Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

Saturday, August 5, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] Newly adopted California Republican delegate allocation rules offer clear benefits

The following is cross-posted from FHQ Plus, FHQ's subscription newsletter. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 

But the plan is a gamble for Trump and the state party for different reasons:

Did FHQ not just discuss California delegate allocation rules?


But the California Republican Party executive committee jettisoned that widely circulated (and panned) plan in favor of an alternate version, a version that seemingly balances the party’s desire to draw candidates into the Golden state and the Trump campaign’s push to maximize its delegates in the contest next year. Those benefits are clear enough on the surface, but neither is guaranteed. 

And that means the revised delegate allocation scheme for 2024 is a gamble of sorts. For California Republicans and for Trump. Delegate allocation rules can be a zero sum game and the friction that developed in and around the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday, July 29 from multiple sides was evidence of the high stakes involved. 

What changes did the California Republican Party make? And what does that mean for the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination?

The adopted changes

The initially proposed changes offered by the California Republican Party set up a plan with a few notable features:

  • A proportional allocation of the 13 at-large (and automatic/party) delegates based on the statewide vote with no qualifying threshold and no winner-take-all trigger (should one candidate win a majority of the vote statewide)

  • A proportional allocation of the 3 delegates in each of the 52 congressional districts based on the results within each congressional district. The top finisher in a congressional district vote would receive two delegates and the runner-up would receive the remaining delegate. Like the allocation of the at-large delegates described above, there would be no winner-take-all trigger should one candidate win a majority of the vote within the district

That method differs from the system the state party utilized in 2020 and it is also different than the plan adopted on Saturday. The newly adopted plan — the allocation plan California Republicans will use in 2024 — shed the separate allocation scheme for at-large and congressional district delegates and returned to a system that resembles the 2020 plan with one big exception: there is no qualifying threshold. But exactly like the 2020 delegate allocation among Golden state Republicans, the 2024 system will have the following provisions:

  • All 169 delegates, including at-large, automatic/party and congressional district delegates, will be pooled (meaning they will all be allocated as one bloc). Again, that is just as it was for 2020.

  • All 169 delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the statewide results. That, too, is just the same as under the 2020 rules

  • If any candidate wins the California primary with more than 50 percent of the vote, then all 169 delegates will be allocated to that candidate. Just like the 2020 plan, California Republicans have included in their 2024 rules a winner-take-all trigger or winner-take-all threshold. 

However, unlike 2020, more candidates will likely be eligible for some share of the 169 delegates available because there will no longer be a 20 percent qualifying threshold, the highest bar allowed under Republican National Committee rules. That is a big difference. 

How big? 

The impact of 2020 versus 2024 rules

Pretty big.

Using the results from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary with the 2020 and 2024 California Republican Party allocation rules highlights the scale of the change.1

With no qualifying threshold, as under the 2024 rules, five additional candidates would have been allocated delegates as compared to the 2020 rules. And candidates with as little as two percent support would have claimed at least some share of the pool of 169 delegates.2 But importantly, the top two candidates — the only two who would have cleared the 20 percent threshold to qualify for delegates under the 2020 rules — would have lost a significant chunk of delegates in the transition from 2020 to 2024 rules. Sanders would have lost 34 and Biden, 26. 

Now, imagine that Sanders pulled in closer to half of the voters in the last California primary. Pretend Elizabeth Warren was not in the race and that the 13.2 percent the Massachusetts senator won went to Sanders instead. Under the 2020 California Republican allocation rules, Sanders would have won 108 delegates compared to 84 delegates according to the 2024 plan. What is clear is that Sanders would pay a price in delegates won without a qualifying threshold

FHQ raises the second scenario because Trump is currently hovering around the 50 percent mark in polling both nationally and in California. The penalty for not hitting the winner-take-all threshold, which is in the 2024 California Republican delegate allocation rules, would be significant, but it will be greater in the absence of a qualifying threshold. It makes strategic sense to secure the former threshold, but it is a gamble. 

If Trump does not hit it, then the price is steep and the net delegate advantage coming out of the California primary would likely differ very little from the original 2024 rules proposal that Republicans in the Golden state floated. However, if Trump does eclipse the 50 percent barrier and trips the winner-take-all trigger, then it is clearly close to a death knell for his opposition. A +169 is tough to overcome even if Super Tuesday’s results are mixed and states with truly winner-take-all rules lie ahead on the calendar. 

It is not that there are not advantages for Trump in this change (either relative to 2020 or the alternate 2024 proposal), but the new rules do place a great deal of pressure on the campaign to make it happen.


But why is there not a qualifying threshold?

That is the gamble the state party is making. 

If more candidates are eligible for delegates, then that may be enough of a carrot to lure candidates of all stripes into the state to campaign and spend money. In theory that makes sense. But in practice, the cost/benefit analysis may not work in the favor of California Republicans who are championing this revised plan. 

The candidates will go to California. They always do to raise money. But turning around and spending that money (in a variety of ways) in the Golden state may not offer as much bang for the candidates’ buck as it might in other states. Yes, California is the most delegate-rich state out there — and promises 169 delegates to anyone who can clear 50 percent in the primary — but it is also prohibitively expensive to reach voters and in turn win votes/delegates. And as long as Trump is threatening to hit the winner-take-all trigger, it may be enough to ward off concerted investment in the state. 

