Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Uncommitted delegates are not necessarily Listen to Michigan delegates

Leading the day at FHQ...

The Michigan presidential primary is now in the rearview mirror, and while others will move on to the next contests or focus on the perceived threats the results in the Great Lakes state have on both likely nominees, FHQ will do what it does. And namely, that means digging into the delegates. 

For those who are interested in such things, there are a pair of delegate stories out of Michigan -- one on each side -- worth fleshing out some. 

The story of the night in Michigan -- well, it seemed like it had already been flagged as the story well in advance of last night -- was how Listen to Michigan's push for Michiganders to vote uncommitted in protest of President Biden's Gaza policy would fare. Lowball estimates from the group and its allies aside, the group did pretty well. And by pretty well, FHQ means that they were probably wildly successful in capturing the attention of media folks and political junkies desperate for something other than "Biden and Trump win again."

Well, Biden and Trump won again and Listen to Michigan certainly grabbed some attention. Some will try to read the tea leaves on what that portends for the general election in a battleground state -- a fool's errand -- but there are other ways of looking at how uncommitted did in the Michigan primary.

Some of this FHQ contextualized yesterday over at FHQ Plus. Uncommitted 2024 did about as well as Uncommitted 2012 would have done had the Michigan Democratic presidential primary actually counted and not been a beauty contest that cycle. And that is to say that Uncommitted 2024 failed to hit 15 percent statewide to qualify for any PLEO or at-large delegates. Despite that, Uncommitted 2024, just like Uncommitted 2012 would have, managed to qualify in a couple of congressional districts. Then, it was the sixth and tenth districts. Last night saw Uncommitted 2024 qualify in the sixth and 12th districts, receiving just north of 17 percent in each. 

And what does that get Uncommitted 2024 in the delegate count? 

Two delegates. 

One delegate in each of those districts. 

[As of this writing, the Michigan secretary of state has all 83 counties reporting, but the tally may not be complete.]

However, just because there are two uncommitted delegates does not mean that those are two Listen to Michigan delegates. Again, they are uncommitted delegate slots. Uncommitted. Any national convention delegate candidate that files as uncommitted in the sixth and 12th districts can run for one of those two slots. It will be the uncommitted delegates to the congressional district conventions in May who will decide who gets those positions. 

Listen to Michigan may organize its supporters in Michigan to run for and win spots to the congressional district conventions -- more on that process here -- but the group does not have a lock on those delegate slots. Nor does it have the ability to vet potential national convention delegates in the same way that an actual candidate and their campaign can. The group will not have that check

In other words, Listen to Michigan is vulnerable to a knowledgable and organized delegate operation, one that could run or overrun the uncommitted delegate pool in those congressional districts and take those uncommitted slots for their own. 

Yes, FHQ is suggesting that the Biden campaign could swoop in and win those uncommitted delegate slots in Michigan's sixth and 12th districts.  

But they likely will not. That would likely end up being far more trouble than it is worth. Why stir up an angry hornets' nest any more than it is already riled up over two delegates? There really is no need to. Had uncommitted fared better last night, reaching, say, a third of the vote, then maybe there could have been a more concerted effort to contest the selection of delegate candidates to those allocated slots. But as it is -- at two delegates -- why attempt that particular flex?

FHQ is not really sure what the deal with the AP delegate count in Michigan on the Republican side was, but it had been stuck on Trump 9, Haley 2 for the longest time. The Michigan Republican delegate selection plan is weird, but this is not that hard (even with an incomplete tally at this point).

Here is the number one needs to know: 25 percent.

If Nikki Haley slips under 25 percent in the Michigan primary results then she will claim three (3) delegates. As it stands now, she is over that mark and would be allocated four (4) delegates.

Trump will get the rest regardless of whether his total climbs some or falls. Why? 

