Monday, September 30, 2019

At the End of the Calendar, a Tweak to 2020 Montana Republican Delegate Selection

On the surface, there is not much that separates the delegate selection plan Montana Republican used in 2016 and what the party will carry forward into 2020.

Yes, the primary in Treasure state will fall at the end of the Republican presidential primary calendar, and yes, the allocation will remain winner-take-all for the second consecutive cycle. Those toplines are exactly as they were for the last cycle.

However, the overall process is not without some differences relative to 2016. And those changes do not occur in the delegate allocation portion, but on the delegate selection front. The plurality winner in the June 2 presidential primary will receive all of the delegates to the national convention from the state of Montana. But how those delegate slots are filled and by whom is a bit different for 2020.

In 2016, the power to elect/select delegates to the national convention was within the roles and responsibilities of the Montana state convention without any formal input from the candidate and campaign of the primary winner. That will differ from what will occur in 2020.

Under the rules adopted by the Montana Republican Party adopted in June, the convention will retain the role of ratifying who the national convention delegates from the state are, but will defer to the campaign of the presidential primary-winning candidate on identifying a slate of delegates. Instead of holding both roles -- identifying/selecting delegates and ratifying that -- the state convention will now only hold the latter role. The winning candidate's campaign chooses the slate of delegates and then the state convention ratifies that by majority vote. Should that slate fail to receive that ratification from the state convention, then the candidate submits a new slate (or slates) until that majority threshold is met.

Functionally, this would likely cede in 2020 the selection role to the Trump reelection effort, and that slate would be highly likely to pass muster with the delegates to the Montana Republican state convention. This is another example of a subtle shift in state-level rules that could be interpreted as incumbent-friendly.

It is also a rules change that seemingly has a sunset provision in the rules. Section B.III.F.3 of the Montana Republican Party rules is specific to the 2020 cycle. There is no expiration included in the rule, but a change will have to be made to apply this to 2024 or tweak it for that cycle.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Connecticut Republicans Add Subtle but Specific Change to 2020 Delegate Rules

Connecticut Republicans have planned to stick pretty close to the delegate selection plan the party utilized in 2016. The allocation looks just the same.

At-large delegates are all awarded to any majority winner. Absent a majority winner, the delegates are allocated proportionally to candidates with at least 20 percent of the vote statewide. On the congressional district level, it remains a winner-take-all scheme. A candidate who wins a congressional district with any plurality wins all three delegates from that district.

Nothing is different there.

However, there was one subtle change the party added to its formula in 2018 and it concerns any uncommitted delegate slots allocated because of votes for "uncommitted" on the primary ballot. Here's the new rule (Section 17(h)):
In the event that any delegates are awarded to the uncommitted spot on the Presidential Preference Primary Ballot, said delegate positions shall be filled by the state party chairman, and submitted in the same manner as prescribed in subsection (d).
Theoretically, this rule cedes to the state party chairman the ability to name uncommitted delegates, delegates that could be picked to hypothetically align with an incumbent president seeking renomination. But this is a very narrowly applicable rule. Connecticut is a state that automatically cancels primaries if only one candidate appears on the ballot. Should none of President Trump's three challengers make the ballot, then there would not be a primary and thus no need for an uncommitted line on said ballot.

This rule would only apply in a scenario where 1) one of more of those Republican challengers make the presidential preference primary ballot, 2) enough Republican primary voters (more than 20 percent) flock instead to uncommitted as a protest to Trump and qualify uncommitted for delegates, and 3) Trump fails to get more than a majority of the vote statewide.

In that unusual scenario, and that scenario alone, would the state party chair choose those uncommitted delegates (and likely be inclined to choose delegates closely aligned with the incumbent).

Yes, this is a very subtle change to the Connecticut Republican delegate selection process. But it is one that, at least under these specific conditions, would stand to benefit the president.

It is also a rules change that one could file under the leave no [rules] stone unturned category.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Earlier Primary in Place, California Republicans Make Delegate Allocation Changes

Earlier this month when the California Republican Party converged on Indian Wells for the party's 2019 state convention it was a rules-based change in reaction to a new Golden state law prohibiting ballot access to presidential candidates for not disclosing their tax returns that grabbed the headlines.