But where this plan is clever is in the fact that it potentially motivates all of the candidates. It draws the Trump campaign in to expend resources in the state to win all of the delegates. Yet, it potentially entices other candidates to take a risk to keep Trump under the majority mark and minimize the former president’s net delegate advantage coming out of California and Super Tuesday. 

And that is just it. Much of the above discusses California in isolation. But the California primary is not an isolated event. It falls on Super Tuesday when roughly a third of the total number of delegates will be allocated. Few may be able to run a truly national campaign leading up to March 5. And few may choose to incorporate California directly into their investments for Super Tuesday.3 The options may be better (and cheaper) elsewhere. 

Still, the Trump campaign is calling the change in California a win for them. And it may be. But only if the former president can win a majority. And that is not a sure thing.

1 FHQ is using the 2020 Democratic results because the California Democratic primary was both early (as the 2024 primary is) and competitive. The 2020 Republican primary in California was also on Super Tuesday but uncompetitive, and the 2016 Republican primary in the Golden state was later and fell after Donald Trump’s viable opposition had withdrawn from the race. 

2 That allocation outcome depends to some degree on how California Republicans choose to round. All fractional delegates are rounded up starting with the top vote-getter and progressing from there in descending order of vote share. Under different (and more conventional) rounding rules, even more candidates would have qualified for delegates (and with less than one percent support).

3 Candidates may choose to indirectly hit California through national ad buys instead.


Monday, July 31, 2023

Let's talk about the state of Republican delegate selection rules for 2024 (Part One)

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...
  • California Republicans have new delegate selection rules for 2024. And it seems like some folks are racing to score the change as a win for Trump. It might be! But that is not guaranteed. There are some California-sized caveats, but CAGOP may be the big winner. All the details at FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
FHQ will level with you. I have found the Washington Post's coverage of the evolving Republican delegate selection rules to have been fabulous all year. Reporters there have done a fantastic job of digging up state-level changes, large and small, and have furthermore done well in contextualizing them for a unique 2024 Republican nomination race. Look, the Post has a much larger, much broader audience than FHQ, and the stories are crafted with such an audience in mind. 

They do not necessarily get down in the weeds. And they do not have to! Leave that to niche sites like FHQ with equally niche audiences. Hey, we are happy to fill the void. 

And while that overall view of WaPo coverage has not changed, FHQ did find their article on delegate selection rules following the change in California from this past weekend lacking. And some of this is just cranky blogging, pet peevish stuff for FHQ. But there were also some nuggets in the piece that left me shaking my head, stuff simply not backed up by the facts. So let us endeavor to set the record straight on a Monday. 

Winner-take-all by congressional district

Right out of the gate, Maeve Reston and Michael Scherer hit readers with this:
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign notched a major victory Saturday when members of the California Republican executive committee voted to parcel out convention delegates based on the statewide vote next year — doing away with the state’s longtime system of awarding them by congressional district, which had been perceived as a more level playing field for lower-tiered candidates.
Okay. That is a loaded clause highlighted there. And some of it is technically correct even if it glosses over the nature of delegate selection rules changes made by California Republicans in recent cycles. It is true that California Republicans have had a winner-take-all by congressional district allocation scheme for most of the 21st century. And it was still on the books until its death sentence was signed this weekend (technically for 2024 and for good afterward). 

However, that allocation method was overridden in 2019 for the 2020 cycle with a contingency provision that called for the proportional allocation of the entire California Republican delegation. [Yes, that sounds an awful lot like what the Republican Party in the Golden state just adopted. It is quite similar.] That temporary condition was added in 2019 because the Republican National Committee rules prohibit winner-take-all by congressional district methods of allocation before March 15. Therefore, the state party had to make a change because the 2020 primary fell on Super Tuesday, before March 15. 

But again, that was a temporary contingency that expired at the beginning of 2021, leaving California Republicans with the same default winner-take-all by congressional district method in place. Time passed and the RNC carried over the same winner-take-all prohibition for the early calendar into the 2024 rules. So that was never going to be the method Golden state Republicans used in 2024. Look, California Republicans were not going to give up the one feather in their cap in this process. Theirs is the most delegate-rich state on the Republican calendar. The state party was not going to give up half its delegation -- the penalty for using an unsanctioned winner-take-all by congressional district allocation method in an early March primary -- to keep that method. They just were not. 

That brings the timeline to May of this year when the LA Times had an article describing how California Republicans were going to have this strategically unique delegate allocation method for 2024. The method? Winner-take-all by congressional district. Yes, the very same noncompliant method detailed above. FHQ raises the LA Times piece because it set a baseline that has subsequently poisoned the discourse on these changes that California Republicans have actually made for 2024. 

It was that article that made it seem as if California Republicans were going to use that noncompliant method when all it ever was was a placeholder until the state party set rules for 2024 this summer (just as the party did in the summer of 2019). Indeed, before the new plan was adopted over the weekend, there was an alternative proposal that called for a proportional districted method of allocation. Still districted, but proportional and compliant.

