Showing posts with label delegates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label delegates. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Response to The Paulite Mess

Jonathan Bernstein had a nice piece up earlier today on the fracas -- if you really want to call it that -- at the Republican Convention on Tuesday. I agree with and am sympathetic to the argument that the Romney/RNC led convention may have committed an unforced error in drawing a line in the sand with  the Ron Paul delegates on the seating of the Maine delegation, the overall 2016 primary rules changes and/or nominating Paul at all. Yet, having followed this story closely all year and being here in Tampa and taking it all in yesterday, I could not help but think that the convention orchestrators would have been damned if they did allow Ron Paul to be nominated and his delegate votes to be tabulated in the roll call and damned if they didn't.

In a lose-lose situation, the majority faction with the power -- in this case, Romney and the RNC -- chose the most convenient loss: squashing the revolt and keeping an already condensed convention on pace to finish sometime before, well, today.

Now, some may ask why I consider that the choice set Romney and the RNC faced contained two losses. Indeed, as Bernstein asks, what's the harm in allowing Paul to be nominated? Well, the best and worst quality of the Ron Paul supporters -- and the designation depends on who in and out of the Republican Party you ask -- is their passion. That applies across the board. What doesn't is what each Paul delegate individually wanted out of the convention. There may have been some that may have been content with Rand Paul as a speaker at the convention. There may have been others who would have been satisfied by a rules compromise. Still others may have gone along quietly following a simple nomination of Ron Paul. But there are some who would not be content unless Ron Paul was installed as the Republican Party standard bearer.

Yes, the roll call would ultimately have put that to rest.


And that's kind of the point. Faced with the unknown of just how many Paul delegates fell into that all or nothing category, the RNC and Romney did what majority factions do in convention settings: they employ their superior numbers and stomp out dissent. To open the door to them in further compromises or allowing the issuance of minority reports or whatever parliamentary procedure the savvy Paul delegates had up their sleeves would have meant delay, irritation and perhaps much greater than necessary tumult at the convention.

Anjeanette Damon's piece on the Paul folks within the Nevada delegation is instructive. The Paul folks used the rules to their advantage until the avenues the rules provided were gone. And then they broke the rules.

Look, this is a counterfactual. We don't know what would have transpired had the convention allowed Paul to be nominated. But we do have plenty of evidence of how far the Paul folks were willing to go -- within the rules -- at state conventions.

...and the RNC and Romney wanted nothing to do with that possibility whatsoever.

So the party -- rightly or wrongly -- ripped the band-aid off quickly and moved on with the evening. After the recess, everyone was ready to move on to "We built this", and here in the building there were only sporadic pro-Paul-themed comments thereafter. It was a fun afternoon of drama, but it was convention business as usual in the evening.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Question Time: How Much Leverage Does Ron Paul Still Have?

The above is not the question that FHQ specifically received, but neatly encapsulates the breadth and depth of the questions that have rolled into either the comments section or my inbox concerning the Ron Paul campaign's continued efforts to amass delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. As opposed to answering them one by one, I figured that I would take a step back and provide an overview of where the so-called delegate strategy is and what if anything it is likely to yield Paul and/or his supporters before, during or after the August convention.

First of all, as far back as January 4 -- the day after the Iowa caucuses -- FHQ was expounding upon the the Paul strategy and how it compared to/differed from the approach the campaign had in 2008. Periodically, I have also revisited the strategy in the Race to 1144 posts and when necessary on Twitter. Still, the matter really has not received the attention it probably deserves. [Yeah, on that point I respectfully disagree with Dave Weigel. Yes, there are realities/constraints to media coverage, but for selfish reasons, I sincerely wish this story had been followed more closely.] The point then, as now, was to point out that the Paul campaign and its supporters were, have been and are organized. They have thus far been more successful in winning delegate slots to the national convention than they were four years ago.

Paul, for instance, looks very well positioned to control not just the bare minimum delegation pluralities in states unbound caucus states like Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota, but majorities of those delegations at the Tampa convention. That is on top of the news from over this past weekend from Massachusetts, that despite being bound to Mitt Romney on the first ballot at the convention there are at least 16 Paul supporters elected to the Bay state Republican delegation (of 41 total delegates).

But the question remains, so what? What does any of this mean (...especially if it is highly unlikely to derail a Romney nomination in Tampa)?

Well, as FHQ pointed out in January, if there was or is an over/under on the number of delegates Ron Paul's campaign is likely to get to the national convention, take the over. The Paul coalition has and will continue to see varied success across the remaining states to select delegates. There are, after all, two parallel tracks in a Republican presidential nomination race: 1) the contests that we have all followed the results of on nearly every Tuesday (and sometimes Saturdays) for much of the year and 2) the actual delegate selection. The former in most cases only binds delegates to particular candidates, but that leaves the later selection of delegates. That process does not necessarily entail selecting folks who are supportive of the candidate to whom they are bound.1 In fact, the Paul campaign and/or its supporters on the state level are turning that logic on its head.

Again, what does any of this gain for Ron Paul and/or his supporters? I fundamentally disagree with Dave Weigel that these delegate victories are an attempt by the RNC or state parties to give the Paul coalition some "wins". That "own goal" mentality is misguided because those wins are not likely to abate any time soon. There is no giving. The Paul folks are using superior organization -- in some states -- to take Romney-bound delegate slots (or delegate slots bound to or prematurely allocated by the AP and other outlets to other candidates).

Is Paul after the nomination? I don't know. But his supporters sure are.

And procedurally, they have a legitimate albeit longshot strategy to get there. That strategy first involves the continued accrual delegates; delegates bound to Paul through the remaining May and June primaries and delegates bound to any other candidate but carrying a Paul preference in the congressional district caucuses and state conventions yet to be held. Of course, having a fair number of Paul supporters as delegates does not keep Mitt Romney under the 1144 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination at the convention when they are Paul supporters bound to vote for Romney on the first ballot.

