Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Iowa Delegate Count

FHQ has fielded some questions in various forms about the delegate count coming out of Monday's Iowa caucuses. There already appear to be a few details about the minutiae of it all that are not exactly clear. Let's add some clarity to this as best we can.

The Associated Press is reporting a delegate count in the Hawkeye state that looks something like this:
  • Cruz 8
  • Trump 7
  • Rubio 7
  • Carson 3
  • Paul 1
  • Bush 1
And then it stops. Only, the problem here is that adds up to just 27 delegates when the Iowa Republican Party was apportioned 30 total delegates by the RNC. And as FHQ has explained (via the Republican Party of Iowa), the state party is proportionally allocating all 30 of those delegates. That means that there is a discrepancy of some sort.

Many -- well, many in my Twitter feed and inbox anyway -- have speculated and/or questioned whether FHQ just has it wrong. That there are three outstanding, unallocated delegates would, on the surface, suggest that perhaps the three unallocated delegates are intentionally unallocated. As the argument goes, those three are the three party/automatic delegates. And perhaps those delegates, as is the case in a number of other states are very simply unbound by the results of the caucuses.

It is a somewhat persuasive argument, but this is a situation where appearance and reality are at odds. Here's why:

First, FHQ spoke with Charlie Szold, the Republican Party of Iowa (RPI) Communications Director, back in August about Iowa's placement on the our primary calendar. But I took the opportunity to ask him about the newly adopted delegate allocation plan as well. Recall that Iowa's was a non-binding caucus in 2012. Adding a binding element and a proportional allocation, then, constituted a pretty large change from four years ago. Mr. Szold shared with me the new rules, I glanced them over and seeing that the Iowa rules seemed to suggest that all 30 of the delegates would be allocated and bound, followed up for assurance. After double checking with the party's expert on the delegate process, Mr. Szold confirmed that all 30 would be proportionally allocated based on the caucus results, including the party delegates.

This was a process that FHQ repeated yesterday given some pushback. The answer from RPI was the same: all 30 of the delegates, including the automatic delegates, will be allocated and bound to candidates based on the results in Monday's caucuses.

Well, here we are, two days after the caucuses, and the same 27 delegates above are the only delegates that have been allocated (unofficially by the AP). Why?

As I speculated yesterday it could be because not all precincts were in in Iowa. There is such a cluster of candidates around the 1.9 percent mark that any additions or subtractions of votes to/from the total could affect whether Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee or Christie receive a delegate. But 100 percent of precincts are now reporting. There is now an unofficial tally. Yet, there still is not a full allocation out of Iowa.

The reason for that is that the tally is unofficial. Until the results are certified by the RPI there will not be a full delegate count out of Iowa. Let us not forget that four short years ago, Mitt Romney was declared the (narrow) winner in Iowa late on caucus night. However, a little more than two weeks later, Romney's 8 vote win became a 34 vote loss to Santorum. There is, then, a cautionary approach to the vote certification and delegate count in Iowa this time around.

Again, the issue is that four candidates are vying for three remaining delegates. Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee and Christie all are eligible to round up to a delegate, but there are only three delegates. Christie is at the bottom of the order and would appear to be the odd man out. But it is too close to call until the vote is certified. How close? The four candidates' fractional delegate shares range from .527 to .559. That is four candidates separated by just .032 delegates. In other words, the shifting of a few votes here and there is consequential to the final delegate count.

This is a wait and see sort of thing and nothing more. The count at the top of the order -- where it matters -- is not going to change.

One more thing to add to this:
If one calculates the allocation of 27 delegates, the distribution would look like this:
  • Cruz 7
  • Trump 7
  • Rubio 6
  • Carson 3
  • Paul 1
  • Bush 1
  • Fiorina 1
  • Kasich 1
Cruz would not have 8 delegates in an proportional allocation scheme that intends to award 27 delegates. The Texas senator would just miss out on rounding up to 8. Actually, if only 27 delegates were being allocated the outcome would be clearer. Fiorina and Kasich would round up, but Huckabee and Christie would not. The four would still be clustered but the math would be clearer starting with 27 delegates.

Another astute question FHQ has received concerns that Huckabee delegate. And now that Rand Paul has also withdrawn, another delegate can be added to that mix. What happens with those delegates?

They stay bound to Huckabee and Paul regardless. The only out for Iowa delegates is if only one name is placed in nomination at the convention. If only one candidate is placed in nomination, as has been the case throughout the post-reform era (save one contest, the Republicans' first under the new system in 1976), then all of the delegates are bound to that candidate.

Unlike some other states, Iowa does not permit the release of delegates nor for them to become unbound in any way.

There are also some questions out there concerning the delegate count on the Democratic side. Much of this seems to be the result of a lack of clarity concerning how many delegates Iowa Democrats actually have. The Iowa Democratic Party delegate selection plan suggests that there are 54 delegates, but the Democratic National Committee count (still being reviewed, so not final) has Iowa with just 52 delegates, 44 pledged and 8 unpledged (superdelegates).1 It is difficult to speculate on the tentative delegate count in Iowa anyway since the delegates will not be chosen until the later stages of the process. But that process is made even more difficult when there is some doubt about how many delegates the Iowa Democratic Party has been apportioned by the DNC.

More post-Iowa delegate count thoughts here.

UPDATE: Certified Republican Party of Iowa caucus results and official delegate allocation.

1 While the link to the IDP delegate selection plan was to a draft FHQ had stowed away, I doubled checked it against the plan on the party website at the time of the original posting. It seems to have been updated as of Thursday, February 4 and now reflects the 52 delegates the DNC has apportioned to the Iowa at this time.

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1 comment:

jimrtex said...

I had wondered where the AP was getting their numbers. I had figured that the 27 was because Iowa was not allocating the three party delegates - but that turns out not to be true. But I suspect that the AP was allocating the 27 delegates differently because they were using a different set of rounding rules.

The Iowa rules are actually more logical than are used by many states, where delegate totals are truncated to the smaller integer, and then any remaining delegates are given to the candidates with the most support. The AP writer may have misunderstood the Iowa rules, or simply made some rule up.

I had copied the results from an AP story, and they were quite similar to the values in the Iowa Republican Party news release. The total for Cruz was identical, as were many others. There were a few that were different by handfuls. The only major change was that Rubio received about 100 votes more than AP had reported earlier.

Huckabee led Christie by 61 votes, or 0.033% (1-30th of 1%) of the total vote cast, but got the last delegate. The raw (unrounded) delegate shares were 0.537 and 0.527.

The results show really good examples of the Alabama Paradox, where a candidate can lose delegates when the total number of delegates increased.

The vote totals for Fiorina, Kasich, Huckabee, and Christie are quite similar, but their delegate awards are quite dissimilar.

Fiorina would have received the 21st delegate.
Kasich would have received the 22nd, but lost it if there were 24 delegates, and regained it with 25.
Huckabee would have gained the 26th, lost it with 27, and regained it with 30.
Christie would not have received a delegate until 34 were allocated, would have lost it with 36, regained it with 37, lost it with 40, and gained it for good with 41.