Showing posts with label magic number. Show all posts
Showing posts with label magic number. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

One of Biden's Magic Numbers is Now a Little Different

No, not among pledged delegates.

Former Vice President Joe Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination over the weekend, surpassing the 1991 pledged delegates necessary to reach a majority. But with nearly one-fifth of all delegates yet to be allocated in the remaining contests, it remains to be seen whether Biden will earn enough pledged delegates and open the door to superdelegate participation in the presidential nomination roll call vote during the national convention.

To do that the presumptive Democratic nominee would have to be allocated a majority of all delegates (in pledged delegates). That way superdelegates would be unable to overturn a tight pledged delegate majority -- one that does not exist in 2020 -- if the group voted as a bloc. But again, that will not be necessary in 2020. Biden has a wide enough pledged delegate lead to have clinched the nomination by the pledged delegate method. The only question left outstanding is whether he will win enough delegates to allow superdelegate participation on the first ballot.

Biden is on pace to do that, but that number -- the majority of all delegates -- has changed during primary season. Appendix B to the Call for the Convention had the number of superdelegates at 771 at the end of 2019. For the 2020 cycle, however, the secretary of the Democratic National Committee had to certify the number of superdelegates to each state party by March 6, 2020 under Rule 9 of the 2020 delegate selection rules.

That subsequent certification adjusted the number of superdelegates in 23 states and territories. And those changes ranged from an addition of four (4) superdelegates in New York to a loss of two (2) superdelegates in three jurisdictions (District of Columbia, Illinois and Oregon).

Although, in the aggregate, the changes across all 23 states and territories largely cancelled each other out. There ended up being three more delegates added from states than subtracted. And that increases not only the number of superdelegates to 774, but slightly raises the magic number of all delegates Biden would have to win in order to allow superdelegates into the roll call voting at the convention.

So, instead of that number being 2376 delegates, Biden will have to get to 2378 pledged delegates to trigger the superdelegate voting privileges. No, that is unlikely to be too high a bar for the former vice president to clear. But it is a change.

Friday, May 15, 2020

When Will Biden Clinch? It Depends.

There is certainly an argument out there that Biden wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination back on April 8 -- the day after the Wisconsin primary -- when Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign. The former vice president shifted from being the presumptive presumptive nominee to the presumptive nominee then.

And an argument can be made that the trajectory of Biden's delegate math made that obvious on many of the Tuesdays throughout March. But trajectory is one thing as is the fact that all of the remaining viable candidates other than Biden pulled out of the race for the Democratic nomination. However, crossing over the requisite 1991 pledged delegates to become the nominee is another thing altogether. As of now, Biden is just shy of 1500 delegates and needs around 38 percent of the delegates available in the remaining states with contests to surpass that threshold. Given how the primaries and caucuses have gone since Sanders dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden, that will not prove to be too heavy a lift.

But when will Biden hit and pass 1991?

It depends.

One thing that can be said is that it will not be in May. There are just two more contests -- Oregon and Hawaii next week -- and just 95 delegates to be allocated before the end of the month. June 2 offers both more contests and 479 more delegates. But even then, it would be a bit of a stretch for Biden to get to 1991 by then.

Again, it depends. If one looks at the contests that there are results for since April 8 when Sanders suspended his campaign -- Alaska, Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska -- they paint a certain picture, one where Biden gets almost 74 percent of the qualified vote on average. And if Biden receives around three-quarters of the delegates in future primaries and caucuses, then he will just barely eclipse the 1991 delegate barrier on June 9 when Georgia and West Virginia hold primaries.

Yet, that is something of a rough estimate. It assumes that congressional district delegate allocation will mirror statewide delegate allocation and that may or may not be the case. But that potential variation across congressional districts may end up pushing Biden's magic number clinching point deeper into the delayed primary calendar.

Another variable that may influence when that point occurs is the nature of the small sample of contests that have happened since Sanders's exit from the race. Three of those five contests were in party-run primary or caucus states (Alaska, Wyoming and Kansas). No, that party-run part does not matter to the math going forward, but that all three used ranked-choice voting does. The redistribution of votes in those contests inflates the qualified share of support that both Biden and Sanders received. As a result, the average qualified share used in arriving at the June 9 target date for clinching cited above may be a bit more generous to Sanders than to Biden. After all, much of the voting in the April 10 Alaska party-run primary took place by mail before Sanders dropped out on April 8. The 45 percent Sanders received may not exactly be representative of the share he has gotten and will get in future contests.

If one looks at the other two contests -- Ohio and Nebraska -- then it is clear that Sanders is very much flirting with the threshold to qualify for delegates. And if Nebraska is the new normal -- a state where Sanders failed to qualify for delegates either statewide or in any of the three congressional districts -- then that would speed up Biden's journey to 1991. Were Biden to receive all of the delegates available -- assuming he is the only candidate qualifying for delegates -- then he would easily surpass 1991 on Super Junesday, June 2.

But how the allocation goes between now and the end of primary season will likely be something in between those two extremes: 1) Sanders receiving about a quarter of the qualified vote and 2) Biden being the only qualifying candidate. Of course, there are not that many contests nor delegates at stake between June 2 and June 9. The caucuses in the Virgin Islands fall on June 6, but there are just seven delegates on the line there.