That triggers the second part of the strategy: Paul-supportive but Romney-bound delegates abstaining on the first vote. This is a tricky maneuver, but not one that is prohibited by the Republican Party delegate selection rules. It does, however, run up against state-level delegate rules that in some cases legally bind delegates to a particular candidate through one or more ballots at the national convention. But that is uncharted waters in this process. How does one take such a challenge of the rules to court in a way that resolves the issue expeditiously within the window of time in which the party is meeting in Tampa? It doesn't. The result is probably a huge embarrassment for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party; not something it wants when attempting to successfully challenge a vulnerable incumbent president.2

The question that emerges from that is the same as the questions that faced all of the other non-Romney candidates throughout primary season: Can Romney be kept under 1144 (but at the convention)? To do that Paul and his supporters would indeed face an uphill climb. That doesn't mean that they would have to amass 1144 delegates on their own. It would mean a combination of Paul-bound delegates, Paul-supportive but other candidate-bound delegates and those delegates won by candidates who have since suspended their campaigns. The Paul-bound delegates are easy enough, but those other two groups of delegates are shrouded in questions marks. Concerning the delegates bound to other candidates, the state of those campaigns are important. Well, it is not the state of the campaigns so much as the distinction they bear at that point in the race. A suspended campaign at that point is still a campaign that is active; active in terms of not having released its delegates. None of the candidates that have withdrawn from contention and have been allocated delegates (or bound delegates) has formally withdrawn from the race. Huntsman and Santorum have both suspended their campaigns which protects their delegates ( most cases, but with exception). Gingrich appears to be doing the same.

There is the potential for a great deal of overlap between the delegates bound to other candidates and those that are Paul-supportive but bound to another candidate. But they are distinct enough from each other if only because in the event that they are ever released by the candidates to whom they have been bound they are free to unite behind Romney or join an effort to oppose the nomination. The district and state conventions in the coming weeks will likely settle that matter. As selected delegates are going to come from either the Paul or Romney camps -- more bound to the former than the latter.

It is that process -- the selection of delegates -- that so significantly clouds the outlook on this though. There is no one good independent source tracking the preferences of delegates actually selected to attend the national convention. As such that is the great unknown not so much of the Paul strategy but of the prospects for this materializing in any overt way that causes headaches for the Romney campaign and/or the Republican Party; both of which are merging their efforts with November in mind.

To some extent, then, the question of how much leverage Paul or Paul's supporters have is unanswerable. Are there enough of those "secret" Paul delegates to prevent Romney from getting to 1144 on the first ballot at the convention if they abstain?  We don't and probably won't know with any level of certainty until sometime in June or even later. That is a while for Romney -- the presumptive Republican nominee -- to live with some level of even under the radar uncertainty. But that also presents them with a decision: Make some form of concession to Paul now(-ish) or wait and see Paul's cards later and make concessions then.  Waiting is a gamble. Paul could show his cards close to the convention and really present some problems for Romney; forcing a larger concession (VP slot, cabinet position, convention speaking spot, etc.). The best indication of the level of threat the Romney team perceives in Ron Paul will be the efforts it makes in the remaining district and state conventions. If they counter the Paul organization it is a pretty clear signal that there is an issue. If not, it indicates either they are blind to this issue -- particularly if Paul continues to win delegates bound to other candidates (Romney) -- or don't view it as a problem at all (or both). Obviously, the level of threat the Romney team perceives affects the extent of any concessions it feels are necessary to satisfy Paul and/or his supporters.

Now, procedurally, none of this is likely to matter. There are seemingly enough failsafes in the RNC rules to prevent an outcome that does not have Romney as the nominee. But that doesn't mean that Ron Paul or those delegates aligned with him have to make it easy for Romney. The rules regarding the abstention strategy are not unlike the rules of keeping Romney under 1144 generally. For the sake of the exercise, let's assume that Romney has at least 1144 bound delegates in Tampa, but that enough of those Romney-bound delegates are Paul supporters to keep the former Massachusetts governor under that number on the first ballot through abstentions. Given the unknowns above, that is a fairly sizable assumption.

But let's look at the structure of this anyway.

Many want to focus on RNC Rule 40 that requires a candidate to have plurality control of at least five state delegations to be nominated. As stated above, Paul is in good shape to do that. But that isn't really the concern here. The roadblock to this being a more significant threat to Romney is Rule 37 regarding the procedure for roll call voting. Rule 37 gives a certain amount of power to the individual state delegation chairs. If the state delegation chairs see abstentions or the potential for abstentions, they are very likely to pass on their vote with the roll call progressing to the next state alphabetically. This is why the election of state delegation chairpeople is so important and why the reports that a Paul-aligned candidate in Colorado defeated Colorado Republican Party chair, Ryan Call, for the distinction are consequential. Passes are less likely to come from Paul-aligned delegation chairs than Romney or establishment-aligned chairs.

What is not clear in the RNC is rules on the roll call procedure is whether states can pass more than once if bound delegates do not vote in accordance with their "commitment". The rules indicate that no state can change votes until each state has had a second (post-pass) opportunity to vote. What is less clear is whether that constitutes a second ballot. FHQ's reading is that it would not. That is a secondary concern to the multiple pass question though. If the chairs from "problem state" delegations -- those with Paul-aligned but Romney-bound delegates threatening abstentions -- can pass more than once, then the roll call can quickly devolve into a feedback loop where the convention gets stuck. Again, that is embarrassing for the party and Romney. It is not a desired outcome.

Of course, if it gets to that point, that will be the true surprise. If Paul-aligned delegates are a threat, the RNC and the Romney campaign will undoubtedly have done some sort of informal delegate whip count ahead of time and have other failsafes set up in the credentialing process or something else to prevent convention floor chaos.

Look, I don't want to make too much of this. As I said, it is a legitimate strategy, but it is a longshot to work in terms of preventing a Romney nomination much less creating a Paul nomination. However, it is a unique strategy worth exploring. The main thing moving forward will be to watch how the Romney campaign operates in the upcoming state conventions and district caucuses/conventions where delegate selection is on the agenda. If the Paul folks continue to nab delegate slots -- bound to Paul or not -- it could prove to be a headache at some point over the summer for Romney. But we won't know how much leverage Ron Paul and his supporters may have until we have a firmer handle on just how many bound delegates the Texas congressman has and more importantly how many "stealth" delegates he has.

1 It should be noted that this is mainly how it has worked in the past. People who are elected delegates are either supporters of the candidate to whom they are bound or are folks just happy to be selected as delegates and thus willing to go along with the party's choice of nominees.

2 Of course, if that happened, it might very well overshadow the Democratic convention in Charlotte the following week. [Silver lining?]

Recent Posts:
Question Time: What Happens to Santorum's Delegates?

Massachusetts Republican Caucuses: Sigh and Questions that Need to Be Asked/Answered

Question Time: Big [Early] States & Future Primary Calendars

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Romney Sweeps Northern Mariana Islands 9 Delegates

FHQ will not belabor the point here. After all, the story is much the same as the one out of Guam in the early hours of Saturday morning. But Mitt Romney won the caucuses/convention in the Northern Mariana Islands today and with it the nine delegates apportioned it by the Republican National Committee.

One thing that should be noted in all of this -- before the inevitable uproar over why these places have delegates -- is that neither Guam nor the Northern Mariana Islands are winner-take-all contests. It just looks that way now that Romney has claimed the entire 18 delegate cache from both. No, as FHQ mention earlier in the Guam post, the RNC considers these unbound delegates and will likely continue to do so in its delegate count. However, in both cases the newly chosen delegations have opted to endorse the former Massachusetts governor.

I know, I know. But Romney won all of the delegates; that's winner-take-all. He did and it is, but according to the rules these contests (and the caucuses in the Virgin Islands later today and in American Samoa on Tuesday) are producing unbound delegates. From the perspective of the rules, then, these contests are not winner-take-all, but procedurally they have been.

The delegation in the Northern Marianas breaks down in a similar fashion to Guam. There are three automatic delegates (party chair, national committeeman and national committeewoman) and six additional delegates. The automatic delegates were already in place, but the the caucuses in Saipan on Saturday selected the remaining six delegates in the delegation from a pool of 16 candidates.

Recent Posts:
Guam Goes for Romney

The Revenge of Santorum Can't Get to 1144

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: North Dakota

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Guam Goes for Romney


...and by a show of hands.

Not unimportantly, Mitt Romney won the Guam caucuses/convention in Saturday voting in the Pacific territory of the US. With the victory came all nine of the delegates in Guam -- both the 3 automatic delegates and the six other delegates apportioned to the territory. All nine are technically unbound and will likely continue to be consider as such by the RNC in its ongoing delegate count. However, all nine delegates have opted to recognize the will of the caucus and support the winner, Romney.

FHQ says "not unimportantly" because those nine delegates -- in the midst of any delegate fight -- are quite potentially much larger than one would assume a tiny territory to be in a nationwide battle for the Republican nomination. It isn't the nine delegates so much as the nine delegate margin. That margin is larger for Romney than the one delegate margin Santorum enjoyed in Oklahoma on Tuesday. But this also sheds light on the role the three other territories -- also with nine delegates each -- might play in this process. In the context of the coming week, the caucuses in Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa could all (if) with one collective voice offset any/most of the gains that Santorum or Gingrich could make in Alabama, Kansas and Mississippi. All three of have an element of proportionality. The 25 of Kansas' 40 delegates are proportional. Alabama's allocation method resembles Georgia's and could provide a nice margin for any candidate if they have a Gingrich-in-Georgia type win. In Mississippi, all 37 bound delegates are proportionally allocated. Each candidate - if they clear the delegate threshold -- will receive delegates in these three states.

But those gains may be neutralized by the territories coming up. After all, Guam ain't just Guam. It and the other territories count, too.

...especially if they deliver all of their delegates to one candidate. And the Northern Marianas look to be leaning toward Romney too.

Recent Posts:
The Revenge of Santorum Can't Get to 1144

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: North Dakota

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Massachusetts

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Friday, March 9, 2012

The Revenge of Santorum Can't Get to 1144

There were a couple of fairly consistent complaints about the model FHQ put together for ABC News to project candidate delegate totals through the end of primary season:
  1. What if Gingrich/Santorum drops out and helps Santorum/Gingrich consolidate the conservative vote against Romney?
  2. Sure, Gingrich/Santorum can't get to 1144, but FHQ still hasn't really shown how Romney can get there. 
First of all, I think these are fair assessments/concerns of/about the model, and as is the case with anything like this, it always [always] helps to add extra eyes to process. But let me try to flesh out the explanation of the model a bit as a means of addressing the above issues and then have a look at what the terrain is like now that Super Tuesday is out of the way.

