Showing posts with label the caucus question. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the caucus question. Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2008

Iowa and Nebraska: The Caucus Question 2008 Wrap Up

This is more housekeeping than anything else. However, I wouldn't want to pose a question like the caucus question and not gather a full data set for the 2008 cycle. The flooding in Iowa in mid-June pushed the Democratic convention there back two weeks and around that time I was heading out of town (...and thinking about other things). That said, here is how things finished in both Iowa and Nebraska:

Iowa Final Tally: 37.6% of the Vote, 71.1% of the Delegates

Nebraska Finally Tally: 67.5% of the Vote, 66.7% of the Delegates

Just as a refresher, the premise of the caucus question is that there is movement in the level of support for a candidate throughout the steps of caucusing. Factors that intervene are how early the original contest was, how many steps -- and thus opportunities for delegate support to shift -- were there in the caucus process, and how many candidates competed. In most years during the frontloaded campaign era, it is fair to say that with nominations clinched early, competition dropped, making it a foregone conclusion that the front-runner/presumptive nominee would gain as the process progressed. With the Clinton-Obama contest stretching to the last days of actual contests in 2008, there was a natural opportunity to see if, in fact, there was anything to this caucus question idea.

With Iowa and Nebraska, you have two states on opposite ends of the spectrum. Iowa had the earliest contest; one that was competitive to say the least. And the near equal distribution of the vote between Clinton, Edwards and Obama demonstrated that. In Nebraska, Edwards had already dropped out and Obama had apparently laid the grassroots foundation in a caucus state that would, collectively with the other caucus states, prove the cornerstone of his successful nomination run. In other words, Nebraska was not as competitive as Iowa.

In Iowa, then, there was room for improvement for Obama. In Nebraska, on the other hand, any gains would have been hard to come by for Obama or Clinton. The battle for gains in Iowa, though, centered on John Edwards' delegates and most moved over to Obama. The others opted to stick to their guns and continue to back Edwards instead of moving toward Clinton. So, while initial estimates had the delegate breakdown in Iowa pegged at a 16-15-14 Obama/Edwards/Clinton split, Obama ultimately ended up with a 32-4-9 distribution of pledged delegates heading to Denver next month.

In Nebraska, the story was slightly different. Obama won the post-Super Tuesday caucus in the Cornhusker state handily, but had nowhere to go. Even after having clinched the nomination, a total consolidation of Nebraska's delegates didn't happen for Obama as it might have in a less competitive enironment. Clinton was able to improve based on her delegate numbers rounding up at the state convention in two of Nebraska's three congressional districts as well as in the statewide tally.

What emerges from this tale of two states are three possible options: 1) a move toward Obama, 2) a move toward Clinton and 3) no movement at all. Iowa, we can pencil in as a gain for Obama, and Nebraska most resembles the no movement group of caucus states.

The Caucus Question: 2008 Movement
Obama MovesClinton MovesNo Movement

North Dakota
*The delegate decisions in the Hawaii process were determined by the first step. The decisions made at the Hawaii state convention were bound by the precinct caucus decisions. The Aloha state was prevented from exhibiting any movement.
**Texas defies any of these characterizations. Initially the movement from the first to second step was toward Obama. From that point to the state convention, though, some support drifted back toward Clinton.

That the environment was so close had much to do with the overall lack of movement that we saw throughout the various caucus processes. In a "normal" cycle, the front-runner/presumptive nominee would have been able to peel off most, if not all, of the opposing delegates. But that has a lot to do with the amount of space between first and second place. There was barely any light between Clinton and Obama. That had the effect, in most states, of causing Clinton delegates to stay true to who they backed in the first place. And that is the story of this historic nomination race: that it was so close. That competitiveness overwhelmed the possibility of seeing any variation in the delegate movement based on how early a state held its caucus or how many steps a particular state's caucus process contained.

Note: If I can get a hold of the GOP data for comparison, I'll revisit this. That data though has been difficult to come (and the reason there hasn't been a Republican series of caucus question posts.).

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Idaho Final Tally: 79.5% of Vote, 83.3% of Delegates

The Gem state wrapped up its Democratic delegate selection this past weekend at its state convention, and despite the discrepancy in the total (in the post heading), this was a given for the most part. [Obama won the Super Tuesday caucuses in Idaho by as big a margin as he won in any other state.] Obama's vote totals provided the Illinois senator with enough to round up his totals in both congressional districts while ever so slightly rounding down in the statewide calculations for pledged elected officials (PLEOs). In other words, the gains that we see from the precinct level caucuses in February to now (post-state convention) are not a function of Obama gaining support, but are simply statistical artifacts. Again, if this were a purely proportional system, Obama would have won 14 delegates to Clinton's 4 (among the pledged delegates). By breaking the calculation down to the district level, as it is done in the other states, the ultimate delegate distribution is altered.

Obama ended up with 15 of the state's 18 pledged delegates. Overall, the Illinois senator will have (at least) 19 Idahoans representing him at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Clinton will have 3 delegates out of the remaining four with the final one representing the add-on delegate, Richard Stallings, who was elected over the weekend. Unlike add-ons selected at other state conventions, Stallings, remains uncommitted at this time. That may change between now and the convention, but according to the Idaho Democratic Party's web site, he has not made an endorsement.

And how does Idaho fit into the categories as defined by the caucus question? Well, the categories as the stand now aren't really defined by the question itself so much as what has emerged as the caucus processes have completed with state conventions. There have been states that moved toward Obama, states that moved toward Clinton and states that have not moved much at all.

Obama Moves:

Clinton Moves:

No Moves:
North Dakota

*The delegate decisions in the Hawaii process were determined by the first step. The decisions made at the Hawaii state convention were bound by the precinct caucus decisions. The Aloha state was prevented from exhibiting any movement.
**Texas defies any of these characterizations. Initially the movement from the first to second step was toward Obama. From that point to the state convention, though, some support drifted back toward Clinton.

Of those categories, Idaho best fits the final one. The estimates following the caucuses in February mirrored the final tally in the Gem state. One interesting note to make is a distinction made when FHQ was initially sounding out the finer points of the caucus question: How many steps are in the process? Of the states that had a two step caucus, only Alaska showed any movement one way or the other from the first step to the second. All the other two step states maintain steady distributions of support through the process. Of the states that had more than two steps, only Kansas had anything more than a move based on anything other than the statistical calculation of the process.

The only states undecided now are Nebraska and Iowa. Iowa was to have been decided this past weekend as well, but due to flooding across the state, the state convention was postponed for two weeks. Iowa will now have begun and ended the delegate selection on the Democratic side of the ledger.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Texas Caucus Final Tally: ?% of the Caucus Vote, 57% of the Caucus Delegates

Fine, if you want to go with the 41% of precincts reporting total from the first step (Obviously, I don't want to given the title.), then it should read "Texas Caucus Final Tally: 56% of the Caucus Vote, 57% of the Caucus Delegates." But don't say I didn't warn you.

Even though FHQ doesn't have access to the true nature of those initial numbers, all is not lost in pursuit of an answer to the caucus question in Texas. Texas Democrats may have stopped publicly counting the March 4 caucus numbers at the 41% mark, but we do know from reports of the senate district convention results that Obama gained support over Clinton compared to the March 4 results. What we know is that Obama improved upon his initial level of support in the senate district conventions to 58%. That total would have netted the Illinois senator 39 delegates in the caucus portion of the Texas delegate selection plan. The state convention seems to have knocked that number down a tad though. In the presidential preference vote held among the 7300 delegates at the Texas Democratic state convention, this weekend, Obama received 57% of the vote which equated to 38 delegates in the caucus process.

Well, la-di-da. What does that matter now anyway? Obama's already the nominee, right? A valid point, to be sure. But this also happens to help test the caucus question hypothesis (that throughout the caucus process momentum will build behind the front-runner/winner/presumptive nominee). Texas held the first state convention to close a caucus process after Obama clinched the nomination. As such, Texas offered the first opportunity to see any wholesale defections toward Obama. We didn't see any. Next weekend offers three further opportunities to discover evidence in support of the caucus question. Idaho, Iowa and Washington all close down their delegate selection shops for the 2008 season with state conventions next weekend. The following weekend, Nebraska will officially bring an end to the delegate selection phase of the 2008 campaign (source: The Greenpapers).

Of those, Iowa will be the most interesting because, well, it's Iowa. Also, Iowa was an early, three way, competitive caucus. The result is that there is a lot of room for a shake up from the original results to the final results. Many of the Edwards delegates from Iowa have already committed to Obama and that certainly factors into this. The big question is whether Clinton delegates, now that the New York senator has dropped her bid for the nomination and endorsed Obama, will move over to support the Illinois senator in Iowa or any of the remaining three caucus states. In Texas the answer was a resounding no.

Elsewhere, it may be a different story. Idaho, Nebraska and Washington all handed Obama decisive victories over Clinton in official caucuses, but also held later beauty contest primaries that served advisory roles. In all three cases the primaries were closer contests.