Moreover, that baseline set in the LA Times piece from May has led subsequent news accounts to compare changes relative to what was never going to be a winner-take-all by congressional district allocation method. In reality, the comparison should have been to the rules used by the state party in 2020, rules that were compliant. Yes, those rules expired, but to better understand the nature of the change for 2024, the 2020 rules are the better comparison and the better encapsulation of the state party's thinking on how to craft compliant rules for an incumbent cycle (2020) versus a competitive one (2024). 

The press has dropped the ball on this one. 

Fortunately, the newly adopted 2024 California Republican delegate allocation rules sunset at the end of next year. Not just the subsection detailing the compliant proportional allocation, but the whole section including the legacy winner-take-all by congressional district method. Make note of that now. Hopefully that means we all will not be talking about these same noncompliant rules in California in 2027. No one should be comparing any changes then to that method anyway. 

To circle back to the WaPo reference to "the state’s longtime system of awarding them [delegates] by congressional district," it really was not necessary. That is a false point of comparison for the new method. And it is one that did not need to feature as prominently as it did in that story or the similar story about the rules change from the LA Times

Did the winner-take-all by congressional district method warrant a mention somewhere in either story? Sure, but the endless parade of quotes from Republicans in California seemingly pining for the "old system" just made those folks look out of touch. To repeat, the California Republican Party was not going to sacrifice half of their delegates to allocated delegates the old way (2016 and before). 

Okay. FHQ got that one off its chest. What else? 


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

Monday, July 24, 2023

On "the nitty-gritty battle for delegates" for 2024

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...
  • California Republicans were always going to have to do something with their delegate selection plan to bring it into compliance with national party rules. But under those RNC rules there are variations in the proportional methods required before March 15. And consequentially, Republicans in the Golden state are planning to use a different proportional in 2024 than they did in 2020. All the details at FHQ Plus.
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In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Look, I thought the AP story on Trump and the delegate battle now and ahead was a good and informative read. It did well in pulling together a number of disparate pieces to tell a story about how the Trump campaign has done well playing defense on the delegate rules it established in 2020 and even some of the offense it has played on a smaller scale. 

It is an important story. There have been more wins -- as measured by status quo maintenance -- for the former president than losses, and that is no small thing as the invisible primary pushes deeper into the third quarter of 2023. Whether this 2024 Republican presidential nomination race develops into an actual delegate battle or not is colored to a great degree by how the frontrunner (or front-running campaigns if there are multiples) shuts the door now on opponents in the delegate rules and across the various other invisible primary metrics (fundraising, endorsements, staff, etc.).

Yes, the polling support could collapse for Trump at some point, but for now the former president has some built-in advantages that insulate him to some extent. It is not the incumbency advantage, but this [understatement alert] has not been the typical competitive nomination cycle either. 

Still, it can be tough for me not to read accounts like the AP's with anything other than a critical eye. There are a couple of things FHQ would highlight:

1) On Michigan Republicans' and the process they have laid out for delegate allocation and selection in 2024...
"In Michigan, where the state GOP has become increasingly loyal to Trump, the party’s leadership this year voted to change the state’s longtime process of allocating all its presidential delegates based on an open primary election. Under a new plan widely expected to benefit Trump, 16 of the state’s 55 delegates will be awarded based on the results of a Feb. 27 primary. The other 39 will be distributed four days later in closed-door caucus meetings of party activists."
There will be a congressional district caucus process in Michigan at some point, but it is not clear whether that will fall on March 2, four days after the state-run primary. Yes, that plan was adopted last month, but the caucus scheduling hit a snag with the RNC earlier in July.

2) On California Republicans and their plans for 2024...
"One potential opening for a challenger like DeSantis could be California, which has 169 delegates to dole out, more than any other state. 
"Thanks to changes passed by Democrats in the state Capitol, California’s primary contest will be on March 5, requiring the state GOP to change its delegate plan in order to comply with national GOP rules for early contests. 
"The changes, which the state’s Republican Party is set to consider and approve late this month, are set to award delegates proportionately to the candidate’s share of the vote, rather than award all delegates to the winner
"That could give a candidate trailing in second place a chance to make up ground—especially someone like DeSantis, who has made a point of campaigning in the state."
Democrats in Sacramento did change the primary date to Super Tuesday. 2017

California Republicans had to make a change to the winner-take-all by congressional district system -- NOT truly winner-take-all -- used before then for the 2020 cycle. The problem was that the changes to the CAGOP bylaws in 2019 were only temporary and reset to the same noncompliant winner-take-all by congressional method after 2020. That Republicans in the Golden state have to change back to a more proportional system for 2024 is a condition of their own making. There is really no need to place the blame on Democrats in 2017.

And FHQ does not know if a second place finisher in California is going to make up ground in the delegate count. They will lose less ground than if it were winner-take-all by congressional district, but they will not make up ground. 

From around the invisible primary...


Monday, May 29, 2023

What California Republicans Decide on Delegate Allocation May Matter a Lot. Here's how.

