Monday, September 14, 2015

Washington Republicans Settle on February 20 Caucuses for 2016, but...

Following last month's decision by a bipartisan committee to keep the Washington state presidential primary in May 2016, there were a couple of questions that remained for the Republican Party in the Evergreen state.1 One concerned whether the Washington State Republican Party would opt schedule early caucuses to complement the later primary, but the second was over the delegate selection process. Would the party continue to split the allocation of national convention delegates roughly evenly across the primary and caucuses or would it shift to allocating all of the delegates in the presumably earlier caucuses?

There was nothing out there in the time since August to suggest that the party was entertaining the shift to allocating all of its national convention delegates through a caucus/convention process, but theoretically, it would have made some sense in view of the majority of calendar movement in the post-reform era. Earlier has almost always been viewed as better from the vantage point of the states.2

However, Washington Republicans went with a none of the above answer at their state central committee meeting on Saturday, September 12. Instead of keeping the half and half allocation approach or opting for allocation through an early-starting caucus/convention process, Washington Republicans chose to shift the entire allocation to the May 24 presidential primary.3 In other words, 38 of the 41 total delegates will be proportionally allocated and bound to presidential candidates based on the statewide and congressional district results in the presidential primary election.

Though the national convention delegates will be allocated and bound based on the May primary, the process of selecting them will begin with caucuses on February 20, 2016. There will be no straw poll or presidential preference vote at those precinct caucuses, but delegates will be elected to go to the county conventions which will in turn elect delegates to attend the May 19-21 state convention. It will be from that pool of state convention delegates that the national convention delegates will be chosen (and later bound by the primary the following Tuesday).

This is not a situation like Colorado, where part of the intent was to have an unbound delegation from the state at the national convention. Washington Republicans will select delegates through a caucus/convention system, but allocate and bind them to candidates based on the primary election. The February caucuses, then, are compliant with Republican National Committee rules on delegate selection.

1 The committee was bipartisan, but the vote to maintain the status quo -- a late May presidential primary election -- broke along party lines with Democrats uniting to prevent the two-thirds result that would have ended in a March primary date.

2 The question has always been whether state actors are both willing and able to shift the date of a primary or caucus. Going later, particularly after 75% of the total number of national convention delegates have been allocated, has tended to be a gamble that has placed states on the outside looking in on the process. But a wide open presidential race at rules decision-making time in September 2015 has a way, rightly or wrongly, of affecting the likelihood of gambling that the race will extend to your contest.

3 Here is the full press release from Washington State Republican Party about the rules change:
The Washington State Republican Party, at its State Committee meeting September 12 in Pasco, decided its Rules for the 2016 Caucus and Convention including delegate allocation and Caucus date. 
All (100%) of our state's delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention (Cleveland - July 18-21, 2016) will be allocated in accordance with the vote of the people in the Washington State Primary (currently scheduled for May 24th, 2016). 
The WSRP State convention, scheduled for May 19-21 in Pasco is four days before the Primary. National attention will be focused on our state, and GOP presidential candidates will have a strong incentive to campaign in Washington in an effort to win the vote of the people. 
The allocation of delegates is in accordance with the National Rules of the Republican Party, utilizing a proportional system, with eleven at-large delegates being allocated on a proportional basis based on the statewide vote, and three delegates allocated on a proportional basis for each Congressional District. If a candidate receives a majority of the vote within a Congressional Delegate, that candidate will get all three delegates from that Congressional District. 
All GOP caucuses will take place on Saturday February 20, with county GOP conventions taking place in March and April. County conventions will elect delegates to the state convention, which in turn will elect delegates to the national convention. 100% of our state's Republican delegates to the national convention will be bound by the decision of the VOTERS, unlike the Democrats whose nominee will be chosen by a small percentage of Democrats at their statewide caucuses in March.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

Advisory No More: Nebraska Republicans Will Use Winner-Take-All Primary in 2016

Nebraska has had a presidential primary election throughout much of the post-reform era, but ever since Cornhusker state Democrats traded the May primary for earlier caucuses during the 2008 cycle, the presidential primary vote has been a virtually meaningless addition to a broader primary ballot.

In fact, on the Republican side, the presidential primary has tended to be advisory while having little or no impact on the actual allocation and binding of delegates to the national convention. For years, then, Nebraska Democrats opted into the primary and Republicans opted out. That will change in 2016, and the state party decision to change from business as usual -- adopting the presidential primary -- has as much to do with Republican National Committee delegate selection rules changes as it does with anything else.

First, the advisory Republican primary in the past has run parallel to a caucus/convention system that culminated with the selection of a bound delegation to the national convention. The state convention and delegate selection have tended to take place in July. That works in cycles in which the national conventions are scheduled in August and September. However, the RNC decision to condense the primary calendar -- on both ends -- and schedule an earlier national convention has forced rules requiring state parties to have completed their respective delegate selection processes by early June.

That put the usual July Republican state convention in Nebraska on the wrong side of the RNC delegate selection rules.

Still, the convention -- or needing an earlier one in any event -- was just one rules change hoop Nebraska Republicans had to jump through. The state party also had to shed its non-binding caucuses. That was due not only to RNC rules requiring for the first time the binding of national convention delegates in 2016, but to a change in Nebraska state law in 2014 as well. The latter newly required both state parties to allocate at least 80% of their delegates through either a primary or caucus/convention process. Those RNC rules, however, pushed Nebraska Republicans to make a decision between a caucus process that would have begun prior to the mid-May primary election or to choose the primary as the mode by which the party would select, allocate and bind 2016 delegates.1

Faced with those alternatives, the Nebraska Republican Party opted for compliance via the path of least resistance: using the primary.

Given that decision, though, the party did have the latitude to choose any method of delegate allocation based on the results of the May primary. Here, the Nebraska Republican Party chose a unique route relative to other states with delegate selection events after March 2016. The party chose to allocate their delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.2 That decision may be more a function of being required to make a change -- from completely unbound to bound -- than anything else. States with contests after March that also had rules binding delegates have shown little movement toward rules that are or will be any more winner-take-most/all than they were in 2012.

Forced to bind delegates, Nebraska has decided to go for the maximum effect: binding all 33 non-automatic delegates to the winner of the May 10 presidential primary.3 The remaining three automatic, party delegates will be free to either operate above the fray and remain unbound or cast their lot with a candidate of their choice (whether reflective of the primary winner or not).

1 Any statewide vote on presidential preference would be the result to which the allocation of delegates would have been tied. So, Nebraska Republicans could have had a preference vote at precinct caucuses across the state, but they would have to have preceded the mid-May primary to be the event that affected delegate allocation. Under that scenario, the party could have retained the advisory primary, though would likely have had to acknowledge more formally that it could not be advisory ex post facto (after the precinct caucuses preference vote).

2 Even the language of that state party rules (party constitution) change is unique (Article VII, Section 3(a)):
All candidates for National Convention delegate and alternate delegate at the State Convention shall designate the presidential candidate to whom they are committed and shall be bound by such commitment if elected in accordance with Nebraska State Law. Delegate and alternate candidates shall indicate their commitments by mailing a notice to the State Headquarters, postmarked no later than 10 business days prior to the date the State Convention commences. Only individuals pledged to the candidate who wins the Nebraska Primary Election shall be eligible for election as delegates or alternate delegates to the National Convention.
That last line is the important one. The rule does not directly say that the allocation is winner-take-all, but only the delegates affiliated with/pledged to the winner of the primary are eligible to be selected by the state convention.

These changes to the state party constitution were made on June 6, 2015.

3 Yes, the maximum effect idea assumes that the race is still competitive when it gets to May. That may or may not happen. The point at which 75% of the delegates will have been allocated will occur in late April, before the Nebraska primary.

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Wyoming Republicans Aiming for March 1 Caucuses in 2016

During past cycles, the Wyoming Republican Party has selected delegates to the national convention through a caucus/convention process. In that respect, the mode of delegate selection will not change in 2016. However, changes to the national party rules forced the Wyoming Republican Party to entertain alterations to its standard protocol; changes that came to fruition during the party's July state central committee meeting.

There has been some talk recently about the move made by the Republican Party in Colorado to strip out the presidential preference vote from the precinct caucuses stage of its caucus/convention system. That change is viewed as significant if not controversial because it seemingly renders the precinct caucuses stage meaningless. But that has tended to be the exact same thing that neighboring Wyoming Republicans have done in the past. Across the northern border of Colorado, Wyoming Republicans have typically held early precinct caucuses to select delegates to move on to and participate in county conventions. It has been at that second level -- the second step in the caucus/convention process -- where Wyoming Republicans have conducted a presidential preference vote. That vote, in turn, has selected roughly half of the Equality state's delegates to the Republican National convention. The other portion of delegates are elected at the later state convention.

