Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Idaho

This is the seventeenth 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.


New to the caucus format in 2012, Idaho Republicans have devised perhaps the strangest -- or at least a first glance the one with the highest learning curve -- delegate selection process of the cycle.2 [That's saying something.] But let's have a quick glance at how the rules for allocating the 32 delegates in the Gem state work.

First of all, the caucus meetings across Idaho today are binding in the same way that Nevada was back at the beginning of February; a departure from the series of non-binding contests we have witnessed in most caucus states thus far. But the allocation of the delegates is slightly more involved than the process in Nevada. [Yes, I hope the vote tabulation will at least go quicker, too. It should and here's why...] The process is more involved because the Idaho Republican Party appears to be utilizing a multi-round vote within each county. Each time I review the rules FHQ flashes back to Super Tuesday 2008's first contest -- the West Virginia Republican state convention -- where similar rules were in place. But that was a statewide meeting. What Idaho is attempting to pull off this evening is a series of multi-round votes on the county level.

Basically, this is a series of runoff votes. If a fictitious precinct #1 has a vote that places Romney first then, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich, then Gingrich would be eliminated (along with any other candidate below the 15% threshold). A second vote would then be held  -- among the same group of original voters (The Gingrich voters would not have to sit the vote out.) -- unless the first place finisher had received a majority on the initial vote. For this exercise, let's assume that Romney did not receive a majority and will face Santorum and Paul in the second round of voting. Well, suddenly, those Gingrich voters -- if there are reasonably sizable number of them -- are potentially significant in the second and any subsequent vote.

[ASIDE: Recall that Romney led after the initial vote in the West Virginia convention in 2008, but because third place finisher McCain threw his voters toward second place finisher Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor emerged victorious from the Mountain state.]

Assuming Gingrich voters line up with Santorum voters in that second vote, one could foresee a Santorum, Romney, Paul finish or even a Santorum, Paul, Romney finish depending on the number of Gingrich and Paul supporters. If Santorum doesn't win with a majority in that second vote -- again, in this scenario -- then Romney could potentially be eliminated on then at this make-believe precinct. How does that procede to the next subsequent and decisive vote between Santorum and Paul? Where do those Romney voters go?

That is a great question and one that will likely depend on turnout this evening. If the LDS population in Idaho really turns out for Romney, it may be enough to get him through to the final vote depending on the area of the state.

But think about this for a minute. Imagine this taking place in precincts across Idaho. It is just like how Iowa Democrats caucus but with that added dimension that if a candidate can emerge from all of these meetings with a majority of the vote, then he can claim all 32 of Idaho's delegates.3 Now, FHQ does not purport to know what will happen or if a winner-take-all allocation is even possible, but this will be a fun one to watch. If no candidate breaks the 50% barrier statewide, then the allocation is proportional based on those candidates who made it to the final vote on the precinct level (aggregated across the state).

If that winner-take-all allocation is triggered, then Idaho quickly becomes a much more important delegate prize -- likely the largest behind only Virginia and maybe Oklahoma or Georgia depending on the margin of victory for the winner in each.

Idaho delegate breakdown:
  • 32 total delegates
  • 23 at-large delegates
  • 6 congressional district delegates
  • 3 automatic delegates 
The Idaho Republican Party makes this slightly more complicated by adding another distinction. If the winner-take-all provision4 is not triggered by one candidate receiving a majority of the vote, then there is an 80/20 split in how the delegates are allocated. The candidates essentially file with the Idaho Republican party a slate of delegates. If the winner-take-all provision is not triggered then 80% of the delegates will be selected from these candidate lists of delegates in proportion to the results at the county level (weighted and aggregated). The remaining 20% of delegates are selected by the Nominations Committee of the Idaho Republican Party Convention. This is also done in proportion to the county results, weighted at the county level and aggregated. This 20% is pledged to a particular candidate. Since the 80% is from slates provided by the candidates, it is safe to assume that they are also pledged to the candidate who selected them.

All of this is made a lot easier if one candidate clears the 50% barrier statewide and claims all 32 delegates.

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

2 The IDGOP's rules for delegate selection:

3 Iowa Democrats also eliminate candidates who don't meet the 15% viability threshold instead of just eliminating the lowest vote-getter.

4 See the final paragraph of the IDGOP's FAQ on the caucuses for this rule.

Recent Posts:
Goodbye Idaho Presidential Primary

Santorum Can't Get to 1144

The (Delegate) Keys to Super Tuesday

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.


Anonymous said...

I believe everyone within a county will be voting at their county caucus and they won't be separated by precinct. Is that right?

Also, a small technical note: any candidate that receives less than 15% of the vote in a round also gets dropped.

Josh Putnam said...

There will be one caucus in each county, yes. I don't know if there will be precincts subdivided within those county-level meetings though (as in Wyoming). It seems like that would add to the chaos.