Look, the bottom line is the one where this discussion started: Biden will be the nominee. The question is when he more officially becomes the presumptive nominee in the delegate count. The above is a rough guide. One thing that can be said is that even if one follows the Sanders-generous extreme above -- the one where the Vermont senator receives about a quarter of the delegates -- then Biden will by the end of primary season have enough pledged delegates in his column to allow superdelegates participate on the first ballot roll call vote at the national convention. That is, of course, assuming the current rules remain the same when the convention Rules Committee adopts rules for the convention.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Magic Number? Determining the Winning Number of Democratic Delegates Will Be Tougher in 2020

FHQ gets a kick out of folks who authoritatively talk about the number of delegates the winning candidate will need in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race.

There are some things that one does know at this point about the chase for Democratic delegates in 2020. There are a lot of candidates (now). The allocation is all proportional (with a 15 percent qualifying threshold). California and North Carolina joining most of the Super Tuesday line up from 2016 means Super Tuesday 2020 will, in fact, be fairly super. Furthermore, one knows that the cumulative delegates allocated through the first two months of the 2020 calendar (February and March) is roughly on par with the number of delegates allocated through the first two months of the 2008 calendar (January and February).

All of this is useful, but it obscures one reality about the 2020 Democratic nomination process that is unknown at this point and may remain that way for some time: the actual number of delegates and thus the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Part of the reason for that is, for lack of a better term, normal, or it has been since the 2008 cycle. Since the Democratic process includes bonus delegates for timing (a 2008 cycle innovation) and clustering (new in 2012), the final tally of delegates has to wait on the calendar to solidify. New York,  for example, does not yet officially have a primary date. But if the Empire state primary ends up on April 28, as is expected given the draft of the state party delegate selection plan, then New York Democrats will tack on an additional 10 percent to the base delegation for an April primary (timing) and an additional 15 percent for scheduling the contest with primaries in regionally contiguous states (clustering). That is easy enough to work around, but it 1) is not reflected in the number of delegates the DNC is counting because 2) those bonuses will ultimately affect the number of delegates at stake.

Again, that is an easy enough adjustment. But it is just going to take some time to officially settle.

But there are two other factors that make the magic number of Democratic delegates necessary to clinch the presidential nomination more of a moving target in 2020 than has been the case in the past. And this is an issue that will stretch into primary season. Both hinge on the changes made to the rules regarding superdelegate participation in the process.

The first of these is more obvious. Since superdelegate participation in the voting on the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee is conditional, that affects which group of delegates is determinative. As FHQ laid out last summer when the rules package was adopted by the Rules and Bylaws Committee:
  1. If a candidate wins 50 percent of the pledged delegates plus one during or by the end of primary season, then the superdelegates are barred from the first ballot.
  2. If a candidate wins 50 percent of all of the delegates (including superdelegates) plus one, then the superdelegate trigger is tripped and that faction of delegates can participate in the first (and only) round of voting.
  3. If no candidate wins a majority of either pledged or all delegates during or by the end of primary season, then superdelegates are barred from the first round and allowed in to vote in the second round to break the stalemate.
In other words, if there is a presumptive nominee heading into the convention, then it is likely that the magic number it be a majority of all delegates (including superdelegates). Of course, that outcome is less knowable in the thick of primary season. But if the writing is on the wall by the end of primary season, then there is likely to be some movement between then and the convention that allows superdelegates back into the voting. And by "writing on the wall," FHQ means that the first ballot vote appears to be the formality that it has been since 1952. And, by extension, it will include all of the delegates -- pledged and superdelegates -- as it has since 1984.

However, early on in primary season, at least, there is likely to be a chase after two separate numbers: a majority of pledged delegates and an asterisk chase for a majority of all delegates. Candidates will go after the former because that is all that is technically needed to win the nomination. By the same token, however, campaigns will also target the latter. And in truth that chase is, perhaps, less about the majority of all delegates than it is about lining up superdelegates support contingent on a second ballot vote at the national convention. But that contingency will be one that requires a majority of all delegates because superdelegates will be eligible to vote on any ballot beyond the first.

The final complicating factor in determining the magic number of delegates needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 again focuses on the superdelegates. But this one has less to do with the which question above (as in which pool of delegates is determinative) and more again about how many delegates are necessary. Unlike past cycles during the superdelegates era (1984-2016), superdelegates can shed their capes so to speak and run for pledged delegate slots. The DNC made that change because of the above changes made to superdelegate participation. In the event that a DNC member or elected official is so frustrated at potentially not being able to participate in the convention voting on the nomination, the party rescinded the prohibition on superdelegates running for pledged delegate positions. The new rules, then, allow superdelegates to run for pledged delegate positions if they want to guarantee that they will meaningfully vote to determine the nomination.

But that is not a costless exchange, at least not for the state delegation. Any superdelegate that opts to run for (and potentially win) a pledged delegate position gives up that superdelegate vote. Furthermore, that vote is not replaced as a vacancy in the pledged delegate pool would be. That would have the effect of reducing the number of delegates in a given state delegation by the number of superdelegates who choose to run for pledged delegate slots.

