Showing posts with label Barbara Norrander. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barbara Norrander. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorum Suspends: A Nomination Race in Context

Well, FHQ will add its two cents. And not surprisingly, we'll look at Rick Santorum's decision to suspend his presidential campaign through the lens of the delegate count.

All too often delegate counts don't matter in the grand scheme of things in most presidential nomination races. To the extent that they do, it is fleeting. Counting up delegates is only consequential and/or necessary in a couple of instances:
  1. After the race has progressed far enough that one candidate has effectively taken all/most of the momentum -- or continued riding it from the invisible primary portion of the campaign -- and thus stretched out to a large enough lead to make a comeback unlikely if not impossible.
  2. If the race has progressed to a point where two or more candidates are trading primary and caucus wins and staying within range of each other in terms of the delegate count. 
These are the extremes and throughout much of the post-reform era the process has moved ever closer to the former rather than the latter. A constantly frontloading calendar gave, for much of that period, frontrunning candidates a greater and better opportunity to effectively wrap up the nomination early if they had established themselves as the clear frontrunner heading into the contest portion of the race. The nomination races in both parties in 2000 and for the Democrats in 2004 are good examples. But if 2008 demonstrated anything it was that if the invisible primary (fundraising, poll position and endorsement) has proven inconclusive, then true delegate counting may ensue. Certainly, this was more the case on the Democratic side in 2008 than among the Republican candidates.

One easy way of describing the 2012 Republican nomination race is to say that despite all the rules changes and all the calendar movement, it still played out pretty much like 2008. Super Tuesday came and went with one candidate well ahead of the others in the delegate count and a month later it was over. Of course, John McCain was way out in front of his rivals in 2008 after the February 5 Super Tuesday series of contests, but a month later -- after wins in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont -- the Arizona senator wrapped up the nomination. And that's just as it was in 2012. Romney emerged from Super Tuesday on March 6 with a sizable enough delegate lead and eliminated his final viable opponent a month later after wins in Maryland, Washington, DC and Wisconsin.

Now, the explanation is more complex than that. After all McCain surpassed the 1191 delegate mark to officially clinch the nomination a month after Super Tuesday, whereas Romney will continue to march toward 1144 in a semi-contested to uncontested way for the rest of the calendar. The point here is not to minimize that distinction. Rather, the intent is to point out that while delegate counting is fun -- more so for some of us than others -- often these contests for a party's nomination are more a process of elimination. Presumptive nominees don't often have to concern themselves with the sorts of gain-deficit ratios and other delegate calculations Barbara Norrander (2000) so eloquently describes in discussing the end game of nomination contests. No, more often than not, it is simply a matter of a frontrunner eliminating his or her final viable opponent (Norrander 1996).

We counted delegates for a while in 2012, but this one ended like so many other presidential nomination races of the post-reform era ended: with the runner-up withdrawing. In this case, Mitt Romney had established enough of a delegate lead that a Santorum comeback was unlikely if not impossible.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Presidential Primary Reform Week: Reading Room

This is part five in a series of posts this week dealing with presidential primary reform. As a refresher you can also look at FHQ's earlier synopsis of several of the various reform proposals that have been talked about and/or considered. The maps are a little clunky, but will suffice for now. I'm planning a revamping of them in the not too distant future. You can also find part one (National Primary with a Twist) here, part two (Two Birds, One Stone) here and the first installment of part three (Fair and Representative Presidential Primaries Act of 2009) here (second installment here). Finally, part four (covering the implications for reform based on the National Association of Secretaries of State change-over of power) can be found here.

I wanted to close Presidential Primary Reform Week with a heads up on some great reading out there on the subject. Yes, if you've tuned into this series of posts since last Monday, you've already been given a lot to look at and read, but there are a couple of books (one already out and one to-be-released book) that are on my wish list for the near future -- in times that are less dissertation-dominated.

The first book is an edited volume -- Reforming the Presidential Nomination Process by Steven S. Smith and Melanie J. Springer -- that the Brookings Institution released earlier this year. In fact, a made a similar claim about this book being on my wish list about a year ago before it hit the shelves. Eerie, isn't it? The entire process is seemingly broken down, but the book ends with chapters from Larry Sabato calling "reform by constitutional amendment," Thomas Mann dissecting the reform fallout from 2008 and Dan Lowenstein discussing congressional intervention in the process. I've mentioned the Lowenstein chapter before and it bears mentioning here again. It is the piece that breaks the system of reform down from a legal perspective and has the most usefulness for our discussions here. Highly recommended reading.

The details are sketchier for Barbara Norrander's new book on reform. It is, depending on where you look, it is due out either in September or next year sometime. However, around FHQ, this will be highly anticipated reading. Norrander has made a career in political science out of researching the nomination process (just look at her publications and this thorough list of primaries literature on her website -- pdf) and her upcoming book on reform shouldn't disappoint. Well, it won't disappoint me, anyhow. Here's the publisher's blurb on the book, Can Presidential Primaries Be Reformed?:
"Many people complain about the complex system used to nominate presidents. The system is hardly rational because it was never carefully planned. Because of the dissatisfaction over the idiosyncrasies of the current system, periodic calls arise to reform the presidential nomination process. However, the last major series of reforms from the 1970s produced many unintended consequences. Further, many of the current reform proposals are actually solutions for lesser problems and solutions for more major problems are highly unlikely to be enacted.

The main theme of the book is to be careful what you wish for. Reforming the presidential nomination process is as complex as the current system. In this book Norrander explores how presidential candidates are nominated, discusses past and current proposals for reform, and examines the possiblity for more practical, incremental changes to the electoral rules."

"Be careful what you wish for." Sounds like something uttered around these parts.

Anyway, both of these books get FHQ's seal of approval. If you're interested in learning more about the process, you probably won't have to look any further. Happy reading.

Recent Posts:
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