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...
  • FHQ Plus has been on a holiday (publishing) hiatus, but be on the lookout for a fun new post today or tomorrow. If you have been on the fence about subscribing to FHQ Plus, this one might be one to get you off of it. Come check out FHQ Plus.
If you haven't checked out FHQ Plus yet, then what are you waiting for? Subscribe below for free and consider a paid subscription to support FHQ's work and unlock the full site.

In Invisible Primary: Visible today...
Over the weekend, there was a new poll out of California taking the pulse of, among other things, the state of the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The Institute of Governmental Studies (UC Berkeley) poll showed former President Donald Trump up big over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the Golden state. 

But there are some important factors to make note of about where the candidates are relative to one another in a Super Tuesday state that has undefined delegate allocation rules for 2024 at this point. Despite the sunsetting of the rules used in the largely uncontested 2020 Republican primary, California Republicans will not use the current winner-take-all by congressional district method that serves as a baseline method. Well, the state party will not use those allocation rules if they want to avoid losing half of their delegates under Republican National Committee (RNC) rules. 

So what are the alternatives? And perhaps more importantly, what strategic differences could they make for the candidates?

First of all, if the California Republican Party later this year readopts rules similar to those it used in 2020, then Trump would be looking at a big net delegate advantage coming out of the California primary. Granted, that would be weighed against delegates won by other candidates (or not) in other Super Tuesday states. But despite being a blue state, California remains the biggest delegate prize in the Republican process. 

But not as big as it could be.

While Trump, with a nearly two to one advantage over DeSantis in this poll, would hypothetically take a sizable net delegate gain from California, that big plurality would fall short of a majority. And under the 2020 rules, a majority win would activate a winner-take-all trigger for all 169 delegates. Again, Trump would miss out on that with just 44 percent support statewide. However, that 44-26 advantage would allocate the former president 106 delegates to DeSantis's 63. [No other candidates would qualify for delegates by virtue of missing the 20 percent threshold.] By narrowly missing out on a majority, Trump's delegate advantage goes from all 169 delegates to just 43. 

That is a big difference. Yes, a 43 delegate chunk like that is nothing to dismiss. But that is more easily neutralized across other Super Tuesday states for Trump opponents than if the former president had won all of the delegates from California. 

But what if California Republicans opted to split up the delegates, to not pool the at-large, RNC and congressional district delegates? That may also cut further in to any Trump advantage. The statewide results would only affect the allocation of 13 delegates, the at-large (10) and RNC (3) delegates. With a 44-26 win in a California primary, Trump would only win eight of those 13 delegates. DeSantis would be awarded the remaining five and again, no one else would qualify. 

By not pooling all of the delegates, the district delegates -- three per district -- would be allocated based on the result in each of the 52 congressional districts in the Golden state. Trump may win a majority in some of those, something that would net him all three delegates from such a district. But DeSantis may peak above 50 percent in some districts as well. The bigger thing may be the districts where no one wins a majority. The plurality winner would get two delegates and the runner up would get one. And if a third candidate qualifies in a handful of districts, it could, depending on how the rules are crafted, bring the winner (and assume that is Trump for the purposes of this exercise) down to just one delegate. The top three candidates over 20 percent would all get one delegate. 

Understandably, this gets messy in a hurry. However, the point here is that, depending on 1) the allocation rules and 2) how the primary vote is distributed across California, it could shrink Trump's net delegate advantage, making it more possible to neutralize the Golden state in the process. But it could also grow Trump's delegate advantage over the pooled allocation. Now imagine being one of the campaigns trying to figure this out.

Yes, it is just one poll. Yes, it is late May of the year prior to a presidential election year. Yes, there is a great deal of uncertainty still. But depending on the decisions the California Republican Party makes in the very early fall, it could make a big difference come Super Tuesday 2024. Rules matter.

There are a lot of DeSantis analyses out there since the Florida governor officially joined the Republican presidential nomination race, but few are as thorough as Geoffrey Skelley's at FiveThirtyEight. It provides some nice perspective at the outset of DeSantis 2024. 

Invisible Primary quick hits:
  • NBC News has a good summary of the current state of the endorsement primary. [As an aside, FHQ does not know why RNC member is included as an endorsement category in their analysis. Those three RNC members from each state and territory are ultimately going to be bound delegates next year. Those folks are going to stay (publicly) neutral in the vast, vast majority of cases. There will not be many (if any) endorsements there.]
  • After stops in Iowa and New Hampshire after his own launch, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott came home to the Palmetto state over the Memorial Day weekend for a town hall in the Low Country. Scott also has a fundraising trip out west in San Diego planned for mid-June (money primary).
  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu joined the chorus of prospective Republican candidates suggesting that a presidential announcement is coming "in the next week or two." Chris Christie has sounded similar calls in recent days.
  • Vivek Ramaswamy swung back through Iowa over the weekend. 
  • Never mind what a crowded field might do to the 2024 Republican race, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says it is good for the Hawkeye state and the Republican Party.
  • Not that it is a secret, but aides to North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum are (anonymously) confirming that the launch of presidential campaign is imminent

On this date... 1975, former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford entered the 1976 race for the Democratic presidential nomination. And New Hampshire Governor Mel Thomas signed HB 73 into law. This is the now famous (or infamous depending on one's perspective) law on the books in the Granite state that gives the secretary of state the discretion to set the date of the presidential primary, directing them to keep it seven or more days ahead of any similar election 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the Texas Republican primary and surpassed the number of delegates necessary to claim the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.