But 2016 will be different for Wyoming Republicans.

Again, the tinkering that the RNC has done to the national party delegate selection rules has sent some state parties scrambling in an attempt to maintain or come back into compliance. That has led to action on the state level that reveals some variance in the interpretation of the national party rules. In Wyoming's case, state party bylaws permit the party to hold a "straw poll" -- presidential preference vote -- in January or February. Since those types of votes are required now by the national party rules to bind delegates to particular candidates, a January or February vote would place Wyoming in violation of the Republican National Committee rules.

To come out from under the shadow of sanctions from the national party, Wyoming Republicans have opted to schedule their precinct caucuses on March 1 and to conduct a straw poll -- presidential preference vote -- at that stage. Delegate candidates for the county conventions -- on Saturday, March 12 -- will be required to state their candidate preferences at the precinct stage.

What does all this mean?

For starters, there is a date on which the Wyoming Republican Party delegate selection process will begin: March 1. Also, though, we can glean from this action that the state party felt compelled to move everything -- every step of the caucus/convention process -- beyond the February/March line between carve-out states and the beginning of the proportionality window. In other words, unlike Colorado, Wyoming Republicans perceived a need to move the precinct caucus stage (with a straw poll vote) out of the carve-out state window for 2016. The new binding requirement from the RNC and stiffer penalties for contests starting before March 1 prompted Wyoming Republicans to delay the start of their delegate selection process until March.

Compared to 2012, the 2016 Wyoming Republican Party will begin its delegate selection process in March and with a binding straw poll vote.

A tip of the cap to Liberty News for flagging the central committee changes for FHQ.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Georgia Presidential Primary Set for March 1

This is not surprising news, but the Georgia presidential primary for 2016 is now formally set for March 1, SEC primary day.

Four years ago, the Georgia state legislature -- mimicking the method long used in New Hampshire -- ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary in the Peach state to the secretary of state. The objective was not only to streamline the process of setting the date, but to also buy the state a bit more time in that process. By law, the work of the Georgia legislature is typically done by the beginning of May; one of the earliest adjournment points in the country. That puts Georgia at a disadvantage if other states decide to conduct earlier primaries later in that year leading up to the point at which voters are actually casting ballots in the nomination races.

So, if Florida decides late to move its primary to January, Georgia -- under the old law -- was stuck without any way of also shifting its primary to an advantageous position on the calendar.

But again, that changed in 2011. The secretary of state's office in Georgia gained the ability to set the date of the presidential primary. That made Georgia a bit of a free agent state as the calendar chaos was winding down in September 2011. Then as now, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp waited until September to finalize the date of the contest. Then as now, Secretary Kemp also set the date for the first Tuesday in March.

Unlike 2011, though, this was not much of a surprise. Kemp has spearheaded the entire SEC primary movement for the last couple of years. He has talked up the March 1 date and Georgia's place there throughout the intervening months. However, the election had not been formally set. That changed today.

Georgia is set for March 1. The Peach state will vote then alongside Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. And Georgia trails only Texas in terms of the number of delegates available (in a given state) on March  1.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

North Carolina House Votes Not to Concur With Senate on March 15 Presidential Primary Bill

The North Carolina House on Tuesday, September 2 vote unanimously -- 104-0 -- to not concur with the Senate changes to HB 373. That bill would move the presidential primary in the Tar Heel state back into compliance with Republican National Committee delegate selection rules with a March election.

The motion to not concur was brought by North Carolina Republican National Committeeman and state Rep. David Lewis (R-53rd, Harnett).

The bill now heads to a conference committee to work out the issues between the two chambers. Meanwhile the clock is ticking down to the October 1 RNC deadline that requires state parties to have their delegate selection plans finalized.

