Tuesday, August 8, 2023

A Self-Fulfilling Contested Convention?

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...
  • Folks may sleep on the tightening Alabama Republicans did to their 2024 delegate selection over the weekend, but they will miss an important story. Last week in this space, FHQ discussed how the Trump campaign is "smoothing over any rough edges" in the delegate allocation/selection rules it missed last time around. The Alabama change illustrates that well and show the minute details Team Trump is nailing down for 2024. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Tim Miller had an interesting piece up at The Triad yesterday picking up on a line of thought within DeSantis World that parallels FHQ's thinking on the Republican presidential race in some ways:
But now at least one of Trump’s opponents is wondering if the frontrunner’s legal troubles could change the calculus and require candidates to stay in for the long haul in order to try and amass delegates in case there is a convention battle because the former president is . . . otherwise indisposed. 
This not the first mention of long-haul strategies from with the super PAC branch of the DeSantis campaign network. There is some delegate rules savvy there. But the broader point here, I think, is something Miller picks at but does not fully dig in on. And that broader point is that Trump's legal situation presents a level of uncertainty in a presidential nomination race that may, in turn, create incentives for candidates to stick around longer than they otherwise would, sans frontrunner legal trouble. 

But the game -- call it the self-fulfilling contested convention theory -- is about more than theoretically sticking around longer to gain as many delegates as possible to take into a convention that may be more open with a convicted leading candidate (or one under threat of such in the midst of a trial or trials). First of all, Miller notes that candidates may tough it out and win delegates in late proportional states. Well, that dog probably won't hunt. There just are not that many proportional states late in the process (depending on how one defines "late"). And honestly, there are not that many delegates late in the process. The 2024 calendar on the Republican side is one that will likely have allocated 80 percent of its delegates by the first week in April. 

And none of that considers funding for such an operation. The goal in theory may be to hold on, but candidates will need donors (or to convince donors) to fund that effort and delegate candidates to enthusiastically put themselves forward to fill any delegate slots that are allocated to any non-Trumps. If Trump is winning contest after contest next winter/spring, the well of support in both those areas is likely to be tapped out or at least less interested in expending the money, time and/or effort in a losing cause. 

In other words, the winnowing pressure will still be there despite the uncertainty Trump brings to the race. The calculus may be slightly different, but that pressure will still be there if other candidates are not winning. But that assumes Trump is still winning contests. He may not once the voting phase commences. 

But as of now there appears to be a bit of a deficit for others to overcome....

The latest Morning Consult tracking poll of the Republican presidential nomination race has Trump with a commanding lead and DeSantis flirting with another, even lower threshold in the delegate game. Most states with proportional rules have a qualifying threshold. Of them, the vast majority of those states have a threshold set to 15 percent or higher. A 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates continues to be the modal threshold. Where does DeSantis sit in the tracker? 16 percent.

And the outlook may not be any better for non-Trumps on the state level. 

No, the former president's share of support in the Granite state in a new co/efficient survey is lower than in national polling, but no one else even clears the 10 percent barrier to be allocated any delegate slots under New Hampshire rules. 13 percent were undecided and those candidates who placed second through fourth in the poll were all within the margin of error of the Republican delegate threshold in the Granite state.

Three of those top four -- Trump, DeSantis and Nikki Haley (in addition to Asa Hutchinson) -- will all descend on New Hampshire today

From around the invisible primary...
  • Generra Peck is out as campaign manager for the DeSantis campaign and James Uthmeier, the governor's chief of staff in Tallahassee is in. 
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence had already hit the polling threshold to make the stage for the first Republican presidential debate later this month, but had been struggling to get to 40,000 unique donors for that threshold. That struggle is now over (for the first debate anyway).
  • In the endorsement primary, Vivek Ramaswamy will gain the backing of Wisconsin state Rep. Nate Gustafson today.
  • Ahead of his weekend visit to South Carolina, Trump picked up the endorsement of Palmetto state Speaker of the House Murrell Smith. There are not a lot of big name South Carolinians who have either not endorsed Trump or launched a bid themselves, so another second tier endorsement coming off the board -- and siding with Trump -- merits a mention.
  • The Erie Times-News has a nice rundown of endorsements thus far on both sides in the presidential race in Pennsylvania.
  • FHQ is late to this, but in the money primary, there are several candidates who are spending money at a potentially unsustainable rate according to Axios.
  • There are four early states on the Republican primary calendar and all have Republican governors. One has made an endorsement. Henry McMaster (R-SC) has again lined up behind Donal Trump. But the remaining three are on the sidelines, and a second of those -- Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo -- has pledged to remind neutral in the race, joining Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.


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