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. 


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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. 



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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.



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