UPDATE: 2:15pm
Gary Robertson at the Associated Press has more on the motivation behind the move to shift the discussion of HB 373 to a conference committee:
Lewis and Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, told The Associated Press lawmakers are discussing several other election changes, many of them technical and some sought by the State Board of Elections. But they also said separately that holding only one primary in March also was being examined.
There is a lot layered into such a short bill. The expenditure for a separate presidential primary election has always been present, though not a sticking point in the proceedings to this point. Democrats in the minority in both chambers of the General Assembly have favored the later and consolidated May primary date, but majority Republicans have largely ignored that issue to this point. Creating a consolidated primary but scheduling it for March would follow the lead of states like Arkansas (earlier this cycle) and Alabama (in 2011). That would reduce the state and county spending on elections, but have ramifications elsewhere. Filing deadlines, for example would have to shift likely into December (from February) if they are to maintain the same filing window.

Bear in mind also, that this bill currently changes not only the date of the North Carolina presidential primary, but also resets the baseline method of delegate allocation in the state. To this point, state law has required a proportional allocation of national convention delegates. HB 373, however, switches that to a winner-take-all requirement. The only relief state parties have from that mandate is if that winner-take-all requirement is inconsistent with national party rules. North Carolina Democrats would then be able to adopt alternate proportional allocation rules in line with DNC requirements.

A winner-take-all allocation for North Carolina Republicans, on the other hand, would be consistent with RNC rules, but would seemingly conflict with the proportional state party rules (re)adopted at the state convention earlier this year. The proposed change in HB 373 does not include an exemption if the state law and state party allocation rules are mismatched. Yet, the RNC rules give precedence to the state party rules if such a conflict exists.

[NOTE: FHQ just spoke with Gary Robertson at AP and he said that Rep. Lewis in his comments to the press after the House vote did not bring up the allocation provision as one that required any further ironing out in HB 373. But it was not a matter that was asked about either.]

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Missouri Republicans Abandon Winner-Take-All Delegate Allocation Rules

Jo Mannies at St. Louis Public Radio is reporting that the Missouri Republican Party has opted to drop its traditional winner-take-all method of allocating delegates through its March 15 primary in 2016.1

This is an interesting development out of the Show-Me state.

One thing that FHQ wants to impress upon regular readers and passersby alike during this 2016 cycle is the distinction between strictly winner-take-all states and every other type of allocation plan that other states are utilizing. The truly winner-take-all states award the winner of the primary all of the delegates available from that state. That is true even if the candidate wins only a plurality by one vote over another candidate. This is how Florida will allocate delegates in 2016. It is how Missouri Republicans have tended to allocate delegates in the years in which they have held a presidential primary.

The reason for that emphasis -- on strictly winner-take-all and everything else -- is that in a closely contested race with a large field, that difference in allocation methods makes a large difference.2 Winner-take-all contests create delegate count separation that a proportional allocation does not provide. That competition also means that the hybrid allocation methods (including plans like those winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district, like Missouri's) tend to end up closer to the proportional end of the spectrum than the winner-take-all side.

States switching to and from strictly winner-take-all rules, like Missouri Republicans have just done, are a pretty big deal. That is the reason that FHQ continues to point out here, on Twitter and to anyone who will listen that there are only a handful of these truly winner-take-all states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, Utah and Washington DC as well as probably North Carolina and Ohio) on the board. There are not post-March 14 states -- those after the proportionality window closes -- that are lining up to be winner-take-all contests.

But, looking at that list, there are several that are clustered on March 15 (Florida and probably North Carolina and Ohio) and March 22 (Arizona and Utah). Missouri on March 15 will not be a winner-take-all contest. In fact, it will be the only contest on that date that is not winner-take-all (or a primary like the one in Illinois in which delegates are directly elected).

That -- Missouri's switch to a winner-take-all by congressional district method -- carries both risk and reward. The reward is that the move is likely to attract candidates to the state in the near term and eventually next year when the primary is approaching. However, the gamble is that the shift will mean that Missouri might not carry as much weight in the delegate count as it could or once did.

The reward seems to have won out in Missouri and that is borne out elsewhere as well, as post-March 14 states are not moving to winner-take-all methods en masse. The opposite may be true, and that has potential implications for how quickly someone arrives at the requisite number of delegates necessary to claim the Republican presidential nomination.

1 The state legislature's inability to reschedule the 2012 Show-Me state presidential primary for a compliant (not February) date in 2011 forced the Missouri Republican Party to conduct later, compliant caucuses instead. Those caucuses had no clear delegate binding mechanism. Missouri's delegation went to the Tampa convention pledged/aligned with particular candidates, but not bound to them. In any event, the 2012 caucuses did not feature a winner-take-all allocation either.

2 And to be entirely truthful, it really does not take a large field to accomplish this difference, just competition. The 2012 cycle is a good example of that. And yes, the field will also winnow. We just don't know exactly how yet.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Colorado Republicans' Preference-less Caucuses and the Delegate Binding Conundrum

Late last week, the Colorado Republican Party executive committee unanimously voted to hold caucuses next year but to do so without a presidential preference vote. The opening precinct caucuses across the Centennial state would initiate the delegate selection process, but not include a vote on which to base the binding of those delegates to the national convention. In part, that was intended to allow Colorado Republicans the latitude to conduct those caucuses as early as February 2, but also to keep the overall process as consistent with the past standard operating procedure the state party has traditionally utilized.

That party protocol has been to keep the delegation to the national convention unbound (though not necessarily unpledged/unaligned to particular candidates). A change in the Republican National Committee delegate selection rules for the 2016 cycle, however, necessitated some change in the state party rules in Colorado. Either the party could hold caucuses with a presidential preference vote that would bind the delegates to particular candidates, or it could seemingly reduce its role in the nomination process by removing the preference vote altogether as a means of skirting the binding provisions (in order to maintain an unbound delegation at the Cleveland convention).

Colorado Republicans have chosen the latter.

Yet, one of FHQ's reactions to this change was that this was possibly only part of the process of changing the rules. Executive committees tend to make/recommend changes but state central committees ultimately ratify them. The Colorado Republican rules change has cleared the first barrier but not the second. This has been underreported to this point, but was made quite clear in former Colorado Republican Party chair, Dick Wadhams', op-ed response to the decision to eliminate the caucus's preference vote.1 Wadhams was asking for reconsideration of the unanimous executive committee vote at the state central committee meeting next month.

And the party may be headed in that direction if Colorado's Republican National Committeeman, Mike Kopp, is to be believed. Kopp, who was not present for the executive committee vote last week told the Denver Post's John Frank that the decision to eliminate the preference vote at the caucuses was based on a misinterpretation of the RNC delegate selection rules.

There is a lot that does not add up about that conclusion and/or the process from which it was derived. First, FHQ spoke with Frank about his initial story concerning the preference vote decision. In our discussion, Frank mentioned that he had spoken with someone at the RNC and that the party had said that the decision out of Colorado was "rules compliant". Second, Kopp may not have been at the executive committee meeting, but FHQ is hard-pressed to imagine that there was no forewarning -- no agenda -- about what would transpire. The Colorado Republican Party informed FHQ in late July that the rules for 2016 would be considered at a late August executive committee meeting and finalized at a late September state central committee meeting. This could not or should not have come to a surprise to either the RNC or one of the Colorado representatives in the body.

That is perhaps a long way of saying that FHQ does not buy the "misinterpretation" angle in this instance. It feels more like there is some back channel pressure from the RNC for Colorado to bind the delegates, and that, in the near term, it is ex post facto being called a state-level misinterpretation.

This really is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things (of the Republican nomination, for instance). FHQ is not here to piece together some wild conspiracy theory or cover up story. Rather, this Colorado example is indicative of a broader question that has popped up periodically, but persistently throughout 2015.

Not a Uniquely Colorado Issue
Colorado Republicans are not alone. The addition of a Republican binding requirement for the 2016 cycle has been a problem almost since it was added in 2012 at Tampa and amended in April 2013. The binding requirement itself has been problematic because some Republicans both rank-and-file and within state parties have balked at being forced to bind delegates to candidates based on primary or caucus votes. The position of the RNC has traditionally been to leave that discretion up to the states. Asking the states to give up that latitude, then, is by its nature a problem to some. Giving up power in politics is never easy.

But that is only part of the picture in Colorado and elsewhere. The binding requirement is described in Rule 16(a)(1), but it is that rule in combination with Rule 16(a)(2) that has served as a real chokepoint in the state-level decision-making in response to the national party rules change as well as the interpretation of how it will be implemented. 16(a)(1) lays out the binding requirement, but 16(a)(2) describes how that will translate to an actual delegate count at the convention.

Let's look at the language of the latter component -- Rule 16(a)(2) -- before proceeding:
The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.
The intent behind the addition of this rule and its amended version was to tamp down on some of the perceived mischief at the Tampa convention during the roll call vote. The quickest, easiest way to do that is to set up some form of binding mechanism with some modicum of enforcement. Rule 16(a) seems to accomplish both.

Still, questions linger. The main one is just how strict the RNC is going to be in its own interpretation of these rules at the convention. There, we have a few clues, but also quite a bit of ambiguity. Will, for instance, the RNC strictly adhere to that passage in the rules and count up the delegates as a direct reflection of the primary and caucus results? If so, that makes the doomsday, Rule 40 fueled convention scenarios Dave Catanese and Reid Wilson recently described.2 Instead, though, will the RNC take a more relaxed approach to following that binding mechanism at the convention? That relaxed approach might look as it traditionally has. In other words, as candidates withdraw from the race, they release any acquired delegates, thus making them unbound free agents at the convention. Those free agent delegates would be difficult to fit into the Rule 16(a)(2) strictures. The delegate in that scenario has no "obligation".

The thing is, there is no real guidance in the rules about the release of delegates as traditionally practiced or otherwise. Absent that, there is confusion once a new rule like the binding requirement is introduced. How do states react? How do they respond with rules changes to delegate selection rules at the state level?

Again, there are some clues as to the position of the RNC on this. Colorado Republican National Committeeman Kopp mentioned this in his comments to John Frank at the Denver Post that part of the misinterpretation within the Colorado GOP was that, "You can unbind your delegates if the candidate is no longer in the race."

That may be true, but that is not a message that is clearly conveyed in the national party rules or universally known by state parties in the wake of the binding rule's addition for 2016. That has led to some guessing and second guessing at the state level and among those following along with the process in terms of interpreting the rules and crafting compliant rules for state level processes. It is that kind of ambiguity that introduces potentially significant variation in how states respond.

Now, throw on top of that the October 1 RNC deadline to complete delegate selection rules and the uncertainty of the moment and one ends up with a messy context in which to craft rules.3 That late deadline means that state parties are finalizing their rules when attention to the campaign is ramping up. And during this 2016 cycle that translates to an extra dose of uncertainty -- whether just perceived or real -- given how large the field is, how wide open the nomination appears.

If you are at the state level attempting to craft rules in a time of uncertainty for an uncertain future, how do you gameplan? It is not easy and states certainly do not want to box themselves in on any of the nomination proceedings (delegate count, voice at the convention, etc.) through rules they themselves have made.

From an institutional standpoint, there really is some value in having rules in place early. The Democratic National Committee, by contrast, requires the submission of delegate selection plans for review in May the year before a presidential election year. Those states are then locked into their plans after approval in the summer (unless matters outside of the state party's control change. i.e.: a state legislature changing the date of a primary election). There are drawbacks to that too -- limitations on what can actually be changed late -- but there is something to having in place and sticking with a set a rules.

It creates some certainty in a process where that can often be lacking.

Come 2016, all of this may not matter in the slightest. However, it is something to bear in mind as the remaining state parties are finalizing the rules that will govern their delegate selection processes over the next month (before that October 1 deadline). Their collective perceptions of where this race is going or might go, in Colorado and elsewhere, will have an impact on the resulting rules.

1 Of note is that Wadhams oversaw the addition of the preference vote to the delegate selection process as chair during the lead up to the 2008 presidential nomination process. It is noteworthy both because Wadhams seemingly has a dog in this fight, but also because the caucuses to that point in time did not include a preference vote. To be quite clear here, Colorado returned to the caucus format for 2004 after three consecutive cycles of having a state-funded presidential primary election. Of course, preference only counts when there is a competitive nomination race. Before 1992 -- when the primary system began -- there were only three instances in which there was true competition for the Republican nomination: 1976, 1980 and 1988. In the post-reform era, then, Colorado Republicans have held some form of a caucus/convention system without a preference vote four times (out of 11 total post-reform cycles, seven competitive Republican nomination cycles).

2 The short version of this that has gained some steam in some Republican circles is that because Rule 40 requires a candidate to have a majority of delegates from at least eight states to have his or her name placed in nomination, a large field of candidates and few truly winner-take-all contests makes a messy convention an almost certainty. That is one interpretation. FHQ has held off on commenting about this, but will get to it at some point. In the context of an already long post is not that point.

3 Some states have already completed this rules-making process (see Nevada), but quite a few others, including Colorado, have not.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nevada Republicans Set Caucuses for February 23

The Nevada Republican Party has been targeting this date for much of the year, but in a Saturday, August 29 meeting, the party formalized the date of its 2016 caucuses (and other rules).

The Tuesday, February 23 date will fall just three days after the Saturday, February 20 Republican primary in South Carolina as well as the Democratic caucuses in Nevada.

NOTE: The party also voted to retain its proportional delegate allocation rules. FHQ will dig into and discuss those separately.

Tip of the cap to Jon Ralston for sharing this information with FHQ.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Trump in the Blank

There is a positive relationship between the length of Donald Trump's time atop the Republican presidential primary polls and the breadth of coverage he receives from the news media. As one increases, the other increases as well. But then again, that is how this process tends to work. In the Sides and Vavreck parlance, it's discovery, scrutiny and decline.

The temptation is perhaps to address why, given ample fodder, scrutiny has not yet yielded to decline in Mr. Trump's case. In fact, that discussion -- why hasn't that decline happened? -- has claimed a sizable chunk of the scrutiny phase to this point. Yet, there have been several extended, in-depth discussions of Mr. Trump's policy positions on a number of issues, too.

Mark this last full week of August 2015 down as the week that Mr. Trump's continued polling success intersected with how that might translate into primary success next year. Another way of looking at this is that folks have run out of things to write about Mr. Trump and have finally gotten to the delegate selection rules. If a polling boomlet lasts long enough, people will get bored enough to start talking about the rules.1

The problem with the rules portion of the scrutiny phase (if it comes at all) is that it can often seem haphazardly thrown together and ultimately misguided. That description might be a bit overboard, but it roughly fits the scenario(s) that Josh Marshall and David Fishback have woven together concerning Trump and the the Republican delegate selection rules in place for next year.

That scenario goes something like this:
  1. Trump has the support of a quarter to a third of the Republican primary electorate.2
  2. Trump wins and/or wins a good amount of delegates from the carve-out states and those primaries and caucuses that follow during the proportionality window (March 1-14).
  3. Trump wraps things up once the proportionality window closes and states can allocate delegates in a winner-take-all fashion.3
  4. Trump is the Republican nominee.
Look at that sequence again. With or without the proportionality window, this is roughly the sequence in which any Republican presidential candidate is nominated. All that Marshall and Fishback have done is add Trump's name to the formula; the "frontrunner's" path to the Republican nomination. It is the 50-75 Rule FHQ discussed at Crystal Ball earlier this year. Some candidate wins some delegates early, creates a small lead (around the point at which 50% of the total number of delegates are allocated) and then widens it (around the time that 75% of the total number of delegates are allocated). That established lead is usually either enough to clinch the nomination or put it well enough out of reach for other candidates to force their withdrawals.

Other than the much sexier, but less likely brokered deadlocked convention scenario, this is the other most widely talked about path by which someone gets to the nomination. Marshall and Fishback have filled in the blank with Trump.

So what? It is a storyless doomsday story that is typical of the summer period before a presidential election year.

See, I told you the scrutiny phase scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it gets to the rules.

1 Hey, some of us are bored/boring enough to write about those rules almost exclusively.

2 This glosses over deeper questions about whether the support Trump now enjoys will actually translate to votes once Iowa kicks things off next year.

3 To be clear, not all states on or after March 15 are winner-take-all. If 2012 is a baseline and North Carolina and Ohio are added to the mix, that is still only eight winner-take-all states. Granted, most of those are huddled around March 15 or in the last half of March. But not all of the states are winner-take-all once the proportionality window closes at the end of March 14.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

DC GOP Laying Groundwork for March Convention in 2016

The details will be ironed out during September meetings, but the Washington, DC Republican Party is preparing to hold a convention during the second half of March to allocate and bind its delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next year.

That March Republican convention will replace the June 14 primary scheduled in the district.  The change from a primary to convention was actually necessary. June 14 falls outside of the window in which the Republican National Committee (and the Rules of the Republican Party) allows states and territories to conduct delegate selection events. With the window due to close on the second Saturday in June, Republicans in the district had to begin a search for a back up plan.

By positioning the convention during the second half of March, Republicans in the District of Columbia will be able to continue allocating their delegates in a winner-take-all if the party chooses to follow its past practice. But again, those details along with matters of ballot access will be determined at the September meeting.

DC Democrats will still hold a primary on June 14.

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