Well, as of now, Trump is sitting on 68.2 percent of the vote in the Michigan primary. That would qualify him for 11 delegates. If the former president's total rose above 68.75 percent, then he would grab the last delegate, his would-be twelfth. But he would claim that delegate no matter what. Even if Trump stayed right where he is -- under 68.75 percent -- he would still win the last delegate. It would be unallocated based on the results, but all unallocated delegates go to the winner of the primary

FHQ has started rolling out the state-by-state series on Democratic delegate allocation rules over at FHQ Plus. So far there have been looks at rules in...
What's the difference between Democratic and Republican delegate selection rules? FHQ Plus has it covered.

Looking for more on delegates and delegate allocation? Continue here at the central hub for Republican delegate allocation rules on the state level at FHQ. That includes the latest from...

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Trump and Titanic Tuesday 2008

Leading the day at FHQ...

Last night as FHQ was preparing for the week ahead, I looked up and saw that today was going to be February 5. Big deal, right? 

Actually, for those who follow the presidential primary calendar and its many iterations, it is a date with some significance in the post-reform era. February 5, 2008 was Super Tuesday. It was so super -- so chock full of delegates, in fact -- that some took to calling it Titanic Tuesday. Indeed, both parties allocated more than 45 percent of all of their delegates that cycle on that one day! For comparison, neither party will have allocated any more than 41 percent of the their delegates in all the contests through Super Tuesday in 2024 combined

In other words, when folks look up frontloading in the dictionary -- if they are lucky enough to find it -- then they will see a picture of the 2008 map

What is more, the allocation rules were different than they are today. Okay, they were different on the Republican side. Democrats had and continue to have the same standard proportional rules with 15 percent qualifying threshold that they have had in place going back into the 20th century. 
In 2008, the GOP rules were different.

But in a lot of ways the Republican calendar was not only frontloaded but the rules were sort of inverted. There was no prohibition on winner-take-all rules early in the calendar as there is in 2024 (and has been in some form or another since 2012). And it showed. The map was peppered with plurality winner-take-all states in the 2008 Republican process and all of them save one -- Vermont -- were in contests held in or before February that year. And many of the other states on Titanic Tuesday and throughout February 2008 that were not truly winner-take-all had winner-take-all elements. Most of those, including California, were winner-take-all by congressional district.

John McCain rode success in those early states to a gigantic delegate lead that crested above the majority mark, clinching the nomination for him, during the first week in March. 

The interesting thing to me is that for all the talk of the Trump campaign working the state-level delegate rules for 2024 -- and, ahem, Team Trump did the bulk of that work in 2019 -- they would have killed to have had that 2008 calendar with its particular patchwork of delegate rules for 2024. With that combination, we would be talking about Trump clinching today rather sometime during the first three weeks in March. 

Team Trump definitely would have traded for that if they could have. But the RNC carried over the same basic set of guidelines for 2024 that the national party had in place in 2016. Which is to say that there remained a super penalty in place to prevent most states from going earlier than March and another penalty to nix plurality winner-take-all rules in states with contests before March 15. 

Anyway, it is a fun thought experiment. Changing to 2008 rules would probably not change the outcome in 2024, but it certainly would have changed the pace of how nomination season resolved itself. Happy Titanic Tuesday Remembrance Day. 

Last week a bow was finally tied on the delegate allocation from the New Hampshire Republican primary during the prior week on January 23. Only it was not exactly a nice and neat bow. Instead, as the AP reported it, the New Hampshire secretary of state allocated the one remaining delegate in limbo to Donald Trump, raising his total in the Granite state to 13 delegates. 

How Secretary Scanlan arrived at that was a little, well, weird. And the method used was not consistent with how the secretary's office under previous longtime Secretary Bill Gardner handled the delegate count during the last competitive Republican presidential nomination race in 2016. 

FHQ has started rolling out the state-by-state series on Democratic delegate allocation rules over at FHQ Plus. So far there have been looks at rules in...
What's the difference between Democratic and Republican delegate selection rules? FHQ Plus has it covered.

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies.