Showing posts with label nominations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nominations. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Rules and Bylaws Committee Gives Initial Greenlight to Revamp of Superdelegates System

At each voting stage along the way to superdelegate rules reform for the 2020 cycle, the final tally has seemingly demonstrated consensus. And there has been consensus on the Unity Reform Commission and now during the Rules and Bylaws Committee consideration of changes. But it has been hard-won consensus often following multiple hours-long meetings over the last 13 months spent exploring various contingencies in the hopes of avoiding some unintended consequence while also planning for the future.

Like the Unity Reform Commission before it, the Rules and Bylaws Committee gave the go-ahead today to a reform proposal to curb the influence of superdelegates with just a couple of dissenting votes (27 ayes, 1 nay, 1 abstention). However, unlike the URC, the RBC called an audible and devised an alternate proposal not prescribed it in the preceding step. The URC was given strict guidelines on superdelegates by the 2016 convention resolution that created the group. What the resolution called for, the URC produced. Two variations on the same concept were created to move 60 percent of the superdelegates from the unpledged to bound category.

The issue that quickly emerged once those two URC recommendations -- the pooled vote option and the alternate vote option -- transitioned to the RBC for its consideration was the complexity of both implementing and explaining either option. The desire on the group to balance doing something on superdelegates, staying true to the charge of the convention resolution (reducing the influence of superdelegates), and devising a more parsimonious reform laid the groundwork for what the RBC passed today.

At the confluence of those three criteria, the third way proposal first raised at the first of two March RBC meetings would remove superdelegates from the nomination equation on the first ballot presidential nomination vote at the convention. Should that vote prove inconclusive, then the less-super delegates -- now probably better referred to as automatic delegates -- would be able to participate in a second ballot to rectify an unresolved first ballot vote.

But that proposal was augmented at the June meeting in Providence. RBC member, Ken Martin, offered a friendly amendment, leaving an opt-in for superdelegate participation in the event that primary season has produced a conclusive result, a presumptive nominee with the requisite number of delegates to claim the nomination.

During today's conference call meeting, the RBC quickly dispatched with the two URC proposals for the same issues of complexity before the group turned its sights to Martin's third way plus, brought forth on a motion from longtime RBC member, Elaine Kamarck. The group then spent the next two hours attempting lay out/iron out the details of the plan. What they passed is intended to curb the influence of superdelegates by conditionally removing the unpledged delegates from first ballot at the convention.

The conditions of those contingencies for superdelegate participation fall into three categories.
  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 opt-in is triggered 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.
Importantly, the first contingency allows a candidate to win without superdelegates, while the second deprives superdelegates through a supermajority requirement the ability to overturn the pledged delegate majority scenario in the first contingency.

The language of the motion passed today will be tinkered with between now a July 11 meeting in Washington to finalize the language of the call, delegate selection rules, and bylaws/charter changes. But this test vote of sorts portends easy passage when the official language of the third way plus reform comes up for a final vote.

Yes, there is much more to be said about this proposal -- FHQ raised a few issues just recently -- but there will be time to discuss that more in the days ahead. For now, it is sufficient that there is a specific proposal to reform the superdelegates' influence in the nomination process that has passed initial muster with the RBC.

Real-time thread on RBC conference call

Continuation of real-time RBC conference call

Further details on what the Third Way proposal

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Potential Impact of Divisiveness in the 2016 Presidential Campaign

The following is a guest post from Paul-Henri Gurian, professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia.

Earlier this year my colleagues and I published a research article on the impact of divisiveness in presidential campaigns. (“National Party Division and Divisive State Primaries in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1948-2012”, Gurian, Burroughs, Atkeson, Cann and Haynes, Political Behavior). Our research measured the impact of national party division on the national popular vote in the general election. We also measured the impact of a divisive state primary on the general election results in that state. We found that, relative to what would otherwise be expected, the impact of a divisive state primary was limited but the impact of the national party division was potentially much larger.

Our research indicated that the impact of a divisive state primary is rarely more than 1% in the general election in that state. Applying the results of this research to the 2016 primaries we found that the primaries in only a few states indicated an advantage to either party of more than 1%. For example, we found that in South Carolina and Texas, where Clinton did quite well in the primaries and Trump did poorly, the expected general election advantage to Clinton was just a shade over 1%. Similarly in West Virginia and Washington state, where Clinton did poorly but Trump did well, the expected advantage to Trump was about 1.2%.

Looking at the potential swing states we found that none of them exceeded a 1% advantage to either candidate. (We were not able to estimate the impact in Colorado.) Our analysis indicates that Clinton would receive an advantage of between .50 and .88% in Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Georgia, but less than that in the other swing states. The analysis indicates an advantage for Trump in none of the swing states. This may be partially because Clinton had only one opponent throughout the campaign, while Trump had multiple opponents throughout most of the campaign; thus in most states Clinton's share of the Democratic primary vote was greater than Trump's share of the Republican primary vote. 

Because national party division is difficult to measure, we estimated its impact in two different ways. We used aggregate popular vote (1972-2012) as one measure. Similar to our measure of divided state primaries, we compared the proportion of the national aggregate popular vote for Clinton in the Democratic primaries to the aggregate popular vote for Trump in the Republican primaries.

Clinton received the majority (55.2%) of the aggregate Democratic primary vote, while Trump received only a plurality (45.0%) of the Republican primary vote. In other words, among primary voters there was a larger pool of Republican voters who supported candidates other than Trump than the pool of Democratic voters who supported a candidate other than Clinton. Using this measure of national party division, we estimate that Clinton will receive 2.4% more of the national popular vote than would otherwise be expected in the general election.

We also estimated the impact of national party division using an alternative measure, comparing the percent of delegates supporting the two nominees at their conventions (1948-2012). Contrary to the popular vote measure, the convention vote measure indicates that in 2016 the Republican party is more united. Trump received a larger majority (69.8%) of delegate votes at his convention than Clinton did in hers (59.7%). This suggests that Trump will receive 1.2% more of the general election vote than would otherwise be expected.

Part of the explanation for the difference may be the fact that Democratic rules allocate delegates proportionately, while Republican rules usually allocate disproportionally more delegates to the winner of the primary. Clinton received 55.2% of the aggregate popular vote and 59.7% of the convention vote. (The additional votes for Clinton were largely because of super-delegates.) Trump, on the other hand, received only 45.0% of the aggregate popular vote but received 69.8% of the delegate vote at the convention. Again, this is likely because of the “winner-take-more” rules in the Republican party.

The convention vote measure is more “conservative” in the sense that it almost always indicates a smaller advantage to the more unified party than the aggregate popular vote measure does. From 1972 to 2012, the aggregate popular vote has indicated an advantage greater than 6% for one party or the other in 5 of the 11 elections; the convention vote measure has not indicated an advantage of that magnitude in any election during that time period.

Comparing the two measures to subjective observations, the convention vote measure seems to be a better fit. For example, in 2004 President Bush ran unopposed while Senator Kerry won all but three primaries; the convention measure indicates a small advantage for Bush while the popular vote measure indicates a large advantage. Both estimates for 2016 are relatively small compared to other elections since 1972. This is not surprising since both parties are somewhat divided. (Compare, for example, the 1972 and 1984 elections, when the Republicans were very united while the Democrats were severely divided.) To summarize, our research suggests that the impact of national party division will be modest (though it is unclear which party would benefit more), and a small advantage to Clinton in several swing states.

Recent Posts:
The Electoral College Map (8/3/16)

Filling Nomination Vacancies That Don't Exist

The Electoral College Map (8/2/16)

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Impact of Divided National Parties on Presidential Elections

The following is a guest post from Paul-Henri Gurian, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia.

University of Georgia Political Science Professors Paul-Henri Gurian and Audrey Haynes, together with Drs. Nathan Burroughs, Lonna Atkeson and Damon Cann, have published a study that measures the impact of national party division on presidential elections. Their results are relevant to the current party divisions, especially within the Republican party. 

History shows that when one party is divided and the other party is united, the divided party almost always loses the presidential election. Consider, for example, the elections from 1964 through 1984; in each case the divided party lost. The study measures party division during the primaries and indicates how much the more divided party loses in the general election. 

