Friday, December 16, 2011

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: South Carolina

This is the third in a multipart series of posts that will examine the Republican delegate allocation by state.1 The main goal of this exercise is to assess the rules for 2012 -- especially relative to 2008 -- in order to gauge the impact the changes to the rules along the winner-take-all/proportionality spectrum may have on the race for the Republican nomination. As FHQ has argued in the past, this has often been cast as a black and white change. That the RNC has winner-take-all rules and the Democrats have proportional rules. Beyond that, the changes have been wrongly interpreted in a great many cases as having made a 180º change from straight winner-take-all to straight proportional rules in all pre-April 1 primary and caucus states. That is not the case. 

The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).

For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.


[NOTE: See also our additional examination of the post-sanctions delegate allocation in South Carolina.]

One note that FHQ has failed to mention to this point in the series is that there is a subsection to Rule 15 in the Rules of the Republican Party that not only carves out an early -- February, in theory -- position for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, but it also exempts those four states from the proportionality requirement to which every other state is party. That exemption means very little in Iowa and New Hampshire as FHQ has shown, but in South Carolina, the rule is of great consequence in light of state party rules on the matter of allocation (see Rule 11.b).

The South Carolina Republican Party, by rule, allocates its national convention delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district and statewide. Unlike some subsequent states FHQ will examine soon, however, South Carolina -- because of that exemption -- will not have to set a minimum threshold (50% of the vote or greater) by which winner-take-all allocation is triggered. If a candidate wins the statewide vote by one vote (with, say, 20% of the vote) that candidate is entitled to all of the at-large delegates (26 delegates before the 50% penalty for hold a primary before February). The same holds true for votes on the congressional district level (3 delegates per 7 congressional districts; 21 in total before the 50% penalty). Note also that there is no minimum vote percentage floor required to win delegates. That said, it is unlikely in a slightly (to greatly) winnowed field post-Iowa/New Hampshire that a candidate will win South Carolina with less than 30% of the vote. Both John McCain and Mike Huckabee cleared that threshold in 2008 in a very narrow victory for McCain. That isn't to say such an outcome cannot happen, but it isn't, perhaps, likely.

Through the first three contests, then, there is no change in the allocation rules in 2012 versus 2008. The sequence is the same, the spacing between contests is similar -- albeit without a Michigan primary between New Hampshire and South Carolina -- and the rules are the same. The only difference -- potentially -- are the dynamics of the race.

That may or may not change with the next state on the list: Florida. Things may get quirky with the Sunshine state.

Delegate allocation score: 0 [No change from 2008.]
Cumulative allocation score: 0 [No change through three contests from 2008.]

1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories or account for the fact that there is no public information on Republican delegate selection in some states at this point.

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