And that change is not without import. If a nationally recognized candidate is denied access to the ballot, then under the new rule, the CAGOP state central committee or executive committee would meet after March 15, 2020 -- more than a week after the Super Tuesday primary in California -- to determine which candidate would select a slate of delegates to represent them at the national convention in Charlotte.1

There is an important assumption in that rule. Only one candidate would receive delegates from California. More than anything, that is a nod to the other allocation-based changes the party adopted at the convention. In recent cycles, the California Republican Party has used a winner-take-most/winner-take-all by congressional district delegate allocation scheme. A candidate who wins statewide is awarded all of the at-large delegates and winners within each of the Golden state's 53 districts would receive three delegates from a won district.

However, given the 2017 presidential primary date change in California, that method of allocation was no longer compliant under Republican National Committee rules. The primary, set for Super Tuesday, is early enough on the primary calendar to fit within the proportionality window the party established for the 2012 cycle, requiring early states to have a proportional allocation plan in place. California Republicans had to make a change.

And that is something the California Republicans at the state convention addressed. Proposal 10 highlights the changes in language within the rule from 2016 to 2020. Gone are the winner-take-all elements, at least as the default. In their place is a proportional scheme consistent with RNC rules. Candidates who receive more than 20 percent of the vote either statewide or in congressional districts will qualify for a proportional share of the delegates within those units. And that is where the aforementioned assumption comes into the picture. Again, the ballot access workaround notes that the committee will determine which candidate -- not candidates -- who would name and slate delegates from the state. CAGOP seemingly is of the opinion that that 20 percent bar -- the highest allowed by the RNC -- is sufficient enough to keep other candidates from qualifying (and thus allow President Trump and his campaign the ability to name a slate of delegates from California).

That is one change instituted, but was not the only one. In addition to the new high qualification threshold, the party also adopted a winner-take-all threshold. That, too, factors into the assumptions the party is making in the newly adopted ballot access rule. Should a candidate win a majority of the vote statewide, then that candidate would win all of the delegates from the state. That is another threshold that President Trump could likely easily hit in the primary should his name appear on the ballot.

But in the end, it is clear that these rules were adopted with the idea of the president winning and naming all of the delegates to the national convention from the state in mind. And the sunset provision is a pretty clear indication the changes were made to ease Trump's path to the nomination. Add California to the list of states, then, that have upped their thresholds for this cycle.

1 This provision, while adopted by the state convention, is only in effect for the 2020 cycle. It expires on January 1, 2021.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Idaho Republicans Face Deadline on 2020 Presidential Primary

As the October 1 RNC deadline for state parties to finalize plans for 2020 delegate selection approaches, Idaho Republicans face a decision.

Under the rules of the Idaho Republican Party, the state party chairman has until the final Monday in September to opt into or out of the state government-run presidential primary. That last Monday in September falls on Monday, September 30, the day before the RNC deadline. And Chairman Raúl Labrador could follow the raft of other Republican state parties that have chosen already to cancel their delegate selection events or presidential preference votes ahead of a cycle in which the party is likely to renominate President Trump.

But it should be noted that in past instances in which Republican presidents have run for renomination, Idaho Republicans have no recent history of canceling primaries or caucuses. That did not happen in 1992 nor did it happen in 2004. That said, in a season in which an increasing number of state Republican parties are opting out of primaries and caucuses, Idaho could join the group in an effort to smooth the president's path to renomination.

Finally, the Idaho Republican Party when it adopted changes to its rules in April 2019 made no significant changes to the delegate allocation rules for 2020. There remains a 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates, a level that may be high enough to keep the president's opponents away from qualification. And Idaho is a backdoor winner-take-all state. If only one candidate surpasses 20 percent, then that candidate receives all of the delegates from the Gem state. And that is in addition to the winner-take-all threshold the party has in place, a 50 percent threshold that, if triggered, would also award all of the delegates to the majority winner. This is all consistent with how the party operated its delegate allocation in 2016.

Regardless, for those watching state party-level maneuvering, Idaho bears some attention as the week progresses and the calendar eases into the weekend.

