-all states -- as John McCain did in 2008 -- is a big part of the puzzle in the race to 1235.

Jeb Bush is making that play.

1 Here is the text of that primary law:
Those primaries to be held pursuant to the provisions of this subtitle shall be held on the third Sunday of March of the year in which the general election is to be held, except if said Sunday is Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, in which case, the primaries shall be held on the second Sunday of March of the same year. Primaries shall be held on the first Sunday of March if the aforementioned holidays fall on the second and third Sunday. 
In the case of national primaries, these may be held on any date after the first Tuesday of March of the year in which the general election is to be held, up to June fifteenth (15th) of that same year, as determined by the local body of the national party.
The Republican Party in Puerto Rico used the second part of the law as its motivation for setting the date of its 2012 primary, but ended up scheduling it on the date called for in the first part -- the third Sunday in March (March 18, 2012).

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Campaigns in Disarray

FHQ's Twitter feed was littered last night and this morning with reactions to the POLITICO story indicating infighting and disarray within the Romney campaign. Most seemed to either simply link to it or attack it for shortcomings like how inner circle those quoted in the story really were.

FHQ's reaction? I would place it somewhere between "meh" and "Sir, I'm not impressed."

This just isn't much of a story given the context of the race. If a general election presidential race is not exactly tied then there is a major party candidate who is ahead and a major party candidate who is behind. The 2012 presidential race is not exactly tied. Obama is slightly ahead nationally and ahead by varying degrees in enough states to total 332 electoral votes as of now. That means that Mitt Romney is slightly behind in this race.

And historically those candidates who are slightly behind can face an awful lot of scrutiny. When campaign strategic actions by underdog campaigns don't exactly move the needle, people (voters, the press, etc.) wonder why. When a series of those sorts of actions fall flat, those same people wonder what's wrong. That is where we are in this race. People are wondering what's wrong.

This is not something that is new. It hints at a structural mechanism in American presidential elections.

I humbly submit:
Kerry campaign shifts gear into attack mode 
Candidate seen setting agenda as debates near 
By Glen Johnson, Globe Staff  |  September 26, 2004 
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The perception of a Democratic presidential campaign in disarray remained so widespread Wednesday morning that Senator John F. Kerry got unsolicited advice from a woman attending a town hall meeting on Social Security: Beef up your rapid-response team, the retired lawyer suggested. 
The remark prompted laughter, including from the candidate himself. But the Kerry campaign was already undergoing a transformation. 
Between a speech Monday in New York that gave a point-by-point accounting of continued problems in Iraq, and a speech Friday in Philadelphia that accused President Bush of taking his eye off the real terrorist threat, Osama bin Laden, the Kerry campaign seized control of the political dialogue during a week that was supposed to have been dominated by the incumbent as he visited the United Nations and invited Iraq's prime minister to the White House.
And it goes on.

Now, this is not meant to be yet another connect-the-dots-to-2004 post. That is a story/discussion for another time. [Truth be told, FHQ has drawn that parallel enough already.] No, the intent here is to point out just how difficult it can be to defeat an incumbent president in an environment that is not necessarily favorable but one in which silver linings can be found (...whether in terms of the economy growing (but not quickly enough) or razor-thin approval/disapproval margins that benefit the president). The fundamentals continue to point toward a close election on November 6, and the polling to some extent reflects that as well. The problem from the Romney perspective -- now -- is that when those two things are combined -- the fundamentals and the polling -- the major issue that surfaces is that the polling has been so very consistent throughout the summer and heading down the stretch in this race. That is a tough but not insurmountable obstacle to overcome.

Is the Romney campaign embroiled in discord? FHQ is dubious. The Romney campaign is in the same position plenty of underdog candidates/campaigns have been: behind and looking for the right combination of things to right the ship. There isn't an easy out and as FHQ mentioned earlier, time is running short.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

These things are over sooner rather than later.

The history of the presidential primary process -- the trajectory of it throughout the post-reform era anyway -- has shown that some candidate clinches the nomination sooner rather than later. The logic of this has been thrown on its head to some extent over the last two cycles with... 1) Democratic voters in 2008 having an either/or proposition in the choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton while remaining with some exceptions high on both options and 2) 2012 Republican voters being torn between yielding to a plurality candidate who doesn't necessarily have the backing of the full party or opting to vote (for the best, viable candidate) in protest.

It is on that latter scenario that I would like to focus, though. We know where later is on the sooner--later spectrum: the convention. But we are in the process of determining where sooner is. The 2012 Republican presidential nomination race is at a point where Mitt Romney is in control and his nomination is a when not if proposition. But that is not necessarily readily apparent. least not where it counts: with the main opposition campaign (Santorum).