Idaho caucus: Obama - 79.5, Clinton - 17.2
Idaho primary (scroll down): Obama - 56, Clinton - 38

Nebraska caucus: Obama - 67.6, Clinton - 32.2
Nebraska primary: Obama - 49, Clinton - 47

Washington caucus: Obama - 67.5, Clinton - 31.2
Washington primary (scroll down): Obama - 51.2, Clinton - 45.7

Those differences are noteworthy heading into the next two weekends in terms of the caucus question.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Maine Final Tally: 59% of the Vote, 63% of the Delegates

With the close of the Maine Democrats' state convention on Sunday, there's now a clearer picture of the delegate selection throughout Pine Tree state's caucus process. All 24 of the state's pledged delegates were at stake over this past weekend since Maine goes from precinct voting to county convention voting held in correspondence with the state convention. The initial estimate following the February 10 precinct meetings was that Obama and Clinton would split the Maine delegates 15-9. That distribution favored Obama more, though. The Illinois senator received 59% of the statewide vote and that 15-9 split would have given him nearly 63% of the delegates.

And that was the way the distribution emerged from the convention on Saturday night. [Obama also picked up the convention's add-on delegate, as well.] Obama maintained that edge in the state convention and took a round up to the nearest delegate in both of Maine's congressional districts. It was that statistical artifact that provided the discrepancy in the vote and delegate totals.

That there were only two steps in the process and no shift in the delegate totals from one step to the next both run contrary to the caucus question hypothesis. In breaking down the action in Alaska and Wyoming last weekend, I discussed the states which have held state conventions (and thus completed their delegate selection) into groups: 1) those moving toward Clinton (Colorado and Kansas) throughout the caucus process, 2) those moving toward Obama (Alaska and Nevada) and 3) those showing little or no movement (North Dakota and Wyoming). Of those three categories, Maine fits best into the final category. Like most of the caucus states, Maine provided Obama with a solid win, but unlike some of the caucus cases, the original level of support didn't translate into increased support as the process continued (something of an intra-process bandwagon effect). And again, that speaks toward the power of the Clinton candidacy (and the competitiveness of the race). When in most years there would have been at least some trickle of support toward a front-running candidate/presumptive nominee throughout the caucus process, this year just hasn't seen that. Being the VANP (very almost nearly presumptive) nominee apparently hasn't been enough for Obama.

Up next? The remaining big one. Texas completes the caucus half of its delegate selection with its state convention next weekend. Unlike Maine, Texas has already shown some movement toward Obama throughout the steps of the caucus process.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kansas Final Tally: 73.9% of the Vote, 71.8% of the Delegates*

The good folks at the Kansas Democratic Party **contacted me this afternoon and shared with me the finalized slate of delegates headed to the national convention from the Sunflower state. The results in Kansas are similar to what we saw in Colorado; namely Hillary Clinton improved slightly upon her Super Tuesday showing in Kansas. If the delegates had been awarded on a purely proportional basis following the precinct/county level meetings, Clinton would have secured just 8 delegates. In the end, she walked away from the May 17 state convention with 9 delegates.

What isn't as clear in the Kansas case as it was in the Colorado case, is how big and vocal the Clinton presence in Topeka was. There is at least some evidence to suggest that Clinton's support in Colorado Springs was great compared with the campaign's efforts leading up to and during the precinct caucuses. Is that enough to say that it was the Clinton support that managed one more delegate than expected from the Colorado state convention and not simply statistical artifact? No, but it is more of an indication of that than what came out of Kansas. Clinton was able to round up higher delegate totals in 2 the 4 Kansas congressional district meetings in April. She also rounded up in the at-large delegate allocation at the state convention. In the end then, Clinton's gains appear to be a function of rounding up to the nearest delegate and not of her campaign pressing for support in Kansas two weekends ago.

With Kansas complete, six of the 14 caucus states have completed their delegate selection to the Democratic National Convention in August. And there is some symmetry to how things have come out. Two have moved toward Obama throughout the process (Alaska and Nevada), two have stayed put (North Dakota and Wyoming) and two have moved toward Clinton (Colorado and Kansas). Reviews then are mixed as to whether the caucus question hypothesis holds any water. Obama won all six caucuses, but has only managed to increase his totals in one-third of those states once the process ran its course. What does that mean? Well, it could mean that the is an unprecedented campaign. Yeah, but you knew that already. It could also mean that no one has ever done as good a job at coming in second as Hillary Clinton has. That seems like an insultingly back-handed compliment, but it is true. No one that has ever competed and has come in second in a nomination battle has ever been this close. This has just been a close campaign and that has stretched deep into the caucus process as well (deeper than the first step). I'm anxious to attempt to get my hands on some of the past caucus data to see if the movement I've been speculated about in this space actually came to pass (in something other than in anecdotal accounts). That way, we'd at least have that baseline of comparison to be able to put this year into context.