The Idaho Republican Party state central committee also passed a resolution at its June meeting supporting President Trump. That move may or may not serve as some evidence that the party will move to ease Trump's road to the nomination through a primary cancelation.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Alabama Republicans Nix Changes to 2020 Delegate Selection Process

In the lead up to last month's meeting of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee, the party's Bylaws Committee unanimously passed a resolution to rework the way in which national convention delegates are selected.

Traditionally, Alabama delegate candidates -- for both at-large and congressional district positions -- have appeared on the ballot and have been directly elected by Republican presidential primary voters. Like the changes recently made in West Virginia, the proposed change in the selection process would have removed delegate candidates from the primary ballot and shifted the responsibility for selection to the 467 member Executive Committee. While this is certainly a way to streamline and shorten the March primary ballot, it would also give the state party more control over the selection process and likely serve as a boon to President Trump's chances of identifying delegates more closely aligned with him.

However, although the resolution passed the Bylaws Committee with no dissent, there was some pushback from within the party. Opponents of the change balked at the anti-democratic shift in the rules, seeing the change as potentially ceding too much power to the few in the state party.

But at the August 24 meeting of the Executive Committee in Auburn, the party rejected the resolution that emerged from the Bylaws Committee. It was a vote that kept the basic structure under which Alabama Republicans have selected delegates the same.

Now, the lack of change is no real significant loss for President Trump. Yes, there will be less party control over the delegate selection process. Yet, Trump and the campaign apparatus behind him will be maximally positioned compared to his challengers to identify delegate candidates and assist them, individually or as a slate, in filing for ballot access. That will serve as a large enough advantage for the president.

This delegate slate filing issue was highlighted in 2015 when the Jeb Bush campaign had some trouble in filing a full slate of delegate candidates in Alabama, foreshadowing perhaps the difficulties Bush would have later in the 2016 race. Trump likely will not have that problem in 2019 when candidates -- presidential and delegate -- have to file between October 8 and November 8, 2019.

No changes were proposed or made by the party to the delegate allocation process. The 2020 method, then, should look much as it did in 2016.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Alaska Republicans Scrap Presidential Preference Vote at 2020 Caucuses

James Brooks at the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the Alaska Republican Party state central committee has voted at a meeting this weekend to skip the presidential preference poll during next year's caucuses.1 Instead, that caucus process will focus on selecting delegates rather than allocating them, and the selection will be of delegate candidates closely aligned with the sitting Republican president.

As has happened elsewhere -- in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina and Virginia -- state Republican parties have made the decisions to forgo delegate selection events in the face of an internally popular president seeking renomination. And given where President Trump currently stands in public opinion polling among Republicans in 2020 primary horse race surveys -- and especially given where is announced opponents are -- these decisions make some sense. In most, the thresholds to qualify for delegates is set high enough that neither Weld nor Sanford nor Walsh will qualify anyway, making the process of holding preference votes and allocating delegates largely moot.

Alaska, for example, has a 13 percent threshold that candidates have to hit in order to qualify for delegates. None of the president's three opponents are anywhere close to approaching that number in public opinion polling. Nonetheless, add Alaska to the growing number of Republican state parties that have made moves to insulate the president on his march to renomination next year.

1 Don't let the headline at that link fool you. Alaska Republicans have never had a presidential primary in the post-reform era. They have consistently conducted caucuses to which the party has often in competitive cycles tethered a presidential preference vote. But those are still caucuses conducted by the party and not the state government as is the case in the vast majority of states with primaries. The mode of Alaska Republican delegate selection over the years is cataloged in the calendars linked on the left column of this page.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Wyoming Republicans Flirt with Changes to Delegate Selection Process But Hold Pat

Over the summer Wyoming Republicans have been mired in something of an ideological struggle within the state party. A more conservative faction within the party is pushing a more aggressive use of the state party's Governance Review and Feedback Committee, created to eye how well Equality state legislators and legislation align with the party platform.

In other words, it is potentially being used as a litmus test on more moderate Republicans in the Wyoming legislature.

