Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Trump and the 2024 Delegate Allocation Rules

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

First, over at FHQ Plus...
  • South Carolina is unique among states with state-run and funded presidential primaries. In some ways that helped elevate the Palmetto state to the first slot on the 2024 Democratic primary calendar. But quirkiness presents some challenges as well. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Gregory Korte had a nice piece up at Bloomberg the other day concerning the delegate allocation rules and how the Trump campaign's efforts to massage them in 2020 may pay dividends for the former president in 2024. As he notes, however, there will not be a complete picture of the state-level delegate allocation rules until October 1. That makes it tough to game out the impact of the rules for next year. 

Moreover, the various campaigns are doing the same thing. They are currently trying to plan this out, but they are also simultaneously trying to affect what those rules are to lay the groundwork for advantageous allocation rules next year. And that makes for some potential, if not likely, cross-pressures with which state-level party officials/committees/conventions making these decision will have to deal. Together that makes for a challenging decision-making environment. FHQ talked about this in setting the 2024 Republican delegate allocation rules baseline back in March:
If decision makers in state parties across the country cannot see a clear advantage to an allocation change one way or the other, then it is more likely that the 2020 baseline method survives into 2024. That theoretically helps Trump. ...if he is the frontrunner. But if Trump is not the frontrunner once primary season kicks off, then any shift away from the 2020 baseline -- a baseline with the knobs turned toward incumbent defense (or frontrunner defense) -- may end up helping a candidate other than the one intended. 

Another factor adding to this uncertainty is how decision makers view a change playing with rank and file members of the party. If elected officials or other elites in the party are wary of endorsing one Republican candidate or another, then they may also be less willing to make an allocation change for fear that it would be viewed as helping or hurting Trump. In other words, it looks like they are putting their thumb on the scale one way or the other. That is the sort of view that augurs against change. And again, the status quo likely helps Trump (if current conditions persist). 

Basically, the bottom line is this. Allocation changes are tough. They are tough to make because there is uncertainty in the impact those changes will have. It is much easier to see the potential impact of moving a primary to an early date for example. It could help a favorite son or daughter candidate. But an earlier primary or caucus definitely better insures that the state influences the course of the nomination race. If a contest falls too late -- after a presumptive nominee has emerged and clinched the nomination -- then that contest has literally no impact. Some impact, no matter how small, is better than literally zero impact. The same is true with respect to the decision to conduct a primary election or caucuses. There are definite turnout effects that come with holding a primary rather than caucuses. And greater participation in primaries typically means a more diverse -- less ideologically homogenous or extreme -- electorate.

Things are less clear with allocation rules changes. 
There is much more in that post. FHQ will be drawing from it throughout the remainder of the invisible primary if not into primary season in 2024. Go read it. But in the meantime, a couple of additional things:
  1. Yes, more truly winner-take-all states help Trump at this time. But they would help any frontrunner. These are, after all, frontrunner rules. They help build and pad a delegate lead once the RNC allows winner-take-all rules to kick in on March 15, entering 50-75 rule territory.
  2. But Team Trump is likely looking toward (and looking to maintain) the other rules changes from 2020 for an earlier-on-the-calendar boost. An earlier (technical) knock out for a 2024 frontrunner may come from states earlier than March 15 with winner-take-all triggers. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote statewide and/or at the congressional district level, then that candidate wins all of the delegates from that jurisdiction (or all of a state's delegates available if the delegates are pooled). Alternatively, if no other candidates hit the qualifying thresholds (set to their max of 20 percent in most proportional states in 2020), then the winner is allocated all of the delegates in some states even if they do not have a majority. And the name of the game here is not necessarily winning all of the delegates, but maximizing the net delegate advantage coming out of any given state. All of the Republican campaigns are asking how much they can improve on a baseline proportional allocation, and picking spots on the map and calendar where they can do. Well, campaigns are doing that if they know what they are doing anyway.

In the travel primary, former Vice President Mike Pence will be back in New Hampshire on Tuesday, May 16. And it looks at if a super PAC has formed around his before the end of June presidential launch. The interesting thing is less the formation of an aligned super PAC and more about some of the staff primary hires the new group has made. There are folks from the orbits of a former Republican presidential nominee (Scott Reed, former campaign manager of the 1996 Dole campaign), a once talked-about possible 2024 aspirant who declined to run (Mike Ricci, former spokesman for former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan) and a still-talked about possible 2024 candidate who says he is not running (Bobby Saparow, former campaign manager for current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp). In total, that makes for an interesting mix of old school Republican politics and new school Trump resistance within the party. That may not represent a winning path in the Republican nomination race, but it is indicative of a unique course forward for Pence relative to his competition.

Endorsement Math. Yesterday, FHQ raised the sizable number of Iowa state legislative endorsements Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rolled out before his weekend trek to the Hawkeye state. And on Monday, Never Back Down, the super PAC aligned with DeSantis, released another 49 new endorsements from fellow early state, New Hampshire. [That is 51 endorsements minus the previously revealed support of New Hampshire House Majority Leader Jason Osborne and the double endorsement -- of both Trump and DeSantis -- from Juliet Harvey-Bolia.] Three of those DeSantis endorsements in the Granite state are from representatives who have supported Trump in the past.

But the math is different across both of those waves of DeSantis endorsements from Iowa and New Hampshire. The 37 state legislative endorsements from the Hawkeye state accounted for more than a third of all of the possible Iowa Republican legislators -- House and Senate. In New Hampshire, those 50 endorsements, all from members of the state House, register differently. They make up just a quarter of the total number of possible endorsements from the lower chamber alone. Yes, that may be splitting hairs, but it is also a long way of saying the pool of endorsements is bigger in New Hampshire. Others will be vying for the support of the remaining 150 Granite state House members. 

On this date...
...in 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace, a day after being shot campaigning in Maryland, won primaries in the Old Line state and in Michigan

...in 2000, long after becoming the presumptive nominees of their parties, George W. Bush and Al Gore won the Oregon presidential primary.

...in 2019, long shots, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rocky de la Fuente, respectively entered the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination races. 


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