Issue #1: A Gingrich/Santorum Drop Out
FHQ will have to admit right off the bat that I thought the folks who responded to the numbers in the Santorum Can't Get to 1144 post by calling the model a fantasy were right on. It is a fantasy. It is a complete fantasy that one candidate will receive exactly one half of the vote across all the remaining states and by virtue of having that same level of support applied to each and every congressional district (where states allocate based on that subunit vote), win all the delegates from those districts. Again, that is not going to happen. But what I tried to do with the second model was to account for the number of candidates who got over the various thresholds in the states to get any delegates at all. That number was set to its lowest possible number: three in states with 15% thresholds and two in states with 20% thresholds. It seems reasonable that if one candidate -- as the model already assumes -- has 50% support that one additional candidate will break that 20% barrier and that two candidates would break the 15% mark in states with such a threshold. 
The model built in the reallocation of delegates not allocated to candidates because they did not meet the threshold. And because that was set to the lowest reasonable number, the model already -- in an indirect way -- assumes that Gingrich or Santorum is getting votes but not a proportionate share of at-large/all delegates. Those are reallocated to the candidates above the threshold. 
Let me illustrate this with an example. We'll call it Kansas. First of all, we'll assume that Rick Santorum receives 50% of the vote in Saturday's caucuses. Furthermore, we'll assume that Mitt Romney only just clears the 20% mark to get any delegates. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both split the remaining 30% with neither clearing the 20% mark (We'll assume an even 15%/15% split). The way the model treats this, Santorum would get a majority in each of the four Kansas congressional districts and wins all 12 delegates (3 delegates in each of the four congressional districts). By winning the statewide vote Santorum would also win the three automatic delegates. 
But where the fun comes in is with the 25 at-large delegates. Since only Santorum and Romney cleared 20%, the allocation will not be truly proportional. If it was, Santorum would receive 12 delegates, Romney 5, Gingrich 4 and Paul 4. That is not how it works though. The eight Gingrich/Paul delegates have to be reallocated to the candidate who cleared the 20% threshold. Reallocating those delegates pushes Santorum's total to 18 and Romney's to 7. The final allocation of the Kansas delegates, then is Santorum 33, Romney 7. 
What happens if Newt Gingrich drops out?1  
I think we can all agree that no matter what, Ron Paul is not going anywhere. He will continue on and likely get anywhere from 10-15% of the vote. That means that Santorum and Romney are splitting roughly 85-90% of the vote (not accounting for uncommitted votes/voters). What happens if, as the model's initial detractors so adamantly claimed, Santorum receives all of the Gingrich support and Romney stays right at that 20% level? Again, we assume that Santorum is already starting out with a base of 15 delegates (12 congressional district delegates and 3 automatic delegates). What we are concerned with are the 25 at-large delegates. Ron Paul performs fairly well in caucuses so let's say he gets 15% of the vote, meaning that Santorum and Romney split the other 85% (Santorum 65%, Romney 20%). In that instance, Santorum claims 19 of the 25 at-large delegates and Romney, the other 6.2 
All that -- a 15% gain in the vote share -- and Santorum just gained one delegate. So the model already kinda sorta assumed a two person race, but even with Gingrich out of the way AND capturing all of his votes does not translate into all that many delegates. That won't make up the difference to get Santorum to 1144. 
In fact, if we plug the new post-Super Tuesday delegate count (97 delegates: 95 from the RNC and 2 additional automatic delegate endorsement) into the model it only gets Santorum to 959. And that's 959 with all the advantages described above. If we, in turn, grant Santorum all of the unbound delegates to this point in the race (198 delegates), he just barely cracks 1144.3

I think we can all concede that that is beyond generous and approaching the "act of God" that the Romney teams was discussing in the context of Santorum's delegate math.

Issue #2: How does Romney get there?
Speaking of Romney, what does his number look like in the same, again, fantasy model? Once we plug in his current RNC delegate count (339) plus his automatic delegate endorsements (19), Romney reaches 1236 delegates. And that's winning half of the vote and claiming winner-take-all delegates in states that allocate winner-take-all based on reaching that plateau either statewide and/or in the congressional districts. But not counting any additional automatic delegate endorsements or any endorsements from caucus states actually allocating unbound delegates somewhere down the line, Romney still has a cushion of about 100 delegates to work with to get to 1144. In other words, we could assume that Romney likely won't get 50% of the vote in Alabama this next week, but expect that if things continue on as is -- with the former Massachusetts governor as a "weak" frontrunner -- that he would/could make up for "losing" those delegates (relative to the model) by gaining automatic delegates and/or delegates from unbound caucus states. Of course, the time in between the former and the latter happening means that it would be later in the process before Romney actually got to 1144. 
Is that a shoo-in? No, but Romney has some cushion with which to work that his counterparts in the race do not.
1 No, Gingrich will not drop out prior to Kansas but bear with me here for the purposes of this exercise.

2 Bumping Paul down to the 10% level does not change the allocation. Santorum still receives 19 of the at-large delegates to Romney's 6.

3 With the number of caucus states waning, we quickly are approaching the point at which the unbound total is not going to grow anymore than the three automatic delegates per state (for those that don't bound them). That 198 is and will be a sizable majority of those unbound delegates.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: North Dakota

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Massachusetts

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Idaho

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Santorum Can't Get to 1144

[NOTE: Please see FHQ's post-Super Tuesday discussion of the delegate math here.]

...and neither can Gingrich.

FHQ has been saying since our Very Rough Estimate of the delegate counts a couple of weeks ago that Romney is the only candidate who has a chance to get there. But, of course, I have not yet shown my work. No, it isn't mathematically impossible, but it would take either Gingrich or Santorum over-performing their established level of support in the contests already in the history books to such an extent that it is all but mathematically impossible. Santorum, for instance, has averaged 24.2% of the vote in all the contests. Since (and including) his February 7 sweep, he is averaging 34.7% of the vote. That is an improvement, but it is not nearly enough to get the former Pennsylvania senator within range of the 1144 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination.

FHQ has modified that original model and put together a spreadsheet that not only better captures the rules in each state, but also allows for a constant level of support across all upcoming contests to be to be plugged in. Let's begin by assuming that Santorum enters with 19 delegates and project a 50% level of support across all the remaining contests with bound delegates. This 50% would apply to not only the statewide vote but the congressional district votes as well. In other words, this would trigger a winner-take-all allocation of delegates in most states that have the conditional winner-take-all/proportional rules hinging on a candidate receiving a majority of the vote.

This is extremely generous. It assumes that candidate X would win nearly all the delegates in states that were not already directly proportional. Less generously, this does not count, like the previous version of this exercise, caucus states with unbound delegates (see Iowa, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, etc.) nor automatic delegates who have yet to endorse.

Where does that leave Santorum? 1075 delegates.

But hold on. What if we add another layer to this by accounting for the thresholds for receiving delegates in the various states (typically 15% or 20%)? This would have the impact of reallocating delegates of those under the threshold in proportional environments to those candidates over the threshold. That would mean more delegates. If we set the number of candidates over the threshold to its lowest value -- 2 candidates in 20% threshold states and 3 in 15% threshold states1 -- that maximizes the number of reallocated delegates.

Where does that leave Santorum? Again, this is assuming winner-take-all rules have been triggered in all the conditional states. It assumes that the likely bare minimum of candidates has crossed the thresholds to receive reallocated delegates. This is very generous.

1162 delegates. That's cutting it awfully close.