But that has drawn the ire of the two most populous counties in the state where more moderates find their home, but also stretches into the national convention delegate selection process the state party uses. Natrona County Republicans, for example, in August passed three informal resolutions including one against the litmus tests, but also against possible changes to the delegate selection process that would shift the balance of power away from those population centers and empower the more rural counties in the state. Yes, that is an urban versus rural divide but is also one that features the ideological divide within the party. It is also something that is being sold as advantageous to President Trump, shifting the balance of power toward more Trump-friendly rural areas.

Under the traditional delegate selection system Wyoming Republicans have used, like the one in 2016, only one county is guaranteed to have a delegate every presidential election cycle: Laramie County, the most populous county in the state. All other counties are paired off and trade off which one gets national convention representation every cycle. Those counties only get national convention representation every other cycle.

This back and forth between the state party and the county parties occurred over the summer in the lead up to the Wyoming Republican Party state central committee meeting on August 23-24. Instead of a showdown at that meeting, however, there was an open dialog about the ideological rift and the proposed state party resolutions. In particular, the delegate selection changes were shelved and will be dealt with at state convention next May. Any changes made then would fall after the 2020 caucus/convention process and thus be implemented in 2024.

Despite the rise in ideological tensions over the summer over these proposed delegate selection plan changes (among other things), the party held steady with the system it has utilized with the caucuses in recent cycles.

The question moving forward out of Wyoming is whether the state party will opt to hold a presidential preference vote in the first stage of the caucuses next year or whether they will follow the lead of other states in endorsing the president and skipping the preference vote.

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Friday, September 20, 2019

New Iowa Delegate Selection Plan Passes Muster with DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday, September 19 released the top lines of a revised delegate selection plan. A day later the plan was before the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) for the panel's consideration via conference call.

The reason for the delayed consideration -- most state parties' plans have already been found in conditional compliance by the RBC over the summer -- was that the committee's initial consideration of the original Iowa delegate selection plan found fault with the innovative virtual caucuses system the state party proposed back in February. Hacking concerns over the tele-caucusing proposal loomed over the plan and led to its rejection by the committee.

But under the revised plan, Iowa Democrats will allow for a petition process whereby any Iowa Democrat can file to set up a satellite caucus to be conducted on the same day as the traditional caucuses as close to the same 7pm start time as possible. Those petitions will by November 18, 2019 go before a review committee comprised of members of the Iowa Democratic Party state central committee not aligned with any presidential campaign. Petitions would be approved or rejected by December 16 and made public by December 18.

Functionally, the satellite caucuses within a congressional district will be collectively counted as an additional county in a given congressional district. Delegates and state delegate equivalents will then by apportioned based on that. What remains unanswered pending the full draft delegate selection plan approved by the RBC, is just how much those satellite caucuses will count. There were four satellite caucuses approved in 2016 in Iowa but that only ended up adding an additional three delegates to the state convention totals. That is far less than the nine percent addition to the total the originally proposed virtual caucuses would have added in 2020 would those tele-caucuses been approved.

The question, then, is whether the expectation is that the satellite caucuses will be low turnout affairs aim a particular groups most affected by the traditional caucus process or if there is a higher cap placed on them similar to the virtual caucus model. It could end up somewhere in between or could be figured on the fly on caucus night. The latter would add not only a bit of mystery but some uncertainty to caucus night not only for the candidates and their campaigns in terms of how they direct their supporters but for caucus administrators not to mention the media reporting the caucus results.

Expectations were set on this front in the 2016 delegate selection plan in Iowa. The three satellite caucus state convention delegates were determined in the plan. Absent the current plan approved today, there is no definitive answer to that question.

But in the meantime, the plan, including the satellite caucuses proposal, was deemed conditionally compliant by the RBC.

Here is more from the Iowa Democratic Party about how the satellite caucuses would work:

  • The 2020 satellite caucus proposal will allow for additional caucus locations on February 3 to expand participation for people who cannot attend their in-person precinct caucus. 
  • The IDP will expand the constituency engagement team to ensure the party is reaching communities across the state, as well as accessibility staff to make sure the caucus system works for all Iowans. 
  • Iowa Democrats can apply to hold a satellite site at places like factories, group homes, or community gathering places, to better accommodate people who cannot attend their in-person caucus. This option will be especially useful for shift workers, Iowans with disabilities, Iowans serving overseas, and students. 
  • The IDP will create a special satellite caucus review committee that will review applications and determine approval. The committee members will be appointed by the IDP Chair, and it will be comprised of SCC members who have pledged neutrality in the presidential race. 
  • Just like precinct caucuses, each satellite location will have a trained captain who is charged with overseeing the room, managing volunteers, and reporting the results on caucus night. 
  • The results will be reported using the same method as precinct caucus locations. The satellite caucuses will create one additional county in each Congressional District.