If the Romney nomination is a when not if proposition, then the race is in a position of negotiating Santorum's withdrawal. Now, FHQ doesn't mean that as either the RNC and/or Romney campaign incentivizing in some way Santorum's exit.1 Against the backdrop of a likely steady stream of endorsements for, not to mention primary victories by, Romney throughout April will be a decision-making calculus within Santorum campaign as to the utility of continuing in the race.

...of the campaign coming to the realization that either Santorum cannot become the nominee (at the convention2) or he cannot keep Romney from reaching the 1144 delegates necessary to wrap up the nomination. Another angle to consider is that the Santorum camp comes to the realization that continuing on is in no way helpful to their/the party's cause. For the Santorum campaign, they have to concern themselves with the optics of persisting in a cause that will be hard to keep together during April (see above). The longer they keep at it, the worse the outlook is for getting a VP or cabinet nod from a presumptive Romney-as-nominee. And no, that may not be the goal here. Alternatively, it also hurts Santorum's efforts with the very people that would help him in any future run at the nomination: the establishment of the party. If the perception is -- among that group -- that Santorum has, is or does hurt(ing) Romney in terms of the former Massachusetts governor's chances against Obama in the fall. If that is the conventional wisdom, then the party establishment is much less likely to rally around Santorum in the future. That is an iffy proposition anyway. That assumes that there is not a "better" candidate out there four or eight years from now that occupies a similar ideological space among the field of candidates. [After all, the 2012 field is viewed as relatively weak.] If that is the conclusion that is reached within the Santorum campaign -- that there are no incentives forthcoming from the Romney camp and/or the future outlook is bleak -- then they have nothing to lose by continuing in the race. least until the money dries up and the sort of retrenchment witnessed in the Gingrich campaign this week hits the Santorum camp.

That is the self-interested side of this. But there are also party-centered, altruistic notions at play here. We can call those "taking one for the team" notions; that stepping aside is for the good of the party's fortunes in the general election campaign. Even this comes back to the self-interested angle above. If the feeling is that they/the campaign has nothing to lose by continuing on, then this is likely to play out in a rather slow, but obvious manner. In that scenario, if we follow history in the post-reform era as a guide, the Santorum campaign will likely die a slow death during primary season. But that has yet to play out., we know where later is, but we're still trying to determine where, or more appropriately when, sooner is.

1 This is a dynamic process, but the RNC and Romney campaigns, independent of each other, seem to be taking more of a hands-off instead of hands-on approach to this. If an argument can be made for either one intervening, it would be for the RNC ( measured by the steady stream of endorsements coming in for Romney). And even that argument is tenuous at best. It is more a matter of a collective will -- independent of national party coordination -- that folks like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or George HW Bush are coming out in favor of Mitt Romney or endorsing the idea that the process should come to a close.

2 I think that, barring a significant shake up to the current dynamics of this race as they currently exist, we can all agree that Santorum cannot get to 1144 or surpass Romney in the delegate count during primary season. It is his campaigns only play to keep Romney under 1144 heading into the convention and rolling the dice there.

Recent Posts:
South Carolina House Moves to Safeguard Future Presidential Primary Calendar Position
Santorum Super PAC Doubles Down on Ludicrous Delegate Count Claim

There's a reason the Santorum campaign didn't mention West Virginia in its delegate conference call last week