[Incidentally, this highlights at least part of the motivation to add superdelegates in the first place way back in 1982. Yes, superdelegates potentially have great sway in a tight nomination race and if they are largely united. But creating automatic slots for DNC members and elected officials also freed up pledged delegate slots for grassroots activists and gave state parties much more leeway in balancing their delegations given the DNC affirmative action requirements. That task gets much harder in 2020 if superdelegates are moved to run for pledged delegate slots.]

No, superdelegates running for pledged delegate slots does not affect the number of pledged delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Yet, if would affect the total number of delegates needed should the convention go beyond a first ballot. And if you are the braintrust within any of the Democratic presidential campaigns at this point, that is a jumble of rules that you have to keep tabs on. Some campaigns will be better able to adapt than others.

While the wait continues on the calendar to finalize, a word of advice: dismiss out of hand any mention in any story of a specific number of delegates needed to win the 2020 Democratic nomination. At this point, that number is not known.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What About North Carolina? Can Obama Swing the Tar Heel State?

Yeah, what about North Carolina? Recently, FHQ has begun discussing the toss up states on our Watch List in terms of "magic numbers." Basically, this asks what it would take from the very next poll released from a state to force that state across, in this case, the partisan line. So, what is the Tar Heel state's magic number? This came up in the comments, and my response ended up being too long not to simply just create a new post.


Part of the reason FHQ shifted from a simple weighted average to a graduated weighted average (one that progressively discounts polls based on when they were in the field) is that states like Minnesota and North Carolina were unresponsive to a series of new polls that ran counter to where our averages had each state.

Some of that unresponsiveness was remedied with the methodological change, but did not move either state as much as some would have liked. The bubble seems to have burst in Minnesota for McCain, so the North Star state has worked its way back to essentially where it was prior to the conventions -- a strong Obama state (Sure, some of that has to do with the threshold being dropped.).

North Carolina, though, is a bit different. In the Tar Heel state we have witnessed a string of polls that have shown Obama ahead by margins up to 6 points with just a few pro-McCain polls peppered in. Yet, it is still seemingly stuck in the McCain toss up category. Much of this has to do with the amount of information we have in North Carolina. Even with the older polls discounted, there is an awful lot of McCain support inherent in the average. In other words, there are a lot of McCain polls for this recent series of Obama polls to overcome. The Tar Heel state has had around 50 polls conducted this year and none of them (other than the Zogby internet polls) favored Obama until after the Lehman collapse. That's a lot of McCain support in the average.

As far as a magic number is concerned, North Carolina is a lot like Ohio: it is going to take a lot to move things just a little. For the next poll to push North Carolina into the blue, it would have to give Obama a margin of 45 points. That's just not going to happen. But we may continue to see numbers come in under the current average of 2.4 (for McCain) that continue to chip away at that margin. In fact, I think that is likely. Between now and election day, we are likely to see polls that are in the +/-3 point range with some outliers thrown in.

Just for the heck of it let's do an exercise here. What if we lopped off all the polls conducted before Obama clinched the Democratic nomination; everything from June 3 on (FHQ has done something similar before.)? How would that affect things? Once we reweight the polls based on a lower number of days in the period examined, we find that Obama gains, but that McCain's lead shrinks to only 1.7 points (down from 2.4). What is North Carolina's magic number then? Not surprisingly, it drops, but not to anymore manageable a level. It would still require a poll with Obama ahead by 25 points to turn North Carolina blue. Obviously, the the number of pro-Obama polls it would take to successfully chip away at that average and turn it blue would be far fewer in this instance.

This is in line with my thinking about North Carolina. I'm a native Tar Heel and though I'm not there now, I still have family ties to the state. My sense is that North Carolina is a "close but not quite" state for Obama. Sure, I've been out of the state for a while, but North Carolina still feels (And yes, that certainly strays from the black and white we get from the numbers typically leaned on here at FHQ.) like a state that is a continued demographic shift away from becoming less reliably Republican -- at the presidential level -- and more reliably competitive. It speaks to the Democratic tilt of this election that North Carolina is talked about in the same breath with the Ohios and Floridas on the map.

UPDATE: Our discussion has extended beyond North Carolina in the comments to encompass a discussion of much of the South. Scott has taken the Census data on the African American percentage of the population and regressed that on Obama's support among whites in these states. A simple bivariate regression with some rather interesting results.

Here are the states Scott looked at (all have at one point or another shown John McCain and Barack Obama within single digits of each other):

Virginia: 39% (20%)
North Carolina: 38% (22%)
Georgia: 28% (30%)
South Carolina: 25% (29%)
Louisiana: 18% (32%)
Mississippi: 16% (37%)

Below is the plot of that relationship; one that shows a rather high correlation between the two variables. The data above are rank ordered based on the dependent variable (Obama's white support) and are displayed as such below.

Obama's White Support as a Function of the Percentage African American
[Click Graphic to Enlarge]

A big tip of the cap to SarahLawrenceScott for a nice addition to our discussion. Kudos!

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