The study shows that both national party division and divisive state primaries have significant influence on general election outcomes. But national party division has a greater and more widespread impact on the national results. A divisive state primary can have a small negative impact on that one state, but national party division can have large negative impact on the national vote. A divisive state primary rarely leads to more than a 1-2% decrease in the general election in that state. For example, Hillary Clinton received 71% of the Democratic vote in the Georgia primary while Donald Trump received 39% of the Republican vote. If nominated, Trump would lose almost 1% in the state of Georgia in the general election.

In comparison, national party division often leads to decreases of more than 3% nation-wide. For example, as of March 12, Trump has received 36.1% of the total national Republican primary vote while Clinton has received 60.0% of the Democratic vote. If these proportions remain steady for the remainder of the nomination campaign (and if these two candidates win the nominations), then Trump would lose 5.7% of the vote in the general election (compared to what he would otherwise be expected to receive). In a close election (such as 2000, 2004, 2012), 5-6% could change the outcome in terms of which party wins the presidency. 

The results of this study provide analysts with a way to anticipate the impact of each primary and, more importantly, the impact of the total primary vote on the general election results. Subtracting the percent of the Republican nominee’s total popular vote from that of the Democratic nominee and multiplying that by 0.237 indicates how much the Republican nominee is likely to lose in the November election (compared to what would otherwise be expected). The 5.7% figure calculated through March 12 can be updated as additional states hold their primaries. (The same can be done for individual state primaries by multiplying by 0.026.)  

The full study, “National Party Division and Divisive State Primaries in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1948-2012,” published by Political Behavior, is available online now ( Contact Dr. Gurian at for further information, questions or clarification.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How Can a National Party Manage or Control Presidential Primary Debates?

And Can the RNC Accomplish That Goal Through New Rules?

FHQ chose to lead with this manage/control dichotomy because I think former New Hampshire governor, John Sununu, was absolutely right in January when he told the winter conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State -- in a panel FHQ was on -- that national parties are often fighting the last battle when it comes to how they will govern future presidential nomination rules. He expanded on his point by adding that those same national parties -- or at least the internal struggles within them -- attempt to control a process that can only really be managed.

Problems in the process in one cycle are not necessarily problems the next time around. And new attempts at rules often have unintended consequences. A great case in point is the addition of superdelegates to the Democratic Party process for the 1984 cycle. The intention of adding superdelegates was to empower a group of party elites to serve as arbiters in any unresolved nomination contest. But that sort of scenario did not happen in 1984. It was not until 24 years later that the term superdelegate crossed any lips outside of Democratic circles.

Another such issue, but on the Republican side, was the addition of the proportionality requirement for 2012. Now, some will argue that the lack of winner-take-all contests prior to April 1, 2012 did help to slow the Republican nomination process down. That wasn't the case. Instead it was the distribution of contests across the entire calendar -- no contests throughout much of February after a January start point and only a small trickle of contests between Super Tuesday in early March and late April when there was a Mid-Atlantic/Northeast subregional primary.

But the point is that I think of those talking points every time a new set or portion of delegate selection rules comes along. A national party has to be deliberative and careful in laying out any new rules. And sadly, there is no test facility to where either Democrats, Republicans or both can head to try these things out. Unintended consequences only come around in the midst of a primary campaign. And then it is too late.

This is a lengthy way of FHQ saying that I agree with most who have responded to the RNC debates resolution -- the one ending any potential partnering relationships between the party and CNN and NBC for the purposes of presidential primary debates -- with skepticism.

No, the party really has no control over candidates or state parties when it comes to whether they agree in principle with any debates overtures they receive from either "rogue" media outlet. If a candidate or state party wants to debate and can agree with one of those networks on the parameters of a debate, then there will likely be a debate. Granted, this is all somewhat situational. If, by 2015, there is a clear or even marginal frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination, then said candidate is perhaps less likely to go along with an increasing number of debates.1 That has the impact of potentially insulating an establishment candidate. However, the RNC and any establishment candidate/campaign may actually want more debates if that establishment candidate is not the frontrunner candidate. If a frontrunner is insulated and the establishment candidate -- if there is one emergent establishment candidate -- is behind, then that desire for fewer debates dissipates.