Saturday, May 13, 2023

[From FHQ Plus] About the California Republican Party Delegate Rules for 2024

The following is a cross-posted excerpt from FHQ Plus, FHQ's new subscription service. Come check the rest out and consider a paid subscription to unlock the full site and support our work. 


Seema Mehta at the LA Times had a nice piece up today on Republican delegate allocation in California for 2024. The premise was that the winner-take-all by congressional district rules would grant greater voice to the small number of Republican voters in large urban areas compared to the more conservative areas of the state.

And sure, under the Republican National Committee (RNC) delegate apportionment scheme every congressional district — red, blue or purple — counts the same: three delegates each. As Mehta put it:

It doesn’t matter if it’s former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco-based district, home to 29,150 registered Republicans, … or current House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s district centered in Bakersfield, where 205,738 GOP voters live.

Mathematically speaking, it makes some strategic sense for campaigns to chase the districts with the smaller number of partisans. Very simply, the return on investment is greater. And there was some evidence of this in the 2016 race as FHQ noted in Invisible Primary: Visible earlier this year

But here is the thing: California will have a Super Tuesday primary next year. And that March 5 date is prior to March 15 when the winner-take-all prohibition under RNC rules ends. As a result, California Republicans utilizing a winner-take-all by congressional district delegate allocation method before March 15 would be in violation of those national party rules and cost the party half of their 169 delegates under Rule 17(a). 

How did it come to this? Is the California Republican Party deliberately flaunting RNC rules? It does not really look that way. 

To start, the baseline set of national convention delegate allocation rules is a winner-take-all by congressional district method. That has not changed in recent years. What did change in 2019 was that the party adopted a set of allocation rules that were more proportional for 2020 and complied with RNC rules for that cycle. But they sunset in 2021.1 That means that the baseline winner-take-all by congressional district rules are the rules for 2024. 

…for now.

But that will likely change and FHQ bases that on a couple of factors. First, nothing dealing with national convention delegates was even on the March state convention agenda with respect to bylaws changes. Of course, nothing had to be. There is a baseline set of allocation rules in place already that snapped back into action once the 2020 rules expired. 

Second, however, this is setting up just like 2019 when California Republicans faced the same dilemma heading into September ahead of their fall state convention that year. Staring down the prospect of RNC penalties if the party did not change the winner-take-most rules, California Republicans at the late September 2019 state convention adopted the proportional allocation scheme that sunset in 2021, a more proportional set of rules

And California Republicans have a September 2023 state convention lined up right before the RNC deadline to submit rules for the 2024 cycle to the national party on or before October 1. 

The question that emerges from this is why did the 2020 California allocation rules have to expire at all? It makes sense from the state party’s perspective to sunset the proportional rules if there is even an outside shot that the RNC would change its requirement for proportional rules during the early part of the calendar. But the RNC held steady and mostly carried over the same 2020 rules to the 2024 cycle when it finalized the rules package in April 2022. There is no evidence that the national party has subsequently made any additional changes (and could not after September 30, 2022 anyway under the restrictions on further rule amendments in Rule 12).

Look, San Francisco Republicans may dream of a bigger voice in 2024, but they are unlikely to get it if the state party wants to have its full voice at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in summer 2024.


Sunday, March 26, 2023

California Bill to Change Primary Date Amended

Earlier this week, significant changes were made to a California Senate bill that, upon its introduction, appeared to affect the date of the consolidated primary, including the presidential primary, in the Golden state.

In fact, the original version of that bill -- SB 24 -- struck the entire section of the California code dealing with various aspects of the primary, leaving the date unspecified. In brief, the introduced bill described the legislation like this:
This bill would change the date of the presidential primary and consolidated statewide direct primary described above to an unspecified date.
As it turns out, however, that was a change meant to serve as a placeholder while the particulars of the intended bill were worked out. The newly amended version of SB 24 was released on Monday, March 20 and revealed that the date of the presidential primary would remain unaffected moving forward. In its place, grander language to put a public financing (of elections) system before the voters of California was inserted. 

California, it seems for now, will remain one of the anchors of Super Tuesday alongside the primary in Texas. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Legislation Would Make the California Presidential Primary Date Unspecified

Here is an interesting one from California. 

Legislation introduced back in December  would strike out the phrase "first Tuesday after the first Monday in March" and replace it with "____" in the portion of the California electoral code that schedules the Golden state's consolidated primary in years evenly divisible by four.

One could wrangle over the implications, but in truth, SB 24, sponsored by Senator Thomas Umberg (D-34th, Santa Ana), is likely a temporary placeholder for a substantive change to the date of the presidential primary. It is either a change the senator would like to make/explore or an idea around which he would like to build consensus over the course of the 2023 legislative session.

There was a variation on this maneuver in California during the 2012 cycle. That bill went nowhere, but the separate California presidential primary was eventually eliminated and consolidated once again with the primaries for other offices in June. The 2017 change that pushed the presidential primary in the Golden state to Super Tuesday for 2020 moved the whole consolidated primary to March rather than separating the two elections. That is where the California presidential primary is currently scheduled.