Stay tuned for more when the full delegate selection plan is made public by the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

June 2 Presidential Primary Bill Crawls Forward in Washington, DC

Earlier this week, the Washington, DC Council reconvened following a lengthy recess. Among the first items the body considered on the consent agenda on Tuesday, September 17 was the effort to shift the presidential primary (and those for other offices) from the third Tuesday in June to the first Tuesday in June, B23-0212.

Previously the council had passed both emergency and temporary legislation to ease along the legislative process but neither has a window of implementation that stretches far enough into 2020 to include the June 2 date the body is targeting. Permanent legislation, then, is needed, and that is what the above bill is intended to accomplish.

In the meeting earlier this week, the council adopted the consent agenda -- including B23-0212 -- on a unanimous 13-0 vote with no discussion. That represents passage on a first reading. The bill will require one more final reading and vote before passage.

The DC council next meets on October 8.

The move, should it be approved, signed and passed off on by congressional review, would align the DC primary with presidential primaries in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota on what would be the next to last date on the 2020 presidential primary calendar with a contest.

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West Virginia Republicans Adopt Winner-Take-All Allocation Scheme, Alter Delegate Selection Process for 2020

West Virginia Republicans at a recent Executive Committee meeting made changes to the way in which the party will select and allocate delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Gone is the loophole primary the state party has traditionally used, where voters would not only vote on presidential preference, but directly elect both at-large and congressional district delegates on the primary ballot.

Such a system puts the onus on campaigns to gain ballot access for their candidate but to also round up and file for delegate candidates supportive of the candidate. The former is easier than the latter as is evidenced by Rick Santorum's troubles in the Mountain state in 2012.

That system has been scrapped by the WVGOP for 2020 in favor of a more streamlined process. By a 92-12 vote, the West Virginia Republican Party executive committee opted to share the delegate selection process with the Trump campaign and shift to a winner-take-all method of allocation.

Under the new plan, Republican primary voters in West Virginia will only have one presidential choice before them, the presidential preference vote. Whichever candidate wins that vote would be awarded all of the delegates at stake in the West Virginia primary on May 12. On the selection side, delegate candidates would no longer be included on the primary ballot. Instead, prospective delegate candidates would apply and interview with the WVGOP executive committee and the Trump for President Committee to determine what that individual has done for the party/Trump and how loyal they are. Obviously, that would give much more discretion to the state party and the Trump campaign to identify and select delegates than under the loophole system.

This option was one of three being considered by the executive committee. The other two were 1) to keep the loophole (direct election of delegates) system the same or 2) to adopt a convention system similar to what the West Virginia Republican Party used in 2008. The latter was quickly dismissed and the alternative winner-take-all system was deemed preferable by the executive committee in its vote in late August.

One important coda to this maneuvering is that the change will sunset after 2020, reverting to the old loophole system for subsequent cycles (unless there is state party action to make other changes).

Yes, this change clearly gives the Trump campaign a great deal of discretion over the delegates chosen for the national convention from West Virginia. But bear in mind that Democratic National Committee rules allow candidates to reject delegates selected to fill delegate slots allocated them and then represent them at the convention. However, that right of refusal happens after the delegate selection process. The West Virginia Republican Party plan cedes a great deal of control to the Trump reelection effort before and/or during primary season, likely ahead of the West Virginia primary in May. That is an important distinction between how Democrats conduct the process and how West Virginia Republicans are handling theirs.

This also adds another data point to the growing list of states making a variety of changes to their delegate selection rules to help insulate the president from intra-party challenges and hypothetically keep divisiveness down within the party-in-the-electorate before the transition into the general election phase.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Virginia Republicans Will Hold 2020 Presidential Preference Vote at State Convention

Much ink has been spilled of late about the number of Republican state parties considering or deciding to forgo primaries or caucuses during the 2020 presidential nomination cycle. There was a rash of these decisions during the first weekend of September when Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina opted out of their respective delegate selection events for next year.