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

About that Santorum Campaign Delegate Strategy Memo

FHQ got several requests yesterday to comment on the memo outlining the delegate strategy that Politico posted yesterday from the Santorum campaign. Most of those discussions were via phone, but I did exchange emails with Pema Levy at TPM (see her story here) on the matter and here is the long form version of my back of the napkin response:
There is both fact and fiction in the Santorum memo. 
First of all, even when I was generous to Santorum and assumed that he got 50% of the vote the rest of the way (both statewide and in the congressional districts) and gave him all of the unbound delegates, he just barely got over 1144 (see here).1 And that particular dynamic just isn't going to happen. I get their point about winning unbound caucus state delegates at the state conventions, but they are likely overstating just how many delegates Santorum will be able to claim. 
Secondly, they are just plain wrong about the April 3 contests. DC is winner-take-all (and Santorum is not on the ballot there), but Maryland and Wisconsin are both winner-take-all by congressional district. As we saw in a similar case in South Carolina, even a sweeping victory like Gingrich's there did not net him all of the delegates in the Palmetto state. Romney won a congressional district. Theoretically, a candidate could win all of the delegates from those states, but it would take a win that Santorum is unlikely to get.2 [What's funny is that California should later be considered winner-take-all as well according to the Santorum campaign definition. It is also winner-take-all by congressional district.] 
This whole strategy is predicated on the race going to the convention. But it is going to be tough for Santorum and Gingrich to only argue that Romney shouldn't get to 1144 (to their supporters and donors) as Romney is likely to keep growing his delegate advantage and inch closer and closer to 1144. That is an easy argument to make when you have possible wins ahead of you in Mississippi or Alabama, but doesn't hold water when your candidate is losing throughout April. 
This memo is very casual with the discussion of delegates being elected at state conventions. Their claim is more valid in caucus states where the delegates will not be bound, but they fail to adequately -- in my eyes at least -- mention that the delegates elected at conventions in primary states (and some caucus states) are bound according to the results of the primary. 
Finally, the memo is big on telling everyone that Santorum will do well in particular states without telling us very much about how they will ultimately make that happen. The contention that Romney will not necessarily do well in the northeastern states on April 24 because of past precedent is particularly puzzling. Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island were all Super Tuesday states in February 2008 and McCain won them all.
The fact that they seemingly don't fully understand the rules (see Maryland/Wisconsin claim above), are organizing on the fly and aren't (fully) on the ballot in some additional states gives me pause about the effectiveness of this particular strategy. 
They are absolutely correct to question the Romney team's ability to get their candidate to 1144, but Santorum's argument is only going to work as long as he is winning and cutting into Romney's lead. If Romney does well in April, then the task becomes all but impossible for Santorum. Romney winning and approaching 1144 is not a good environment in which to make a "keep Romney from 1144" argument. That may serve as the tipping point in this race.
Now, I completely understand the Santorum campaign argument that the former Pennsylvania senator is the passion candidate in this race and that they are trying to portray Romney as the moderate, monied candidate. This is the classic heart versus mind discussion that has been going on within the Republican Party since late one early November night in 2008. But to attempt to substitute that particular narrative for the Romney delegate math storyline in this race is very reminiscent of the Clinton campaign effort to push back against the Obama inevitability narrative as well (see here). The bottom line is that it all comes back to the math and the Santorum campaign is up against it on that one.

1 The Gingrich delegate angle is one I hadn't considered, but I wouldn't safely count on those delegates if I were in the Santorum camp.

2 And to be fair, Romney is not necessarily likely to have that sort of victory in either of those states either.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Mississippi

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Alabama

Race to 1144: Super Tuesday, Kansas/Territories

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Visual Representation of the Argument from Non-Romneys, Post-Florida

1144 delegates needed to win.

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Newt's Challenge & Problem: Becoming Huckabee+

On the heels of the South Carolina primary, FHQ speculated that one of the main questions that emerged from the Gingrich win/Romney loss was the Southern question. Romney did not win the South Carolina primary and even if could win in Florida -- It is something of a foregone conclusion at this point that the former Massachusetts governor will win tonight in the Sunshine state. -- and use that as a springboard to wins in contests in hospitable areas in February, that Southern question remains. Romney will not have another opportunity to win in the South until March 6.

[Sidenote follow up to that Southern question:
The way that post seemed to be interpreted by those that built off it was that FHQ was saying Romney couldn't wrap things up until that point at the earliest. I suppose that is part of it, but it is deeper than that. What I meant was that Gingrich and Santorum could use that as a rallying point for voters and more importantly donors. But that has a shelf life. If Romney wins in the South -- and he's guaranteed at least one win in Virginia where only Paul is on the ballot opposite him 1 -- then that argument disappears. Support and contributions to the campaign also likely disappear or at the very least begin to drop off at that point. And keep in mind, FHQ is discussing this without accounting for any intra-party pressure on the candidates to drop out. In the past, those three things -- waning support, lower fundraising totals and pressure from the party -- often happen nearly simultaneously. That may happen this time as well. But it isn't about Romney wrapping things up so much as the way in which the others start to drop out, or arguments to stay in begin to disappear.]

The Gingrich campaign is mindful of this Southern question. In fact, the memo the campaign circulated on Monday about how a protracted primary battle might look was very heavy on the former Speaker doing well in the upcoming March contests in the region. And therein lies the trouble for the Gingrich campaign. Their hope is that a series of wins across the South evens the delegate total heading out of the contests. That may happen, but if that is the case, the Gingrich folks are going to run full on in a stiff wind. How is that any different than the strategy Mike Huckabee had in 2008? The former Arkansas governor came close to sweeping the region in 2008 and that got him nowhere. It had him out of the race in early March when McCain won on Huckabee's turf in Texas and in the process crossed the 50% plus one delegate threshold to become the presumptive nominee.