As an aside, FHQ would argue that removing the date altogether from California electoral code would not be all that functionally different from the way that New York handles the scheduling of its presidential primary every four years. The protocol in the Empire state has been to set the parameters around which the presidential primary will be conducted and delegates allocated and then sunset the change after the presidential election year concludes. The date reverts to February and the state revisits the date every four years. Theoretically, it is the national party rules that force the reexamination of the primary's timing in New York. A February date is noncompliant and actors on the state level are at least somewhat compelled to make a change. Those New York legislators do not necessarily have to do that every four years -- the change does not have to sunset -- but that has been the standard operating procedure there dating back to the 2012 cycle

Functionally, a California law that would hypothetically leave a blank for the presidential primary date -- well, the consolidated primary in years evenly divisible by four -- would force the same sort of quadrennial reflection. However, that would be an atypical move. The New York method is already unique, but it at least has some justification. There is permanent guidance in the statute on where the primary should be scheduled. It just has to be changed from the February date every four years. 

It would be unusual for a state, California in this case, to provide no guidance for the timing of not just a presidential primary, but a primary for a host of other offices as well in presidential election years. 

Regardless, that blank will either be filled in at some point during this bill's consideration in 2023 or the legislation will likely not go anywhere. And it may not get beyond the committee stage anyway. 

But California always bears watching. Although it is a Democratic state, it is still the most populous state and the most delegate-rich state in the Republican presidential nomination process. If California packs it up and moves everything back to June, then that will have some impact on the Republican calculus of acquiring delegates, likely delaying when any candidate might clinch the nomination. 

This legislation has been added to FHQ's updated 2024 presidential primary calendar


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/27/20)

Update for October 27.

Once the week hits Tuesday, the flow of new survey data gets turned up. Or it least it has the last several weeks as election day has approached. This Tuesday -- a Tuesday just one week removed from election day on November 3 -- was no different. There were 22 polls released since the last FHQ update from 17 different states representing all six categories. The balance continued to tilt in the former vice president's direction overall but also in this batch of surveys. Obviously the map still depicts a tally that favors Biden, but the Democratic nominee saw the margins in 11 of those 17 states. Six of the eight toss up states at FHQ had new polls released today -- only Ohio and Texas were not represented -- and Biden's margin ticked up in four of them. But the two where Trump closed the gap were notable. Unfortunately, for the president, both Florida and North Carolina continue to be consistently tipped toward Biden. 

Anyway, there is a lot to look at today, so on to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.88] 
The update from OH Predictive in Arizona maintains the status quo in the series. Earlier this month, the firm pegged the presidential race in the Grand Canyon state at Biden, 49-45. Trump gained a point, then, but this latest survey is consistent with all of the polls in the series since July with the exception of the outlier OH Predictive survey that had Biden ahead by ten points. 

(Biden 65, Trump 29)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.56] 
Further west in California, the race for the biggest electoral vote prize looks as predictable as it has in most recent cycles. Biden has the edge in the latest UC-Berkeley poll, but this one dies represent a slight contraction from the 67-28 lead the former vice president held in the mid-September survey of the Golden state. What is perhaps most interesting is that after the addition of this poll, the FHQ average in the state stood at Biden 61-32. That represent almost no swing from election day 2016 (Clinton won 62-32 in California.) to 2020 polling

(Biden 50, Trump 48 via Florida Atlantic | Trump 49, Biden 44 via Susquehanna)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.12] 
The pair of polls out of the Sunshine state today both shifted in Trump's direction since the last surveys in their respective series. Biden retained the lead in FAU poll, but saw his advantage cut in half since the last poll earlier this month. However, the new poll pushes back toward the tie the university pollsters found in early September. The former vice president led in the last Susquehanna poll as well, but that three point advantage in late September disappeared in the interim period and was replaced by this latest Trump +5 survey. And while 49 percent is toward the top of the president's range in his adopted home state, Biden's 44 percent share is unusual. The former vice president has dipped below 45 percent in Florida polls in 2020, but in 102 surveys of the Sunshine state this year, it has only happened four times. That makes this one an outlier.

(Biden 51, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.25] 
Florida was hardly the only place where Biden ended up a bit far afield of his normal range. But in the new Civiqs update, the Democratic nominee's share ran ahead of his established average here at FHQ rather than behind it as in the Susquehanna survey of Florida. Currently, the FHQ average in the Peach state sits at a 47-47 tie, and the last two iterations of the Civiqs polls have tended to have Biden not only ahead, but topping 50 percent. In the 32 polls conducted in Georgia since the beginning of September, Biden has been at or over 50 percent just six times. It happens, and far more frequently as compared to Georgia polling before September, but it is still not necessarily a common landing point for Biden. Still, this poll represents a two point swing toward Biden since the last poll -- Biden, 50-47 -- from Civiqs last month.

(Trump 48, Biden 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +11.45] 
The first publicly available Ragnar Research survey of Indiana in calendar 2020 finds Trump's support ebbing to its lowest level in the state all year. It is the Trump number, then, in this survey that is more off target, lagging about five points off the president's established average share at FHQ. As of now, the average in the Hoosier state has Trump out to a comfortable 53-41 advantage, which leaves Indiana about where the average swing from 2016 to the polling now. Biden has gained a couple of points on Clinton's showing there four years ago, and the president has trailed off by more than four points. 

