Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Pennsylvania

This is the thirty-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.


Pennsylvania is by far the most -- sorry New York -- interesting state of all the April 24 primary states. That was true a few weeks ago because Pennsylvania was viewed as the most competitive of the five states with primaries today. However, with homestate former senator, Rick Santorum, out of the running, some of the air was let out of the balloon in the Keystone state. The competitiveness is gone which leaves us with delegate allocation. And even though it might be close on the surface, the intricacies of the Pennsylvania method of delegate allocation (plus the dynamics of the race) make matters in the Commonwealth more noteworthy than the delegate rigamarole in neighboring New York.

FHQ should probably start by stating that the primary and delegate allocation in Pennsylvania are not meaningless. Now, that said, the results we will all be hearing about this evening will be meaningless, but the contest itself is not. What we'll all hear tonight will be who won the primary, but who won is slightly more complicated than the topline "who got the most votes" result. That outcome is not completely inconsequential, but is not that far off from that all the same.


The answer lies in the fact that a vote for Romney or Gingrich or Paul (or Santorum or Roemer, for that matter) has absolutely no bearing on how the Pennsylvania Republican Party allocates its delegates. Like Illinois, Pennsylvania is a loophole primary: Voters will cast a ballot for a presidential candidate of their choice, but the vote of consequence is the direct vote(s) for delegates.  Unlike Illinois, the candidates to which the delegate candidates are aligned are not listed alongside those delegate candidates on the ballot.2 The result is that Pennsylvania Republican primary voters are essentially casting a blind vote. Now, what typically happens in these loophole primaries -- whether in Pennsylvania or Illinois -- is that the establishment candidate is able to garner the most support of known political quantities either statewide or within a district. Voters tend to gravitate toward those folks: someone they know in a political capacity versus someone they don't know.

But in Pennsylvania in 2012 the apple cart has to some extent been overturned. [Fine. Jostled, perhaps?] No, Rick Santorum did not corner the market in his home state. It was far from locked down. What that leaves us with is a presumptive nominee who was organizing Pennsylvania delegates in 2011 versus an organized, albeit agenda-seeking candidate and Newt Gingrich. Now, FHQ would immediately discount Gingrich's chances, but in a low turnout environment with a presumptive nominee some within the Republican Party are lukewarm toward (and that is still being generous), all bets are not necessarily off.

Is FHQ saying that you should expect a Ron Paul upset this evening in Pennsylvania? No, I'm not. First of all, it will probably take a bit of time for the dust to settle (...and for some to realize that the primary "winner" is maybe not the delegate winner). But I will urge you to do a couple of test Google searches. Ah heck, I'll do them for you:
  1. Who are Romney delegates in Pennsylvania
  2. Who are Ron Paul delegates in Pennsylvania
If you were a casual voter who wanted to figure out who the delegates were for each of the candidates -- and perhaps that is a stretch (Who are those voters?) -- you would have a much easier time coming up with the Ron Paul list of delegates than the Mitt Romney list of delegates. That yields a competition that pits name recognition (Romney) against organization (Paul). Typically -- historically -- the two would overlap or the latter would be unnecessary in a late and less-than-competitive primary where a presumptive nominee has been identified and all or most other candidates have dropped out of the race. In this instance, though, with turnout looking light at best, we may have a fairly decent test case of name recognition against organization.3

You may see folks late to the Pennsylvania coverage talking about how the Pennsylvania Republican delegates are unbound/uncommitted or, gulp, unpledged4 -- and they are -- but that glosses over the fact that while the linkage between candidates and delegates are unknown or less well known on the ballot, the delegates are more often than not aligned with one candidate or another and are likely to stick with their chosen candidate if elected. But as is the case with any unbound delegate, they are free to change their mind or switch allegiances at any time.

Pennsylvania delegate breakdown:
  • 72 total delegates
  • 15 at-large delegates
  • 54 congressional district delegates
  • 3 automatic delegates
At-large allocation: The fifteen at-large delegates are elected at the June 23 state committee meeting. The primary has no bearing on how these delegates are allocated.

Congressional district allocation: The allocation described above refers to the direct election/allocation of the 54 congressional district delegates (three or four delegates in each of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts). UPDATE (4/24/12, 3:30p): As a point of clarification (as prompted by Joe Lenski), it should be noted that there are five congressional districts electing four delegates and 13 districts electing three delegates. Unlike Illinois, there was/has been no attempt made at squaring the overall in-state total of congressional district delegates to the number of delegates apportioned to the state by the RNC (based on the three delegates per district formula) in Pennsylvania. So whereas the Illinois Republican Party had a two delegate district for every four delegate district, there is no such balance -- averaging to three delegates per district -- in Pennsylvania. What that means is that there are five extra congressional district delegates beyond the RNC apportionment. That does not mean that Pennsylvania has 77 instead of 72 total delegates. It means, presumably, that Pennsylvania has 10 instead of 15 at-large delegates who will be selected at the June state committee meeting. The bottom line here is that there is a distinction to be made in Pennsylvania between the classification of the RNC-apportioned delegates and how the Pennsylvania Republican Party decides to both classify and allocate them (see Wyoming for another example of this).

Automatic delegate allocation: The three automatic delegates are free to endorse/pledge themselves to any candidate of their choosing. Pennsylvania Republican National Committeeman Rober Asher has already endorsed Mitt Romney.

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

2 See one such sample ballot from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Those two sections of the ballot -- presidential nomination candidate and delegate/alternate delegate are not even together. That is true in other counties as well.

3 It should be noted that getting the support of well-known folks as delegates is an act of organization, but in the case above organization refers to turning people out to cast well-informed (read: know who the delegates are for their candidate) to vote.

4 On the whole most of these delegates on the Pennsylvania primary ballot are pledged to a particular candidate. There may be some who are unpledged, but the best descriptor for Pennsylvania delegates is uncommitted. They are running uncommitted as they are not directly identified as aligned with any candidate or campaign.

Recent Posts:
2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Delaware

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Rhode Island

2012 Republican Delegate Allocation: Connecticut

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Joe said...

What % does Paul or Gingrich have to get to earn one delegate? 15%, 20%. If Romney gets 50% in a CD, does he get all 3 or 4? NY and CA have winner-take-all within each CD.

Josh Putnam said...

There is no threshold. Delegates are elected directly. The top three or four delegate vote-getters in each district will be elected.