*I should have noted this in past posts about the final results from caucus states. The results in the title line reflect the percentage won in the original step of the caucus by Obama. I've opted to use him as the baseline of comparison for a couple of reasons: 1) He has had much more success in the caucus states and 2) In keeping with the caucus question hypothesis, it is the front-runner/presumptive nominee who stands to gain from the results from the precinct level.

**A big thanks to Jenny Davidson from the KDP for the information. She also writes for the party's Buffalo Blog. Below are the results from the KDP (note that all the alternates are for Obama):

Kansas Democratic Party National Convention Delegates Elected at Congressional District Conventions

Topeka – On Saturday, April 12, Kansas Democratic Party Congressional District Conventions elected 21 delegates and four alternates to attend the Democratic National Convention to be held August 25-28 in Denver.

The National Convention Delegates and Alternates are as follows:

National Convention Delegates pledged to Sen. Clinton:

First Congressional District:

Etta Walker, Sharon Springs

Second Congressional District:

John Settich, Atchison

Margie Wakefield, Lawrence

Third Congressional District:

Tess Banion, Lawrence

Bill Roy Jr., Lenexa

Fourth Congressional District:

John Carmichael, Wichita

National Convention Delegates/Alternates pledged to Sen. Obama:

First Congressional District

Shala Mills, Hays

Leonard Schamber, Damar

Bobby Whitten, Junction City

*Sean Buchanan (alternate), Hutchinson

Second Congressional District

Cori Allen, Lawrence

Terry Crowder, Topeka

Vernon Mills, Lansing

Teresa Sims, Lawrence

*Joyce Williams (alternate), Lansing

Third Congressional District

Stanley Adams, Overland Park

Rep. Paul Davis, Lawrence

Jan McConnell, Overland Park

Clarissa Unger, Lawrence

Rep. Valdenia Winn, Kansas City

*Eli Tate (alternate), Fairway

Fourth Congressional District:

Elizabeth Kinch, Derby

Pat Lehman, Wichita

Matthew Vines, Wichita

*Chelsea Loehr (alternate), Garden Plain

Kansas Democratic Party National Convention

Delegates Elected at State Convention

Topeka – On Saturday, May 17, the Kansas Democratic State Committee elected 11 pledged delegates, one pledged alternate, and one unpledged add-on delegate to attend the Democratic National Convention to be held August 25-28 in Denver.

The National Convention delegates and alternate are as follows:

National Convention Un-pledged Add-on Delegates:

Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, Olathe

National Convention Delegates/Alternate pledged to Sen. Clinton:

KDP Treasurer Dan Lykins, Topeka

Steve Cadue, Lawrence

Elizabeth Bustamante, Garden City

Sidwell Jones, Atchison - alternate

National Convention Delegates pledged to Sen. Obama:

Mayor Joe Reardon, Kansas City

Sen. Anthony Hensley, Topeka

Shawnee County Treasurer Larry Wilson, Topeka

Barb Shirley, Salina

Dan Watkins, Lawrence

Denise Cassells, Mound City

Rep. Raj Goyle, Wichita

Kathy Greenlee, Lawrence

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Alaska + Wyoming = Obama + 1 Delegate

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alaska + Wyoming = Obama + 1 Delegate

A week after Clinton emerged from the Colorado state convention with one extra delegate (compared to her estimated share in the precinct level vote), Obama returned the favor by duplicating his Nevada gain at Alaska's state convention last night. During the February 5 caucuses in the Last Frontier, Obama just missed out on gaining 10 delegates to Clintons 3. The estimated spread then was 9-4. The Obama campaign got just enough more support in the state convention to push that edge to 10-3. Factoring in the superdelegates (plus former governor, Tony Knowles as an add-on superdelegate supporting Obama), Obama will carry a 14-4 advantage over Clinton within the Alaskan delegation to the national convention.

The original precinct vote numbers didn't allow either candidate much room to maneuver in Wyoming. The predicted 7-5 split favoring Obama was what came out of the Democrats' convention in the Equality state last night. According to The Green Papers, 4 of the 5 Wyoming superdelegates have endorsed Obama, while the fifth remains undecided. There was no word on who the add-on superdelegate, determined at the convention yesterday, was backing between Clinton and Obama. UPDATE: The AP says that the Wyoming add-on did back Obama and so too did the one chosen at the Georgia state convention. In all, Obama picked up 4 delegates yesterday: one extra pledged delegate out of Alaska, add-ons in Alaska, Georgia and Wyoming.

