Monday, February 6, 2012

Race to 1144: Nevada Caucuses

I don't know that I have too much to add to what has already been said about the Nevada caucuses Saturday night. Nothing that happened was all that unexpected. On Saturday Romney basically outperformed to the expectations set by the scant polling conducted in the Silver state in the lead up to the caucuses and left with a greater than 2:1 delegate advantage over his nearest rivals. Yes, the count took a long time and yes, the turnout was down relative to 2008, but neither is particularly noteworthy.

As inept as the Nevada Republican Party has/has not seemed in the last two presidential caucuses -- and by all accounts, it is the former -- there was no way they were going to take any chances on having another Iowa on their hands. The party erred on the side of caution and took their time. It helped that the outcome -- who had won in particular -- was never in doubt. Things could have been dicey (Iowa-like) between Gingrich and Paul for second, but it never came to that.

FHQ is with Jon Bernstein on the turnout comparison. Don't read too much into that drop from 2008 to 2012. Turnout is a funny business anyway, but it is a particularly strange animal in caucus states.  2008 had the novelty (and chaos) of being Nevada's first time under the early state spotlight, and it had competitive races in both parties. Of course, the 2008 Nevada caucuses were largely ignored as most of the candidates focused on the South Carolina primary occurring on the same January 19 date. What we are left with, then, is a comparison between a secondary contest in 2008 that saw little in the way of candidate attention/campaign effects versus a 2012 contest that was viewed as a Romney firewall and saw increased attention but only in the few days after Florida. It is a flawed comparison ladened with caveat after caveat.

Both the count and the turnout were the stories in a contest that lacked them. The former will certainly be pushed from everyone's minds as soon as the next seemingly big procedural deal arises.

One other issue that has been raised in the fallout of yet another quirky caucus is the likelihood of a switch -- in Nevada -- from a caucus to a primary. Jon Ralston has been tweeting about this on and off today, and I've got to say that I'm skeptical of a switch. 2016 is approximately 23 quadrillion political lifetimes away  -- which is to say a lot can happen. However, far more will be forgotten between now and when that decision is made. That said, there are a few things to bear in mind.

  • First, the economics of the situation matter. Will a state bearing quite a load in the current economic environment be either willing and/or able to pay for a separate presidential primary? I don't know. 
  • Second, are the parties willing to make the switch? Often, state parties will opt for the cost savings -- to the party itself --  of taking a state-funded primary over state party-funded caucuses. That isn't always the case though. In some cases, the state party prefers the relative control over the process a closed caucus provides as opposed to a more open (in terms of higher turnout) primary. The last thing the Nevada state legislature will want to do in 2013 or more likely 2015 is create a primary election that neither party will opt into or even only one party will opt into. Look to the state parties on that one. 
  • Finally, what will the national parties do with Nevada and its position at the front of the queue? More importantly, perhaps, will we see some divergence between the two national parties on how they designate Nevada in the process (ie: the Democrats allowing Nevada to retain the third spot and the Republicans moving another state into the slot).

All of those things factor into a decision on the mode of delegate allocation, and it certainly isn't clear -- though certainly brought into sharp contrast immediately after the caucuses -- what impact any of the events of the weekend will have on the ultimate decision on the 2016 contest.


Contest Delegates (via contest results)
Automatic Delegates (Democratic Convention Watch)

And what about the delegate count post-Nevada?

Since the Florida primary, there have been 28 contest delegate slots allocated and one additional automatic delegate has endorsed. Of those 29 delegates:

  • Romney won 14 (from Nevada)/88 total
  • Gingrich won 7 (6 from Nevada and one automatic delegate from Minnesota)/31 total
  • Paul picked up 5 (from Nevada)/8 total
  • Santorum received 3 (from Nevada)/4 total 

NOTE: Iowa has yet to allocated any of its 28 delegates. One of the three automatic delegates has endorsed (Santorum) and the remaining 25 will be allocated at the June state convention and go to Tampa unbound. As such they are factored into the "unbound" category (29 total delegates) in the graphic above.

Interestingly, of the 21 automatic delegates to have endorsed, very few come from states that have participated in the process thus far. One Iowa automatic delegate (Santorum), two of the Maine automatics (both Romney) and one Minnesota automatic (Gingrich) have weighed in. [NOTE: As Matt astutely pointed out in the comments below, this is for a very good reason (...and more than just me having a long day). The early states with the exception of Iowa either bind their automatic delegates or lost them as part of the penalty for holding a non-compliant contest.]

Less than 5% of the total 2286 delegates have been allocated and there are only 6.25% of the total delegates in the first five states.

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1 comment:

Matt said...

Josh wrote:

Interestingly, of the 21 automatic delegates to have endorsed, very few come from states that have participated in the process thus far.

That's not a coincidence. Outside of Iowa, none of the other states have unpledged superdelegates, essentially due to RNC sanctions,.