Surely the automatic delegates or the unbound caucus delegates would keep Santorum over 1144. Yeah, they could potentially serve as kingmaker until you remember that we just very unrealistically gave Santorum winner-take-all allocation where is was conditionally possible. We gave him a consistent 50% of the vote -- over 15% better than he has performed during his best stretch. Also, Santorum -- given the polls we have access to for today's races -- is very unlikely to reach that level of support across all of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. That means that after today -- a day with over 400 delegates at stake -- Santorum will not be able to get to 1144.

...and neither will Newt Gingrich.

Well just a darn minute there, FHQ. You're cooking the books, right? What if you put Mitt Romney in the same model(s) under the same circumstances? Ah, I'm glad you asked.
  • In the first model where Romney would be at 50% support statewide and in each congressional district, the former Massachusetts governor would net 1254 delegates. 
  • In the second model that accounts for a likely bare minimum of candidates over the threshold, Romney would surpass 1300 delegates at 1341. 
Even if we simulate a scenario where Romney continues to only win half of the congressional districts, he still gets to 1152 delegates in the second more realistic model and .2

The bottom line here is that Romney has enough of a delegate advantage right now and especially coming out of today's contests that it is very unlikely that anyone will catch him, much less catch him and get to 1144. The latter seems particularly far-fetched given the above scenarios. And that is a problem in this race. Well, a problem for Gingrich and Santorum anyway. If all either of them can take to voters is an argument that all they can do is prevent Romney from getting to 1144, then neither has a winning strategy. That sort of strategy has a half life; one that will grow less effective as, in this case, Romney approaches 1144. Complicating this scenario even further for Gingrich and Santorum is the fact that if neither can get to 1144 or even close to it, neither is all that likely to be the candidate to emerge as the nominee at any -- unlikely though it may be -- contested convention.

These contests today may not be decisive in terms of settling the nomination, but they very much represent a mental hurdle in this race. That Santorum and Gingrich cannot get to 1144 without vastly over-performing in the remaining contests (relative to how well they have done in the contests thus far) ushers in a new phase in the race.

But how long will the "keep Romney from 1144 plan" last? With southern contests scattered throughout the rest of March, Gingrich and Santorum will have legitimate chances at wins. However, that means Illinois on March 20 and the bulk of April end up being rather tough terrain. Wins on Romney's turf become imperative to stay alive at that point for Gingrich and Santorum. By that point, though, Romney will still hold the delegate advantage and favorable contests in front of him. That is not a good combination for anyone hoping to catch him in the delegate count.

...or even keep him under 1144.

1 Remember that one candidate is already at the 50% level and it has been rare to see more than two candidates over 20% or 3 over 15% with the top candidate approaching 50%.

2 In states with an odd number of congressional districts, the delegate total was rounded down to the nearest whole district. A five district state would have Romney winning only two districts. This does not apply in states where there is an attempt to allocate congressional district delegates proportionally. In those states, Romney is given the partial total across all congressional districts. Look, if we are going to be generous to Santorum/Gingrich then it is equally as helpful in this exercise to be stingy with Romney. We want to poke holes in his ability to get to 1144. If we poke enough, Romney can be pulled under 1144, but it becomes more and more complicated and less and less realistic.

NOTE: The delegate scenarios above were constructed as part of a request from ABC News. 

Recent Posts:
The (Delegate) Keys to Super Tuesday

Race to 1144: Washington Caucuses

Fantasy Delegates

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Very Rough Estimate of the Republican Delegate Math Ahead, Part Two

This morning, NBC News' Andrea Mitchell on Meet the Press brought up FHQ's delegate numbers from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Al Hunt of Bloomberg News responded that the conclusion that Romney could wrap up the nomination -- surpassing the necessary 1144 delegate -- on either June 5 or June 26 (depending upon the date on which the Texas primary is ultimately scheduled) was misleading. Hunt is right. Those numbers -- based on an FHQ scenario analysis [see part one here] -- likely are misleading when taken out of context. However, the premise of the exercise was not to project when Romney or any other Republican candidate would or could amass the requisite 1144 delegates, but rather to assemble a reasonable baseline to which the actual and ever-changing delegate count can be compared. [...and, you know, actually utilizes the real Republican delegate allocation rules state-by-state.]

Is Mitt Romney likely to receive 49% of the vote in all the upcoming primaries? FHQ would contend that that is not all that probable. Yet, that scenario sets up a delegate accumulation that projects the current delegate count leader racking up wins, but wins at a level that will keep the growth of the delegate advantage at its slowest given the Republican delegate selection rules on the state level. In other words, Romney would win but would not win at levels (a majority of the vote in most states) that would trigger the winner-take-all allocation of either all of certain states' delegates or all of certain states' at-large delegates. Again, that is a level of victory that would give us a true sense of not only the contours of a stretched-out calendar but the nature of the delegate allocation rules changes in 2012 as compared to 2008.

Let's review the assumptions:
1) This includes the caucus states with defined binding or delegate selection rules (Alaska, Hawaii and Kansas) and primary states through the end of the primary calendar. [The Puerto Rico primary has undefined delegate selection rules at this time and it and the 20 non-automatic delegates are suppressed from the analysis.]
2) Romney wins 49% statewide and in the congressional districts. This is more likely in some states than in others, but recall that this is a baseline sort of scenario for comparison's sake only. 
3) Related to #2, it is probably out of reach for anyone to get to the 66% threshold in Tennessee, so I'll treat it like the rest: Romney gets 49% statewide and on the congressional district level.
4) This may be a shortcut and kind of undermine the "best case scenario" argument, but I'll assume that the remaining vote and delegate allocation centers around one candidate (Santorum) instead of it being split among Santorum, Gingrich and Paul.
5) Romney wins Virginia and all 11 districts outright (+50%).

Delegate count (given those assumptions -- Click link to see full breakdown):
Due to the inclusion of Alaska and Kansas in the count (a slight difference from the numbers reported in the Wall Street Journal), Romney, by gaining 49% of the vote in all the remaining states through the end of the calendar, would cross over the 1144 delegate barrier on June 5 -- with Texas on either May 29 or June 26. 