So, Obama gained one delegate this weekend. That isn't a resounding finding in favor of the caucus question. However, the winner from the original step gained through the process in Alaska (albeit slightly) and that falls in line with what we witnessed in Nevada. The lack of shift in Wyoming is similar to what came out of North Dakota's convention at the end of March. Finally, Colorado has been the only caucus state to break with expectations, handing Clinton more support in the final step than in the original one. And the Kansas Democratic Party has yet to confirm the final numbers that I've seen floating around.

Up next?
Well, Puerto Rico has its primary next Sunday, but Maine holds its state convention and has 24 of the state's 32 delegates at stake. FHQ will be back with more on that one later in the week.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Colorado Final Tally: Clinton Gains 1 Delegate

From the precinct level to the state convention, Hillary Clinton (ever so) slightly improved her standing in the Centennial state. The initial vote percentages (67%-32 in favor of Obama with 1% opting for "uncommitted") would have yielded a 37-18 delegate edge in a purely proportional system. With the process being filtered through both congressional district caucuses and Colorado Democrats' state convention last weekend, there were opportunities for each candidate to tweak those numbers. Granted, the movement that was witnessed from early February to last weekend could be due simply to the rounding of delegates during each step of the process. As I mentioned in the congressional district caucus post earlier in the week, there had been reports of the Clinton camp making efforts in the state following the initial defeat there. But as the good folks at Enik Rising point out, it all seems too little, too late for Clinton, especially when the alternate delegates are included in the equation (all are Obama supporters).

In the end, Colorado will send 36 Obama delegates and 19 Clinton delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. And while this is a "victory" for Clinton in the delegate count, it is certainly outweighed by the much more skewed numbers (favoring Obama) coming out of Nevada last weekend as well. Skewed as Nevada may have been (in the translation from vote totals to actual delegates), the gain Obama got from the beginning of the process in the Silver state to the state convention was the same 1 delegate that Clinton got in Colorado. The result? A wash.

Of course, we're still awaiting word out of Kansas and Washington from last weekend. One blogger posted the results of the 8th district meeting in Washington and another has revealed the breakdown in the 3rd and an Obama slate of delegates to the convention from an Obama site (unconfirmed by the Washington state Democratic Party). By my count, that's 34 Obama delegates and 9 Obama alternates. That 34 is roughly equivalent to the percentage of the vote Obama received in the the state's February 9 caucus. That's 2/3rds of the delegates that were on the line in last weekend's congressional district caucuses. Obama got nearly 68% of the vote in the precinct level meetings.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Colorado Congressional District Caucuses Final Tally: 67% of the Vote, 64% of the Delegates

In Nevada there was a pronounced difference between the percentage of the vote both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got in the first round of caucuses in the Silver state and the percentage of delegates each eventually got. And while there isn't a full picture of how things shook out in Colorado over the weekend, we now know the delegate breakdown from each of the state's congressional district caucuses. Of the 36 delegates allocated based on congressional district caucuses, Clinton improved slightly upon her initial numbers in the precinct-level meetings; inching up from around 33% of the vote there to about 36% of the delegates from the state's 7 congressional districts. This means that this increase is either a function of the math of the process (ie: dividing the delegates into each of the districts and then the potential for rounding up to the nearest delegate within each) or the reports that the Colorado Clinton supporters were out in full force in Colorado Springs this past weekend have some merit.

In any event, Clinton's gains, however slight, go against the prevailing hypothesis that emerged in the recent post concerning how Obama's "inevitability" following North Carolina and Indiana would affect him in the continuing caucus process. Again, we don't have the full picture of the Colorado delegate situation because the 19 state convention delegates have yet to be reported by the Colorado Democratic Party. It does, however, show that unlike Nevada, Clinton made gains in the arena where Obama had done best during this primary season: caucuses. Will that help her make a better case to superdelegates? Probably not. Not with a 10 delegate deficit (13-23) among just these 36 delegates.

I'll be back with more when the state convention numbers are posted.

Still no word out of Kansas either.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nevada Final Tally: 45% of the Vote, 56% of the Delegates

What started out four months ago as a Clinton win (in terms of votes) ended up as a Nevada victory for Barack Obama in terms of caucus strategy. Obama parlayed a solid January showing in rural Nevada and lower than expected Clinton support at the district caucuses into a three delegate advantage (14-11) over Clinton in the Silver state. All this after losing 51%-45 to Clinton in the first round of the caucuses. Clinton's six point win was not only reversed as Nevada's caucus process progressed, but Obama's perceived advantage was improved upon and solidified coming out of the state convention yesterday.