Now sure, the Gingrich folks would counter that the calendar is vastly different in 2012 than it was in 2008. There is no mammoth Super Tuesday a week from today's Florida primary like there was four years ago. However, Gingrich is going to have to find a way to win in a Romney state to effectively brush off the Huckabee comparison. February's line up of contests does not seem to offer too many opportunities for Gingrich and if Romney sweeps them all, the pressure is going to increase on the non-Romneys in that scenario to consider bowing out ( the face of the Southern question for Romney).

If we are trying to game this out moving forward look for Gingrich wins in Romney states (as a signal of a protracted battle) and Romney wins in the South (as a signal that the process is winding down). As it is, Romney is playing the McCain part from 2008 and if the South is the only thing standing in the way, it won't be enough to stop a Romney nomination. The goal for Gingrich is to become Huckabee, but Huckabee plus.

1 This will be an interesting test case of the Romney/not-Romney theory that has been floated around about this Republican nomination race. If there is a significant protest/anti-Romney movement within the Republican primary electorate, and the field has not winnowed anymore by that point, then that two-person Virginia primary becomes the best possible test.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Mindful of Huckabee in 2008, Will Romney Go on the Attack in 2012?

Michael D. Shear at The Caucus asks:

Is it time for Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, to turn his firepower on Representative Michele Bachmann?

Four years ago, Mr. Romney’s shot at the Republican nomination was dealt a nearly fatal blow when Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, emerged late in the game as a favorite of conservatives to win the Iowa caucuses.

Well, for the answer, we can go in a couple of directions. First of all, 2012 is not 2008. Mitt Romney's strategy for 2012 is fundamentally different than the direction the former Massachusetts governor's campaign took in 2008. Iowa was a big part of the 2008 strategy, and while the Hawkeye state is not completely off the radar for Romney in 2012, the state has been deemphasized. Romney will take his trips to states like Iowa and South Carolina, but his campaign has taken a calculated risk in deemphasizing them. If he can win them, great, but the Romney camp is betting that Romney can raise a boatload of money and win New Hampshire and Nevada (and perhaps rogue Florida and rogue Michigan as well), and if that doesn't winnow the field down to Romney and some token opposition, those wins (and money) will propel him into Super Tuesday.

Secondly, the political science literature tells us that it is a fool's errand for a frontrunner to go on the attack (see particularly Haynes, Flowers and Gurian, 2002). Why? There's no need to stoop to the level of your opponents' level. It is a sign of vulnerability. Now, this isn't to say that a frontrunner won't respond/attack if attacked, but generally we see that frontrunners act as if they are above the fray. Leave the attacking to someone else.

Let's put those two pieces together now. If Iowa has been downgraded strategically within the Romney campaign, then why go on the attack there? Nominal or not, Romney is the frontrunner in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination (as of June 2011 -- That could certainly change.). It just does not make a whole lot of sense for the former Massachusetts governor to attack Bachmann or anyone else in Iowa or anywhere else. Iowa is much more important to some other candidates. If anyone is going to attack Bachmann, it should probably be Tim Pawlenty or anyone else gunning for a caucus win in the Hawkeye state. And that's why Romney won't attack Bachmann. This isn't 2008 and Bachmann is not Huckabee. She doesn't represent to Romney what Huckabee did in 2008 anyway.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Links (3/9/11): Ohio

Is there something unique about Ohio and the race to 270 electoral votes in the presidential general election?

William Galston says yes at least in terms of Obama's reelection chances.

Others agree but disagree:

Dave Weigel maps it.

Jonathan Bernstein says the Buckeye state is just like any other close state: in an election that favors one candidate over the other, most of the swing states are likely to break for that favored candidate.

Nate Silver parrots Bernstein and adds that "as the nation goes, so goes Ohio".

Ohio is like any other state in the middle column of the figure below (The figure reflects the 2008 results but with 2012 electoral vote numbers.):

The Electoral College Spectrum*
*Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.
**The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, McCain won all the states up to and including Colorado (all Obama's toss up states plus Colorado), he would have 275 electoral votes. McCain's numbers are only totaled through the states he would have needed in order to get to 270. In those cases, Obama's number is on the left and McCain's is on the right in italics.

Colorado is the state where Obama crossed the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election. That line is referred to as the victory line.
****Nebraska allocates electoral votes based on statewide results and the results within each of its congressional districts. Nebraska's 2nd district voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

It will blow with the partisan winds like any other state, but Ohio isn't anymore unique than other competitive states like Colorado or Virginia or Florida or North Carolina. The Buckeye state ended up in Obama's column in 2008 but is not a necessary part of the president's electoral vote calculus in 2012; not anymore than any other competitive state anyway.