Given that this extends to the end of the calendar, the scenario analysis above is chock full of caveats. Let FHQ mention a few:
1) Again, this all follows the delegate allocation rules state by state. In some states, the automatic delegates are bound delegates. Where that is the case those delegates are included in the at-large total in the linked spreadsheet above. So, if you are studious enough to check my math against the rules, that is why there are a handful of states with at-large delegate totals for Romney that seem to have three too many delegates.
2) Illinois and Pennsylvania are loophole primaries in which delegates are directly elected on the ballot.  Even though both states send delegates to the convention unbound, FHQ has treated those delegates as if they have been allocated proportionally. There is a clearer transference of presidential preference in those two states -- under those rules -- than in non-binding caucus states. But, that is a point on which FHQ will admit that there is some room for debate.
3) As Al Hunt alluded to on Meet the Press -- well, in a sloppy sort of way1 -- this model does not account for momentum. It does not. A candidate could reel off a series of wins at some point on the calendar that would place upon the other candidates some undefined level of pressure to drop out of the race. This is as good a time as any to reiterate a point FHQ raised in part one: The math is not necessarily about getting to 1144 so much as it is about gathering enough delegates -- enough of a lead -- that makes it mathematically impossible for another candidate to overtake the leader (see Norrander, 2000). The decision-making calculus at that point will hinge not only on the pressure to drop out but the desire stay in and prevent the delegate leader from reaching 1144.
4) This model also does not account for the possibility that, unbound though they may be, delegates may [repeat: MAY] emerge in the intervening time from caucus state conventions who have expressed a preference for a particular candidate. As any of that information comes to light, it obviously impacts the calculations in the model above.
5) Similarly, another thing that is lacking above is any consideration of the unbound automatic delegates. If further endorsements are made by automatic delegates that also shifts the delegate count upward in a manner that may push the point at which the delegate leader surpasses 1144 to an earlier point.

Admittedly, that is a long list both of assumptions and caveats. Does that negatively affect the accuracy of the 49% model? Yeah, it probably does in some ways. But this was never going to be the way the delegate count was going to progress anyway. What this exercise does provide us with is something akin to a regression line through the delegate count across the remaining contests on the calendar (using the rules). Romney will overperform that level in some states -- though in only one thus far (Nevada) -- and underperform in others. The balance of those performances along with the addition of known unbound caucus state delegates, unbound automatic delegates and momentum affecting the dynamics of the race will determine when and if a candidate -- most likely Romney -- crosses the 1144 barrier earlier or later than in the above scenario.

1 Hunt constructed a scenario in which a candidate gains momentum by winning the upcoming Michigan primary and then sweeping the Super Tuesday contests. There aren't enough delegates there, but that could exert some pressure on the other candidates to drop out nonetheless. It ultimately comes back to the Southern Question FHQ proposed in the aftermath of the South Carolina primary.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Very Rough Estimate of the Republican Delegate Math Ahead, Part One

One of the most frequent calls/requests FHQ receives from any and everybody is to provide a look forward and predict what will happen in any given upcoming contest or contests. And more often than not, I punt. Why? Much of what happens in presidential primary contests is seemingly predictable. hindsight.

Well, often it is easy to say that the frontrunner coming into the election year ultimately won the nomination and move on. The reality, however, is that the "getting there" for the frontrunner can be much less easy to explain. The political science literature will lean on the amount of support various candidates have had entering the year of the election as quantified by FEC fundraising totals, poll position and more recently elite-level endorsements as a means of explaining the emergence of a frontrunner in a given nomination race. In recent cycles -- particularly 1996-20041 -- candidates were able to parlay success in fundraising, polls and endorsements during the invisible primary to early wins and put the nomination away fairly quickly.

Of course, one tie that binds those contests and not 2012 is the fact that the primary calendar is hugely different.2 In the era cited, frontrunning candidates had the ability to turn early success in both the invisible primary and the first handful of contests into momentum that would pay dividends on Super Tuesday. Early wins begat a small delegate lead begat many wins on one day begat a big delegate lead.  Afterward, challenging candidates, while still mathematically able to catch up, tend to be overwhelmed by a combination of the frontrunner's momentum in the contest and a delegate margin that is big enough that given the rules in the remaining states makes a continued challenge near futile. [Look, I cite it all the time, but since we are seemingly headed down a road toward a delegate count, go and acquaint yourselves with Norrander's End Game article from the Journal of Politics (2000). Contained therein are the calculations/equations you'll likely be hearing a great deal about over the next few months.]

But as I said, 2012 is different. There weren't 25 contests awaiting the remaining candidates a week after the Florida primary in 2012 as was the case in 2008. No, it was just Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Maine with virtually no delegates directly at stake. Unless one candidate had come close to sweeping those contests and the ones preceding them, there really was not a viable knockout punch strategy for any of the candidates -- much less the race's nominal frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

So, when Neil King of the Wall Street Journal called this week to discuss how we might game this process out given the current dynamics, FHQ was typically hesitant. A presidential nomination race is a sequential process -- one step affects subsequent steps -- and attempting to parse out the possible scenarios can quickly become an exercise in futility. Yet, if we want to know if a knockout punch strategy is still possible, it might be helpful to actually examine a scenario or two to assess the odds of Romney extending his current delegate lead to a level that would be difficult for his opponents to overcome throughout the remainder of the calendar.

If you've read the Wall Street Journal today, you'll see some calculations attributed to FHQ. I thought that, in conjunction with Mr. King's piece, it might be helpful to show my work. Now, I cannot stress enough that what follows is not likely to happen. It is a thought exercise to help us all better understand the implications of not only wins for a candidate but how the candidates will potentially amass delegates moving forward in this race. I entered this process with a simple question/hypothesis: Can Mitt Romney deliver a series of wins on Super Tuesday that will end this contest on March 7? The answer there is pretty clear: No. Well, the answer is no based on the delegate count anyway. It is difficult to quantify the momentum coming off that sort of sweep. But even then, I think we can all agree that a Romney sweep -- John Avlon's North Korea-style election scenario -- of the Super Tuesday contests is unlikely.