This fits in with the discussions here concerning the caucus question. Under circumstances that can be considered commonplace in the frontloaded period of presidential primaries, a party's presumptive nominee, having wrapped the nomination up early, would gain support in caucuses through subsequent steps in the process. If a candidate effectively wrapped the nomination up during Super Tuesday, for example, and forced his opponents out of the race, they would stand to increase their support in caucus states where the process's first step was held during the competitive phase of primary season. A presumptive nominee gains as turnout among supporters of the withdrawn candidates at subsequent caucus meetings declines relative to their original turnout. We saw this in Nevada during this cycle as Clinton's support in the district caucuses lag behind her original level of support. The nomination race was still active in 2008 though; Clinton had not dropped out of the race. It can be considered a real victory for Obama then, in terms of strategizing about the caucuses and building up support and turning people out on the grassroots level.

There were also state conventions in Colorado and Kansas yesterday as well as congressional district conventions in Washington. News has been slow filtering out about the final numbers at all those proceedings (other than Udall becoing the senate nominee in Colorado and an add-on delegate going for Obama in Kansas). Unlike Nevada, though, all three of those states handed Obama decisive victories. In other words, there was not that much room for improvement on the original numbers. However, if Obama had such overwhelming victories in those states, it stands to reason that Clinton's support in those states may be depressed compared to what it was originally.

Once that information surfaces, we'll see which way (if any) that went. Tracking...

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will Obama's Seeming Inevitability Help Him as the Caucus Process Draws to a Close?

As the race for the Democratic nomination has continued into parts unknown (namely April and May), some attention has been paid in this space to the idea that a candidate gains or loses support/delegates as the caucus process moves from step to step. The posts examining the Caucus Question, as it has come to be known, have focused on the second step of these processes in locales like Texas and Nevada. Nothing, though, is official until the state conventions close in each of the 14 caucus states (Texas included).

There are 498 total delegates (not counting superdelegates and add-ons) at stake in these caucus states and the actual allocation of 286 of them (57%) remains unsettled. In some states, all (Minnesota) or part (Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming) of the allocations were settled during the first step and only the identity of those pledged delegates remains uncertain until after the conventions. For 11 of the states (North Dakota already held its state convention and Hawaii's delegates are bound by the outcome of voting in the first step.), there are still delegates on the table, ranging in number from 5 (Wyoming) to 78 (Washington) depending on the state.
AK 13 delegates
CO 33 delegates (14 in congressional districts/19 at the state convention)
ID 6 delegates
IA 16 delegates
KS 11 delegates
ME 24 delegates
NE 8 delegates
NV 25 delegates
TX 67 delegates
WA 78 delegates (51 in congressional districts/27 at the state convention)
WY 5 delegates

Will Obama's inevitability (at least in terms of how his campaign has been covered in the media since Indiana and North Carolina last week) affect the delegate distributions from those states. Obviously there is a baseline in place in each of these states based on how the voting in the original, precinct-level caucuses came out. However, as we've seen in Texas and Nevada already (see above), there has been a modest amount of movement toward Obama as the caucus process has moved to subsequent steps. With the exception of Wyoming, Iowa, Texas and Nevada, the other caucus states delivered Obama a 2:1 or 3:1 victory over Clinton. Iowa and Nevada had more candidates involved than just Clinton and Obama, so shifts in those totals as the steps progressed would be expected. By the time of the contests in Wyoming and Texas, the Clinton campaign was aware of and defending against (to some degree) Obama's organizational advantages in caucuses. In the states where he had at least a 2:1 advantage during the first step, there is only limited room for improvement.

Starting tomorrow and over the weekend, observers can begin to test whether Obama's status now as the "nearly presumptive nominee" (and you thought presumptive nominee was already too much to include in a title) will have an effect on his delegate totals from the caucus states. Colorado has three more congressional district caucuses scheduled for tomorrow and the state convention scheduled for the weekend with 14 and 19 delegates to the national convention on the line respectively. Kansas and Nevada wrap up their caucus processes with state conventions over the weekend as well. The big prize will be the Washington congressional district meetings, where 51 delegates to the national convention in Denver will be at stake.

After this weekend the undetermined caucus delegates will dwindle to 166, over a third of which is accounted for by Texas. After the upcoming contests in Kentucky and Oregon on Tuesday, those remaining caucus delegates may not matter as much if Obama reaches the majority of the pledged delegates, as his campaign is projecting.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Clark County (NV) Re-Vote & The Caucus Question Revisited

[Well, it is more a do-over than a re-vote, but I'll stick with the descriptor I used on Friday.] After an inundation of alternate delegates postponed the initial attempt to hold a second step caucus on February 23, Clark County (Las Vegas) Democrats were finally able to gather to vote on and send delegates to the state convention next month. And while there were Obama gains from the precinct level to the county level, they were not as strong as the gains he enjoyed in a similar situation in Texas late last month. Unlike in Texas however, he finished second to Clinton (at least in Clark County), but made up ground in the race for national convention delegates coming out of the state.