(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.63] 
There is perhaps a reason Joe Biden is heading to Iowa on Friday. Polls like the update from RABA Research in the state point toward a race that has not only narrowed during October, but has begun to favor the former vice president. Biden did lead 48-46 in the last RABA poll at the end of September and that edge has doubled since then with the Democratic nominee now topping 50 percent. That is a level that Biden has hit or surpassed in a quarter of the 12 surveys released this month in the Hawkeye state. Furthermore, he has been tied or ahead in ten of those 12 polls. As Biden has risen, Trump has stayed around a 47 percent average share of support in Iowa.

(Trump 52, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +9.37] 
Although it offered a very small sample -- just over 300 registered voters -- the Fort Hays State survey was on par with where the president has been both in other recent polls in the Sunflower state and in the FHQ average. But this is another poll where the Biden number was off the mark. Generally, the former vice president has outperformed the Clinton baseline from 2016 by six points, but this survey has him much closer to where Clinton ended up in Kansas four years ago. Kansas is still very much a red state at the high end of the Lean Trump category, but it is also a state with an above average swing toward the Democrats during this cycle. It is a ten point shift from election day 2016 to the polling in 2020 with Trump losing four points off his pace in that time. 

(Trump 59, Biden 36)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +17.59] 
Interestingly, the shift in Louisiana has been far less pronounced. Biden has run almost even with Clinton in the Pelican state while Trump lags just a couple of points behind his showing there. Of course, polling has not exactly been prevalent in Louisiana in calendar 2020, but the new University of New Orleans survey finds Trump toward his apex in Louisiana polling this year. Biden, meanwhile ends up at the bottom of his range. The end result is a poll that pushes the FHQ averages toward the 2016 finish in the state. 

(Biden 58, Trump 33)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +30.73] 
Today's update is the first Gonzales Research survey of the Old Line state since May. And the underlying story the polls have collectively told is one of Biden falling short of 60 percent in Maryland. But the two polls in this series are the only ones to show that all year. And at Biden, 58-33, this poll is further off the 63-32 advantage the former vice president currently holds in the FHQ averages. That would represent a below average five point swing toward the Democrats since 2016 with Biden gaining nearly three points on Clinton and Trump losing two. 

(Biden 53, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.16] 
Yet another update to the Ipsos series in the Great Lakes state finds Biden incrementally adding to his 52-44 lead from a week ago. But that is both a small change and one that is in line with where Ipsos has had the race in Michigan over the last two months. However, while the margin in this survey falls outside of the Biden +6-9 point range into which the bulk of Michigan surveys have recently fallen, it is yet another poll with the former vice president at or over 50 percent. And his FHQ average share of support continues to track toward 50 percent as well. 

(Biden 53, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.51] 
Gravis Marketing was last in the field in Minnesota in June and had Biden out to a commanding 58-42 lead among a sample of registered voters. The switch to likely voters appears to have come with a less aggressive prompt of undecided voters and saw both candidates lose support as compared to the summer poll. But this was another poll in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with Biden north of 50 percent and President Trump continuing to hover in the low 40s. And ultimately the survey is not that far from the current FHQ average in Minnesota. The Democratic nominee now leads the president here 51-42. With a week to go, Minnesota does not appear to be the flip opportunity the president's reelection campaign came into the cycle envisioning. 

(Trump 55, Biden 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +15.41] 
Mississippi, like Louisiana above, is another Deep South state where the 2020 picture through the lens of the state-level polls looks quite similar to where the race ended in the Magnolia state in 2016. And the new Civiqs poll -- its first in Mississippi this calendar year -- is consistent with the current 55-40 Trump advantage in the FHQ averages. Both the poll and the averages find Biden in line with Clinton's showing in the state in 2016 as Trump is just more than two points off his mark from four years ago.

(Trump 49, Biden 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +7.80] 
Not surprisingly, a Public Policy Polling survey that has Montana closer than it has been in any presidential poll of the state all year also has Biden at his peak level there. But the Trump side of the equation also contributes to that tight margin. The president has only been below 49 percent once all year, so this one is also at the bottom of his range in the Treasure state. Two weeks ago, PPP did not find the race as close. Then, Trump maintained a 52-46 advantage that is more in line with the 51-44 edge the president has in the FHQ averages. 

(Biden 50, Trump 41 via UNLV Lee Business School | Biden 49, Trump 43 via Siena/NYT Upshot)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.55] 
The two new polls out of the Silver state today tell a similar story but took different routes in getting there. In the UNLV survey, Biden rose four points to 50 percent since the university pollsters September poll, and Trump held steady at 41 percent. That Biden around 50 percent and Trump in the low 40s outcome was also what Siena showed in Nevada, but that polls change since earlier this month was minimal. Biden tacked on an additional point, but here, too, Trump held pat. Both surveys depict a widening Biden lead that is a bit out in front of the FHQ averages in the Silver state. Here Biden is ahead 49-44.