But those states are not alone, nor were they the first to opt for a more closed system of selecting and allocating delegates to the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

In fact, during their late June state central committee meeting, Virginia Republicans entertained a motion to hold a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention and the Republican Senate nomination vote in a (June) primary. That motion was split into two questions and dealt with separately. While the state central committee voted in a narrow 40-35 roll call vote to conduct a Senate primary in June 2020, the party opted via an uncontroversial voice vote to skip the presidential primary in favor of a presidential preference vote at the party's state convention next year.

Like many of the states above, Virginia Republicans also have a history of selecting and allocating delegates through means other than a primary. Actually Virginia's use of a primary is more of a 21st century phenomenon. Other than 1988, both parties conducted delegate selection through caucus/convention systems or held firehouse primaries (Democratic state party-run contests) through the early years of the post-reform era. That included 1992, the only time in that late 20th century window when a Republican incumbent (George H.W. Bush) was up for renomination.

This was also the case in 2004 when George W. Bush was again seeking the Republican nomination. Virginia Republicans skipped the primary then as well.

Now, history will repeat itself in 2020 as Virginia Republicans will handle the preference vote, national convention delegate selection and delegate allocation at the state convention. Like in the other states, this is likely to benefit President Trump in his effort win, if not all of the delegates from Virginia, then certainly the lion share of them.

While this often gets described as maneuvering to insulate the president from a challenge, it has a history in a number of states -- particularly on the Republican side -- over time. Virginia is yet another data point for that in the 2020 cycle.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Michigan Republicans Make Small Change to 2020 Delegate Allocation Rules

Over the weekend it was reported that the Michigan Republican Party had made some changes to their delegate selection rules for the 2020 cycle.

But this is a story that unsurprisingly, since it deals with rules changes, deserves some context. There are a number of changes that are happening on the Republican side this cycle. Primaries and caucuses are being cancelled in states like Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina. And delegate allocation rules are being altered in still other states, among them Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio.1

All of those are examples of changes that can be viewed as either Trump- or incumbent-friendly. And the Michigan change can be too as has been widely reported. However, as compared to the formula Michigan Republicans used in 2016, this recent alteration of the rules in the Great Lakes state is far more modest when compared to rules the changes in other states thus far.

Massachusetts is a good point of comparison. Republicans in the Bay state made the decision to increase their delegate qualification threshold from 5 percent in 2016 to 20 percent for 2020. Candidates have to receive, in other words, 20 percent of the vote to be allocated a proportional share of any delegates Additionally, the Massachusetts GOP added a winner-take-all threshold. Should a candidate win a majority or more of the vote, then that candidate is eligible for all of the delegates.

Those are both significant changes: a 15 point increase in the qualification threshold and the addition of a winner-take-all threshold. Bill Weld surpassing five percent may or may not be likely, but the former Massachusetts governor getting up to 20 percent in that primary seems a stretch. That is certainly true of Trump not clearing 50 percent in that primary as well.

The Massachusetts change, then, is clearly Trump- or incumbent-friendly.

But Michigan?

Again, the changes the Michigan Republican Party has instituted for the 2020 cycle are much more modest. In 2016, Michigan Republicans employed the same proportional allocation formula with triggers they will in 2020. The party also had a winner-take-all threshold in place last cycle. Both carry over to 2020.

The change?

What the party altered was the qualification threshold, raising it from 15 percent to 20 percent. Just how Trump- or incumbent-friendly that change is depends on just how likely one perceives Bill Weld's or Mark Sanford's or Joe Walsh's chances of clearing 15 percent of the vote in Michigan, much less the new 20 percent threshold (the maximum allowed under RNC rules). What is most likely at this point in time is that Trump, embattled though he may or may not be, clears the majority threshold and claims all of the delegates from Michigan.