Following Saturday's caucus in Las Vegas, Clinton dropped slightly from 55% of precinct delegates in the area to 54% of the county's delegates to the state convention. Oppositely, Obama managed to increase his support from 44% in Clark County in the initial caucuses to 46% in this latest round. Keep in mind though, that these delegates are not pledged (per se) to either candidate, which means that the battle by both campaigns for every delegate will continue in Nevada until those numbers are solidified by the state convention in mid-May.

During this cycle caucuses have come under more scrutiny because of the closeness of the race, and it has been the variations in the rules of all these caucuses that has driven most of the conversation. One distinction to be made is the number of steps in the process. There have been 14 caucuses (counting Texas but not those in the territories) and nine have multiple steps while the other five go from the initial caucus step to the state convention (only two steps). It could be hypothesized then that the greater the number of steps in the caucus process, the greater the chance would be for a candidate's support (in the aggregate) across a state to shift in some way.

Among the group of multiple step caucuses (CO, IA, KS, MN, NE, NV, ND, TX and WA), Iowa was the most likely to see some movement in the support levels of the candidates from one step to the next. More candidates were involved in that initial step who subsequently withdrew from the race. Both Clinton and Obama should have gained at the county convention levels. And both did...depending on who you ask (MSNBC or Politico's Ben Smith). Obama jumped from 37% support in the first step to either 51% or 56% on the county level. Clinton gained also, but only modestly; going from 29% support in the January 3 caucuses to either 31% or 36% support in the 99 Democratic county conventions. And there's still some wiggle room for both to tweak their numbers in the state convention because John Edwards maintains a small amount of support even after the county convention phase.

There has also been some delegate shift in Texas and Colorado. Including Nevada, that makes four of the eight multiple step states that have seen some changes from one phase to the next. Two others, Kansas and North Dakota, did not have any changes since the first step predetermined the outcome of the second step. That leaves Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington. Minnesota's Democratic Farm-Labor party allotted the month after the state's February 5 caucuses for "county unit" contests to elect delegates to the congressional district conventions to be held any time starting this coming Saturday (April 19) but before the beginning part of June (source: Results then come in at a staggered pace. The results out of Washington will be similarly staggered. The Democratic party there runs a convoluted system of events that is dependent upon whether a county is completely within a legislative district, split between districts or is split into several legislative districts (Seattle area). Nebraska will not hold its second step until next month.

Of the two step states, none have held their state conventions. Only North Dakota among the caucus states has held its state convention.

Moving forward then, Iowa, with its contingent of Edwards delegates is the most likely to see any significant shift in national convention delegate numbers between now and the end of the delegate selection process in June. Nevada though is a close second because the delegates to the state convention are not pledged to any one candidate.

The movement continues to be toward Obama, which isn't helping Clinton close the gap in the number of delegates (or make a case to superdelegates to align behind her).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Caucus Question: Texas 2008

Last week I posed the caucus question; the idea that as the steps in the caucus process progress, the percentage of support for the winning candidate from the first step increases. Anecdotally at least, that has been the conventional wisdom on the subject for the post-McGovern-Fraser reform period. Of course, when the field of candidates is winnowed, the possibility of the winning candidate (in one of the early caucuses) gaining support increases substantially. When the environment remains competitive, as it has among the top two candidates on the Democratic side during the 2008 cycle, the likelihood of such a substantial increase is far smaller. In fact, the Colorado caucuses from this year offer some potential evidence of the opposite happening: a second place finisher gaining delegates as the process continues.

Yesterday, Texas Democrats held their second round contests; the state senate district conventions. In the Dallas area, Obama managed to maintain the same level of support in the second round in the area's five senate districts that he brought in from the first step on March 4. In El Paso County, where Hillary Clinton won, both in the caucuses and the primary, Clinton's support increased to around 94%. What that is up from is a bit of an unknown. The New York Times' Election Guide shows Clinton with a 3:1 lead in El Paso County with 58% of the precincts reporting. So, we know it is an increase, but just don't know by exactly how much. [UPDATE: Across Texas, we now have a better idea about how the most recent step in the Texas caucus system went. Obama seems to have bumped up his statewide total to 58% heading into June's state convention (Thanks to Paul Gurian for the link.).] If that number holds steady when the delegates are allocated at that convention, Obama would net 37 39 of the 67 delegates at stake in the caucus portion of the Texas delegate selection process. That margin would yield a three delegate lead over Clinton across both contests (despite Obama losing the primary). As it stands Clinton holds a 65-61 advantage in primary delegates, but that seven delegate margin in caucus delegates would put Obama over the top in Texas.

What both of these examples illustrate
is that there is another layer to be added to the explanation of the caucus question. To assume then, that the overall winner or loser of the contest's first step gains or loses support statewide becomes an issue of aggregation. Precinct-level winner continue to maintain support or gain in those areas as the process continues. It isn't enough to say that Obama won 37% of caucus support in the precinct caucuses in Iowa and then upped that to 52% in the county caucuses. The question becomes one of whether he maintained and increased the lead in the areas he did well on during the original caucus.

While we wait for Pennsylvania on April 22, the second step caucuses occurring in the interim are worth watching. With the delegate margin where it is (between 100 and 150 delegates), fluctuations in these pre-convention steps could alter the ultimate count of delegates that heads to the convention in August. Which states are we looking at then?

April 4-6: North Dakota state convention
April 5: Delaware state convention
Washington legislative district conventions
April 5-May 3: Mississippi congressional district conventions
April 12: Kansas district conventions
April 19: Washington county and legislative district conventions

[source: The Green Papers]

No matter which candidate we're talking about, every little bit helps.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Caucus Question

During the last (pre-hiatus) discussion group meeting, Paul [Gurian] brought up the idea that in typical (Super Tuesday era) nomination campaigns, caucus winners usually gain support as the number of steps in the process increase. There are a few issues at work here:

1) Some (or all) of the candidates, who won support initially, have dropped out of the race. By the time the second step rolls around, those free agents move over to the leader (or presumptive nominee).

2) If the nomination is still in doubt as subsequent caucus steps begin, the first step winner's supporters use that original plurality/majority to tweak the numbers for the next step even further in their direction. In a competitive environment then, this majority builds a modest level of momentum throughout the process, giving the original winner a delegate total greater than the projection following the first step.

As best Paul and I can ascertain, there really isn't any literature addressing this question directly, only anecdotal evidence from campaigns past. In the Super Tuesday era though, this hasn't been an issue because the field had been winnowed significantly ahead of any second step caucus meetings. This anecdotal evidence then would come from the elections after reform but prior to 1984 or 1988. In other words, the Carter vs. the field in 1976, Carter/Kennedy and Mondale/Hart match ups. Carter was a steady force throughout the 1976 nomination phase. After doing well early in 1980, Carter's support faded down the stretch as Kennedy made gains. Mondale, after having lost in early caucus rounds to Hart in 1984, gained delegates in subsequent rounds to take a significant pledged delegate lead into that year's convention.

There are two hypotheses that emerges from this:
1) The winner of the first step gains delegates in subsequent steps.
2) The frontrunner (but not necessarily the winner) gains delegates as to process progresses.
Both require controlling for either the level of competition or the amount of candidate winnowing that has taken place. And in the frontloaded era, that winnowing has been rapid enough that the second steps fell after the point at which a presumptive nominee had been determined.

[The question then becomes one of data collection and this is the tricky part, simply because the transparency of the caucus process is less than that of a primary election. The reporting just isn't the same.]

The 2008 campaign though, fits the pre-Super Tuesday era model in that the competition has extended beyond the massive, early clustering of state contests. Given Obama's success in the caucuses then, it stands to reason that he would gain even more ground in the delegate count over Clinton as the next steps are held. However, there may actually be some evidence to the contrary: that Clinton has made some gains in the lead up to the second step caucuses. The Monkey Cage (via Enik Rising) has shown that in Colorado, the post-caucus numbers have fluctuated some in the time after the precinct caucuses were held on February 5. This whole thing is speculative, but it is a means through which the Clinton campaign could make strides in the delegate disparity between the two Democratic candidates. In one state, flipping a delegate or two won't make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but if this is happening across all the caucus states, then those changes could become significant.

How then does this fit in with the research question posed above? Well, it adds another layer to consider. Things get more complicated as a factor like specific candidate strategy to protect or steal delegates as the process progresses. Much of this would depend again on the competitiveness of the race and how each candidate is positioned in relation to the other. That we have witnessed a virtual tie in the 2008 Democratic race is something of an anomaly compared to races past (even competitive nomination races). And that is where the extra layer--the possibility of delegate shifting--originates. If it is perceived that the options are still open, then delegates are as a result more likely to entertain the idea of shifting. Whereas, if the race was signaling the emergence of one candidate over the other (no matter how small that lead), delegates would be less likely to move.

This is an interesting question that even just a case study of how the 2008 race (in caucuses) would provide some enlightening answers.