Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Alabama

This is the twenty-first 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.


Truth be told, FHQ has already examined the Alabama Republican Party delegate allocation rules.2 But for the sake of refreshing our collective memories, let's review and with a compare and contrast:

Alabama delegate breakdown:
  • 50 total delegates
  • 26 at-large delegates
  • 21 congressional district delegates
  • 3 automatic delegates
At-large allocation: If one candidate receives a majority of the statewide vote, then that candidate is entitled to all 26 at-large delegates, otherwise the allocation is proportional to all candidates over 20% of the vote.
Notes: This is like the at-large allocation in Oklahoma on Super Tuesday with the exception that the threshold for receiving delegates in the Sooner state was 15% and not 20%.
Congressional district allocation: If a candidate receives a majority of the vote in any one of the seven congressional districts in Alabama, that candidate is allocated all three delegates from that district. However, if no candidate receives a majority, the top vote-getter receives two delegates while the runner-up receives one. Should only one candidate break the 20% barrier within the district, that candidate is entitled to all three delegates from that district.
Notes: Keep Oklahoma in mind for a moment. The congressional district allocation in Alabama is most akin to the allocation in Georgia on Super Tuesday. The difference is that while Georgia was a two person race across most of the state -- when Gingrich failed to receive a majority of the vote, he most often split the allocation with Romney and not Santorum -- Alabama is shaping up to be a three person race according to the polls. Now, the polls in some of these Deep South states should be taken with a grain of salt given historical precedent. But if the race ends up being the dead heat it looks to be, then the delegate allocation could end up being a little quirky because the dynamics of the congressional district allocation. While the allocation in Oklahoma granted each candidate over 15% of the vote within the congressional district one delegate each (something that happened in each of the five districts in the Sooner state), depending on how the Alabama vote breaks down within each congressional district could offset any edge gained in the at-large allocation if the statewide winner wins by a small margin. Due to the current optics of this primary, the delegate allocation could be as tight as it was in Oklahoma or the margin could shift toward the statewide winner (depending on the votes by congressional district).
Automatic allocation: Easy enough. The three automatic delegates are unbound and free to choose whomever they please. One of the three Alabama automatic delegates has already endorsed Rick Santorum.

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

2 The following is the delegate selection plan the Alabama Republican Party publicly released in August 2011:

Recent Posts:
Race to 1144: Super Tuesday, Kansas/Territories

About that RNC Delegate Count...

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Kansas

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