But that is not a new addition. That winner-take-all threshold was in place in 2016, and is the most likely benefit Trump will exploit in 2020. Overall, this Michigan change is a modest change in Trump's direction, but it is way down the scale from Trump- or incumbent-friendly changes being made elsewhere by Republican state parties ahead of primaries and caucuses next year.

1 The change in Ohio was to the date of the primary in order for the state Republican Party to retain a winner-take-all delegate allocation formula for 2020.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

New York Presidential Primary Shifts to April 28

One day prior to the bill becoming law without his signature, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed SB 6374 into law. The measure schedules the separate presidential primary in the Empire state for April 28, aligning the contest with presidential primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on that date.

The contiguous six state cluster -- the Acela Primary -- will allow New York Democrats and those in the other five states to take advantage of DNC delegate incentives. That 15 percent bonus will be added to the base New York delegation on top of the 10 percent bonus state Democrats will receive for scheduling an April primary. The additional 49 bonus delegates bring the already large New York delegation up to a total of 273 pledged delegates, second behind only California's delegation.

In his signing memo, Cuomo cited his desire for an earlier primary, something the governor flirted with temporarily in recent weeks after the bill was finally transmitted to him in early September. But  after some push back from the Democratic National Committee, Cuomo later quickly rejected the idea. And the reasoning behind that is twofold. First, the legislature was not receptive to the idea, and second, under DNC rules, the state party would have gone from bonus delegates for an April primary to losing half the delegation during primary season for a non-compliant February contest.

One thing Governor Cuomo did note in the memo was that he continues to see value in a consolidated primary -- presidential primary plus those for other local and federal offices -- that would fall on April 28. However, he will not call a special session for the New York legislature to move on that. Rather, he urged the legislature to act in January when they reconvene for the 2020 session. But such a move would have an impact on those filing to run for those other offices that would fall on the same April date as the presidential primary. That, too, may be too quick a turnaround, threatening the viability of that sort of change.

But the New York presidential primary is now locked in on April 28. That change is now reflected on the 2020 FHQ presidential primary calendar.

6/18/19:  New York Assembly Passes April Presidential Primary Bill

6/9/19:  New York April Presidential Primary Bills Outline 2020 Delegate Selection in the Empire State

4/25/19:  New York Democrats Signal an April Presidential Primary

2/14/19:  Small Signal Points Toward an Earlier 2020 New York Presidential Primary

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

California Republicans Face Decision on 2020 Delegate Selection

Heading into their state convention this weekend, California Republicans are staring down an October 1 deadline under RNC rules to finalize delegate selection plans for the 2020 cycle. And due to the 2017 move of the presidential primary from June to March for 2020, a change in the way delegates are allocated is necessary.

For years, California Republicans have used a winner-take-most allocation system in the presidential nomination process, doling out (at-large) delegates to the plurality winner statewide and to the plurality winner in each of the Golden state's congressional districts. But unlike past cycles when California held an early (February or March) primary, the contest now falls in the proportionality window the Republican National Committee adopted for the 2012 cycle, tweaked ahead of 2016 and kept for 2020.

That overlap -- a primary in the proportionality window and a winner-take-most allocation scheme -- means California Republicans have to make some changes or face sanction from the RNC (50 percent delegate reduction). And this coming weekend's state convention is one of the last opportunities for the party to make those changes before the RNC deadline at the end of the month.

California Republicans, then, are one of the few state parties that will have a less incumbent-beneficial plan in 2020 as compared to 2016. A handful of states have made subtle maneuvers in 2019 to award more delegates to majority winners (which incumbent presidents typically are) in primaries and caucuses. Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio have all either altered their delegate selection rules from 2016 or moved primaries or caucuses to retain or create more incumbent-friendly allocation rules (read: winner-take-all).

So what will California Republicans do?

There is no draft of what the California Republican Party Rules Committee will tackle during their Saturday evening meeting, but the path of least resistance -- the one that alters the status quo the least -- is a proportional allocation system set up with either or both of a maximum 20 percent qualifying threshold on statewide and district results and/or a 50 percent winner-take-all trigger applied to both statewide and district results. That would likely retain the winner-take-most elements in a contest with an intra-party popular incumbent president seeking renomination.

Time, however, will tell that tale. But a change does have to occur for California Republicans to remain in compliance with RNC rules.

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