North Carolina
(Biden 51, Trump 47 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 49, Trump 48 via Ipsos | Biden 48, Trump 47 via RMG Research | Biden 48, Trump 48 via Survey USA)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.80] 
Tuesday was another day that witnessed a rash of poll releases in the Tar Heel state. And all operated within a pretty tight range. Biden led in three of the four surveys, and they all overstate both candidates' support relative the 48-46 edge the former vice president continues to hold in North Carolina. But all four poll have margins that are on par with that Biden +2 lead at FHQ. Both the PPP and Ipsos updates were in line with their surveys out earlier this month. Nether candidate shifted more than a point in either. The RMG Research poll was barely any different, but found Trump moving up two points and drawing the Biden advantage in the last poll down to just a point. The largest change was in the Survey USA poll. But even that was indicative of a regression to the mean from an outlier than anything else. The Democratic nominee's 50-45 lead from early October disappeared and was replaced with a tie that was a return to what the race in North Carolina looked like in the firm's September poll. There may have been a lot of new surveys out of North Carolina today, but they all pointed toward a pretty steady race there. As FHQ has said, North Carolina is close (and has been), but is still consistently tipped the former vice president's way.

(Biden 52, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.39] 
The steadiness of the North Carolina polls is mirrored in the Civiqs series in the Keystone state. All three October surveys from the firm have had Biden stable at 52 percent and Trump firmly entrenched in the mid-40s. While that overstates the former vice president's support compared to the FHQ averages (Biden, 50-44), Trump's position in the October Civiqs polls has been proximate to his average. But again, one would expect polls to increasingly overstate the averages here at FHQ as more and more undecideds come off the board. The bottom line is that this is another Pennsylvania survey with Biden above 50 percent in Lean Biden state where he is closing in on 50 percent in the averages. 

South Carolina
(Trump 51, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.74] 
Last but not least, Starboard Communications conducted its first survey of the Palmetto state in calendar 2020. And while it shifted things ever so slightly in the president's direction, it fell right on the 51-44 advantage that Trump currently holds in the FHQ averages. If that is what South Carolina looks like on election next week, then it would represent about a seven point swing toward the Democrats since 2016. That is consistent with the average shift calculated across all states. 


The Electoral College Spectrum1
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
SC -9
(308 | 259)
NE CD1-1
(319 | 230)
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
(351 | 203)
ME CD1-1
NE CD2-1
NE CD3-1
1 Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.

2 The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he or she won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, Trump won all the states up to and including Pennsylvania (Biden's toss up states plus the Pennsylvania), he would have 285 electoral votes. Trump's numbers are only totaled through the states he would need in order to get to 270. In those cases, Biden's number is on the left and Trump's is on the right in bold italics.

3 Pennsylvania
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state. The tipping point cell is shaded in yellow to denote that and the font color is adjusted to attempt to reflect the category in which the state is.

All that polling data and nary a big change to speak of. Instead, it was all subtle changes -- minimal movement in the margins -- that marked Tuesday. With a week left in the voting phase of the campaign, the map remained Biden 351-187 in the electoral vote tally, and the order stayed exactly the same as it was a day ago. However, the Watch List welcomed Kansas back after it recently left. The Sunflower state is now within a point of shifting into the Strong Trump category from the Lean Trump group of states. This race is steady as she goes in the polls as filtered through the FHQ graduated weighted average. 

7 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 27 (or close to it) in...

NOTE: Distinctions are made between states based on how much they favor one candidate or another. States with a margin greater than 10 percent between Biden and Trump are "Strong" states. Those with a margin of 5 to 10 percent "Lean" toward one of the two (presumptive) nominees. Finally, states with a spread in the graduated weighted averages of both the candidates' shares of polling support less than 5 percent are "Toss Up" states. The darker a state is shaded in any of the figures here, the more strongly it is aligned with one of the candidates. Not all states along or near the boundaries between categories are close to pushing over into a neighboring group. Those most likely to switch -- those within a percentage point of the various lines of demarcation -- are included on the Watch List below.

The Watch List1
Potential Switch
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
New Hampshire
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
New Mexico
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
1 Graduated weighted average margin within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Methodological Note: In past years, FHQ has tried some different ways of dealing with states with no polls or just one poll in the early rounds of these projections. It does help that the least polled states are often the least competitive. The only shortcoming is that those states may be a little off in the order in the Spectrum. In earlier cycles, a simple average of the state's three previous cycles has been used. But in 2016, FHQ strayed from that and constructed an average swing from 2012 to 2016 that was applied to states. That method, however, did little to prevent anomalies like the Kansas poll that had Clinton ahead from biasing the averages. In 2016, the early average swing in the aggregate was  too small to make much difference anyway. For 2020, FHQ has utilized an average swing among states that were around a little polled state in the rank ordering on election day in 2016. If there is just one poll in Delaware in 2020, for example, then maybe it is reasonable to account for what the comparatively greater amount of polling tells us about the changes in Connecticut, New Jersey and New Mexico. Or perhaps the polling in Iowa, Mississippi and South Carolina so far tells us a bit about what may be happening in Alaska where no public polling has been released. That will hopefully work a bit better than the overall average that may end up a bit more muted.

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