Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Arizona

This is the twelfth 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.


Remember Florida over three weeks ago? Well, in Arizona on Tuesday, February 28 we will all bear witness to Florida, part II. least in some way, shape or form. 

Arizona, like Florida, has broken the Republican National Committee rules on 2012 delegate selection by holding a binding nominating contest before the first Tuesday in March. Arizona, like Florida, has also broken those same rules in terms of how the Republican Party in the Grand Canyon state will allocate their delegates to the national convention in Tampa. Arizona, like Florida, was also sanctioned for the first violation -- losing half the delegation for a primary too early by RNC standards -- but was not further penalized for maintaining the same (and in violation) winner-take-all formula Arizona Republicans have utilized in the past.2

Now, to be clear, Arizona had a delegation of 58 cut in half and will allocate 29 delegates to the winner of the statewide vote in the presidential preference election (No, it isn't a primary, though it operates like one.) on Tuesday. The end result is the same as it was in Florida: the winner takes all of the delegates. The process behind the ultimate decision to remain winner-take-all, however, was different in Arizona. As you will recall, the Florida delegate allocation has traditionally been winner-take-all with the at-large delegates being allocated to the statewide winner and the congressional district delegates being allocated to the winner of each of the congressional districts. But the state party added a clause to its delegate selection rules prior to the 2008 cycle that allowed the state party chair the latitude, in the event of sanctions from the national party, to make all of the remaining delegates at-large and thus winner-take-all based on the statewide vote. 

There is no similar clause in the Arizona Republican Party rules. The customary method of allocating delegates in the Grand Canyon state has been to allocate all of the delegates -- both at-large and congressional district delegates -- on a winner-take-all basis based on the statewide vote in the preference election. Again, the practical implication of the differences across Florida and Arizona is effectively nil. But the means to the end were different.

Yet, where this may matter is when and [this is a BIG] if there are similar threats by the three runners-up in the race to challenge the allocation method in Arizona as in Florida. Rule 10 of the Republican Party of Florida rules at least gives the party something of a leg to stand on in any argument over a challenge to the winner-take-all allocation of the delegates in the Sunshine state. It establishes that there is a precedent of allocating -- under normal, unpenalized circumstances -- delegates in a way that bifurcates the delegates; splits them into at-large and district delegates. In that situation, Florida Republicans could make the case to allocate only the at-large delegates proportionally,3 thus keeping Florida from having all of its delegates proportionally allocated. 

Arizona Republicans have no similar precedent to fall back on. A stronger case could be made by those challenging any winner-take-all method of allocation that the 29 delegates by strictly proportionally allocated without having made a distinction between at-large and congressional district delegates. 

That being said, the RNC has already signaled that such challenges are very likely to go nowhere. Part of that is borne out by the fact that the RNC is thinking/hoping the nomination process has resolved itself and these delegate questions are moot. FHQ is inclined to follow that line of thought. But IF this gets ugly and the process is forced into a contested convention, these sorts of questions are going to arise. The strong hunch here is that the RNC would likely not differentiate between Florida and Arizona if both have their delegate allocation challenged. The national party -- in a challenge setting -- is likely to proscribe the same remedy in both cases as opposed to doling out different solutions for each. 

The take home message is that while on the surface Arizona and Florida look alike, there are some subtle differences to note after a deeper look at the rules in each state. 

1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.

2 FHQ should also note that, as in Florida, the Romney campaign has stressed banking early votes in Arizona 

3 The at-large delegates are the only delegates in which it is mandated by the RNC that have to be allocated proportionally absent a minimum 50% threshold. 

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