The best test is to look at a couple of scenarios and compare them through Super Tuesday. King's WSJ piece alludes to these but let FHQ break them down.

Scenario #1: Super Tuesday South = South Carolina, Super Tuesday Northeast = New Hampshire

Again, these are hypotheticals. Obviously the dynamics of this race have changed since votes were cast in those early states. However, we do have information from those votes that may be useful if extrapolated onto other regionally similar contests. One but of information that is missing to this point in the race is that there has yet to be a midwestern primary. Michigan will be the first indication of what a vote in the midwest -- in a primary -- might look like. The Michigan numbers will -- or would for this analysis -- helpful for projecting Ohio. But alas...

1) This only includes the primary states through Super Tuesday. Caucus states, due to their rules, were suppressed from the analysis.
2) Votes in the southern Super Tuesday states (GA, OK & TN) mimic the vote total in South Carolina, but with Santorum playing the Gingrich role (Santorum 40%, Romney 28%, Gingrich 17%). Delegates are then allocated according to the rules in each of those states. [South Carolina is a better reflection of the possible vote across the South than Florida because of the make up of the electorates in those two states relative to the rest of the South.]
3) Votes in the northeastern Super Tuesday states (MA & VT) mimic the vote total in New Hampshire, but with Paul and Romney splitting evenly the Huntsman votes from New Hampshire (Romney 48%, Paul 30%). Delegates are then allocated according to the rules in each of those states.
4) If there is a split in a state between the at-large (statewide) delegates and the congressional district delegates, the assumption is that the congressional district vote follows the statewide vote.

5) Romney wins Virginia and all 11 districts outright (+50%).
6) Michigan and Ohio are split roughly in half between a Romney and a non-Romney. In Michigan that means a split of the congressional districts and a split of the two at-large statewide delegates. In Ohio that means a split of the 16 congressional districts and a proportional allocation of the at-large delegates.
7) The threshold to win any at-large delegates in Ohio is 20%. The assumption is that only two candidates (Romney and non-Romney) clear that barrier.

8) Statewide votes translate to the congressional district as well. 

Delegate count (given those assumptions -- Click link to see full breakdown):
1) Romney would pick up an additional 192 contest/bound automatic delegates (distinct from automatic delegates who are not bound by primary results) in the primary states. That total would be 221 with Arizona
2) That would bring his binding delegate total to 265 or 294 with Arizona.
3) Santorum (or candidate in second place X) would pick up an additional 143 delegates or with Arizona 172 delegates.
4) That would bring Santorum's total to 146 or 175 with Arizona. 
5) Paul would pick up 19 delegates in the northeast (because of NH) bringing his total to 27.
6) Gingrich would pick up 8 delegates in Oklahoma for clearing the 15% threshold (because of SC), bringing his total to 37.
7) Post-Super Tuesday, then, it would be: 

  • Romney 265 or 294
  • Santorum 146 or 175
  • Gingrich 37
  • Paul 27
1) The delegate margin would increase by about 90-150 delegates for Romney depending on Arizona.

2) That assumes, again, that one non-Romney consolidates that non-Romney vote. 
3) In this case, the assumption is that Santorum is that candidate.
4) Virginia helps Romney neutralize other losses across the South on Super Tuesday.
5) Arizona along with modest gains in the northeast and breaking even across Michigan and Ohio is what drives Romney's delegate margin up.

Scenario #2: Romney's Rosy Outlook

The intent of this scenario is to provide a kind of best-case scenario for Romney, albeit a limited one. FHQ will throw the other candidates a bone here and assume that Romney gets up to 49% of the vote across the board. That allows Romney to take a great many delegates, but not trigger the winner-take-all allocation of at-large delegates in the states where the allocation is conditioned on one candidate receiving a majority of the statewide vote. This is another way of saying that FHQ will allow for the proportional allocation of those at-large delegates.

1) This only includes the primary states through Super Tuesday.
2) Romney wins 49% statewide and in the congressional districts. This is more likely in some states than in others, but recall that this is a baseline sort of scenario for comparison's sake only. 
3) Related to #2, it is probably out of reach for anyone to get to the 66% threshold in Tennessee, so I'll treat it like the rest: Romney gets 49% statewide and on the congressional district level.
4) This may be a shortcut and kind of undermine the "best case scenario" argument, but I'll assume that the remaining vote and delegate allocation centers around one candidate (Santorum) instead of it being split among Santorum, Gingrich and Paul.
5) Romney wins Virginia and all 11 districts outright (+50%).

Delegate count (given those assumptions -- Click link to see full breakdown):
1) Romney would pick up an additional 281 contest/bound automatic delegates (distinct from automatic delegates who are not bound by primary results) in the primary states.
2) That would bring his binding delegate total to 354.
3) Santorum (or candidate in second place X) would pick up an additional 110 delegates.
4) That would bring Santorum's total to 113 or Gingrich's to 139.

1) The delegate margin would increase to about 215-230 delegates for Romney.
2) That assumes, again, that one non-Romney consolidates that non-Romney vote. 
3) Due to the nature of the rules, Romney would win all the delegates in Michigan, Arizona and Virginia.
4) Again, that likely places some pressure on the non-Romney candidates and makes their quest -- compared to Scenario #1 -- more a matter of keeping Romney from getting to 1144 rather than achieving that level of delegates themselves. This is a point that is receiving very little discussion. How that narrative exerts pressure on or has the RNC exert pressure on the other candidates will be an important factor to watch. We may see that manifest itself in the form of automatic delegate endorsements (or additional elected official endorsements).

In other words, the odds of a momentum contest are quickly dissipating as we look ahead to what the state of the race is likely to be post-Super Tuesday and giving way to a nomination race focused on the gradual accumulation of delegates. The above comparison gives the impression that under certain circumstances -- and there are a lot of assumptions there -- the delegate count will be close after Super Tuesday. However, it is important to note that those sort of analyses fail to capture the dynamics of the race at any given point (momentum, polling snapshots, etc.). It is easy, then, to count delegates without factoring in how primary/caucus results and those very same delegate counts impact the race.

Now, a number of folks have already looked at the delegate math ahead and have come to the conclusion that this race will go on for a while. FHQ agrees but urges caution in counting delegates too far in advance. There are any number of permutations that could occur and thus momentum to potentially develop from that. It could also be that it becomes easier to project as we gather more information from future contests.

FHQ will take a crack at one such permutation in Part 2 tomorrow; an extension of the baseline model above through the end of the calendar. As a baseline, it will give us some understanding of just how far the delegate race may extend.

1 One could add to this McCain's clinching of the 2008 Republican nomination as well. There are some elements of this pattern in the Arizona senator's run to the nomination then.

2 The other major difference in 2012 relative to the past is the volatility of support for the candidates in the polls. That isn't to be discounted.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

About Those Two Huntsman Delegates

FHQ does not want to press upon our readers the delegate math -- especially when it may [MAY] not prove all that consequential in ultimately determining the Republican presidential nominee -- but to the extent that examples arise that further our knowledge of the process, we will take the time to attempt to explain what's going on. Case in point: Remember those two delegates John Huntsman won in New Hampshire last week? What now becomes of them?

The answer lies in the very same statute -- referenced in the New Hampshire delegate allocation primer from December -- that determines the proportional allocation of delegates in the Granite state, Chapter 659, section 93 of Title LXIII (Elections). Part VI of that code establishes the following:
If a presidential candidate has received a share of the delegates as a result of the presidential primary but withdraws as a presidential candidate at any time prior to the convention, his pledged delegates shall be released by the candidate and each delegate is free to support any candidate of his political party who may be his choice as a candidate for president.
Now, John Huntsman withdrew from the race suspended his campaign on Monday (January 16) and immediately endorsed Mitt Romney. However, that endorsement does not automatically shift the two delegates Huntsman won to Romney. Free of the bond of the candidate to whom they were pledged, those two delegates are free to support any candidate they choose -- independent of each other -- in between now and the convention in Tampa. In other words, the delegate pledge is not transferable when and if a withdrawing candidate endorses a still-competing candidate. The reality is that those delegates are very likely to be Romney supporters in the end. But there is no formal route for that endgame. Those two delegates may remain unpledged heading into the convention and support the presumptive nominee there, or they could stick with Huntsman or move now to any other candidate and hold that preference up to and through the roll call vote at the convention. The former is most likely, but a move to Romney -- in the interest of unity -- now would not be at all surprising either.

NOTE: For now those two delegates will remain in Huntsman's column until the point at which there are reports that those delegates have pledged to support another candidate.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

For Virginia Democrats, A Primary That May Not Be

One of the most interesting things to FHQ about the ballot in the Virginia primary being set late last week -- no, not the part about Newt and the chocolate factory -- was the news that the State Board of Elections may/will cancel the Democratic primary. The first inclination here at FHQ was to go back to the Virginia Democratic delegate selection plan and see when the caucuses to elect the actual delegates are to take place next year. As it turns out, however, those April 21 and 23 city and county caucuses will not serve as the back up plan for the presidential preference vote. Those meetings will continue to hold the role of beginning the delegate selection process -- identifying those who will be bound to what candidates at the national convention -- but there will be no vote on presidential preference in the process; at a primary or caucus.

Well, that doesn't seem entirely fair. Democratic voters don't get a choice with a canceled primary. Remember, though, that President Obama would have been the only choice on the ballot anyway. [Write ins are not an option.] The primary, then, would have been meaningless. As such, the plan is to continue as if the primary -- for Democrats -- was happening on March 6 simultaneous to the two man contest on the Republican side and allocate/bind the delegates accordingly. Obama would have received 100% of the vote and thus all of the Virginia Democratic delegates.

...and he will at the state convention anyway.

Thanks to Virginia DNC member, Frank Leone, for fielding my questions and filling in the gaps.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Revisiting Democratic Delegate Allocation (1976-2008)

A few weeks ago when the Democratic Change Commission was holding its first meeting, FHQ posted a series of graphs the DNC produced to show the frontloading of delegate allocation over time. As I said then, "That, folks, is the impact of frontloading in a nutshell." To see the shift from 1976 to 2008 is somewhat staggering.

...well, if only the graphs were a little better. I wanted to see what those figures would look like if a line was added to account for the cumulative percentage of delegates throughout any given year's primary calendar. Ideally, you'd see a nearly even distribution of contests across primary season and a relatively straight line from 0 to 100% delegates allocated.

And that is essentially what is demonstrated in the recreation of the 1976 figure from the DNC (see below). There is some undulation, but basically there is a fairly even (linear) growth to that cumulative line. The same is true of the 1980 figure (not shown). The blue area, then is the weekly percentage of delegates allocated, while the red area is all the weeks to a given point stacked on top of each other.

[Click to Enlarge]

But in 1984, what starts is what I'll call the "volcano with a wind out of the west" phenomenon. [That's a long way of saying frontloading.] What popped up in 1984 was a burst of delegate allocation activity toward the beginning of the process. And over time that "volcano" has grown from a small hill to the towering mountain of Super Tuesday in 2008 (seen below).

[Click to Enlarge]

These are handy visuals that would fit right in (with a GOP version as well) on the monthly frontloading maps that adorn the left sidebar. Assembled, they basically tell the tale of frontloading since the McGovern-Fraser reforms took effect.

*I mentioned the 1984 figure, and should add that I'll be putting the entire series up at some point (probably in individual posts as time allows). In saying that I should also say that there is a problem with the 1988 and 1992 figures. If you look closely at the originals in the link at this post's outset, you'll see that those two years' patterns (and underlying data) mirror each other exactly. If however, you look at the calendars from 1988 and 1992, you can clearly see that they are similar, but not the same, calendars. At some point I'll have to fix that (I suspect the 1988 figure is the one that is off. Pay close attention to the hump on the left side of the Super Tuesday peak. That's Georgia and Massachusetts and the other states that jumped to the first week in March when the Democratic window expanded to include that week in 1992. There was no similar group of contests -- not in terms of numbers of delegates -- in 1988. Most of those southern contests were on the second Tuesday in March.)

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