Again though, planning -- or attempting to control -- for those types of scenarios is very difficult this far in advance. That is the sort of trap that national parties can let themselves get dragged into in efforts to fix the past. No party can fix the past, but they can affect the future in ways they cannot expect.

That's why FHQ thought former RNC chair and current co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf, was dead on in his comments to Politico about regulating presidential primary debates.2 By expanding the certainty of what a bipartisan debates commission produces from the general election to the primary phase as well may open the door to an open discussion that produces a plan that eliminates the problems in the process that affect both parties. Coordinating -- even if only loosely -- the process across parties can generate a plan that may not overreach into the area of unintended consequences in the way that a one-party effort might.

The primary process has witnessed something similar over the last few cycles in terms of how the parties have collectively dealt with the issues of rogue states and frontloading of delegate selection events on the calendar. There is now a set of semi-coordinated rules and penalties in place across both parties to deal with both. That the parties are now -- even if only partly -- a united front it is better than two different mindsets on the problem.

Of course, there are two different mindsets on the debates "problem". The Democratic Party has not had the same sort of issues that the Republican Party appears to have had in 2012 and thus, does not see the need for a change. Yet, that is not that different from the differences between the parties on the above rogue/frontloading problem. After 2004, the Democratic Party wanted to nip frontloading in the bud. What it came up with was a rules-based plan to penalize not only states but candidates if states moved into non-compliant dates on the calendar and candidates campaigned in those states. Both would lose delegates.

Now, a Florida and Michigan mess later, it would not appear as if the plan worked. However, that had more to do with the fact that Democrats had attempted to go it alone rather than a flawed system. Without Republicans onboard, the plan was much less likely to succeed. Witness the provocative Florida maneuver in 2007. Florida Republicans, though they ultimately had some Democratic support in the state legislature, orchestrated the move of the Sunshine state presidential primary into January 2008.

After a second consecutive cycle that saw primary season kick off in Iowa on January 3, both parties are largely on the same page on this issue. Both national party apparatuses recognize the need for some informal coordination of rules and penalties for those would-be rogue states and candidates willing to flaunt the rules. The RNC, then, ultimately converged with the DNC on its thinking concerning doling out and enforcing penalties on rogue states; though the penalties were different across parties.

There is, though, a divergence between national parties on the thinking behind the debates issue. What the RNC sees as a problem, the DNC does not. Coordination is difficult under those circumstances. But, then again, it does not appear to FHQ that coordination is necessarily needed in this instance. It might help, but coordination is not necessary in the same way that it was on the timing and primary calendar issues above.3 [But truth be told the certainty of a united front between/across both parties on the issue of primary debates could be a good thing.]

Given that there is no convergence between the parties now, what can the RNC do to get what it wants in the realm of presidential primary debates. The resolution from the RNC summer meeting this week in Boston is one part. Theoretically, reducing the number of partnering media outlets could help to also reduce the number of debates. But that cannot be the only part or the RNC gets right back to where it started from: with uncertainty over whether candidates and state parties are actually going to toe the company line.

This is the exact reason that FHQ -- in reaction to the creation of a Rules subcommittee charged with reexamining the rules of the primary process -- mentioned that that subcommittee would be the forum in which the regulation of debates will be deliberated. They will be.

But the question remains: What can the RNC do to either manage or control this process?

There is one model out there that may provide those curious about where the party is going rules-wise with some guidance. FHQ should note that unlike some of the other rules discussions in this space -- namely the proportionality requirement and timing rules -- I have no "inside information" on the RNC's intentions. That said, there are only so many options available to the RNC and the party has a very fine needle indeed to thread to even approach getting this debates issue "right".

The truth of the matter is that the presidential nomination process involves a confluence of political interests: Those of the national party, those of the states (governments), those of the candidates and those of the state parties. [Oh, and hey, perhaps those of the voters as well.] What one group wants is not necessarily what another group desires. So, while the RNC may want to decrease the number of debates, there still exist very difficult-to-manage incentives for state parties and the candidates and their campaigns to resist that call. The answer for the national parties -- the model, it appears -- is to remove those incentives. How?

The process has seen this play out before, albeit in another area. Again, the Democratic Party devised in the wake of a second consecutive defeat to George W. Bush in 2004 a way to keep states and candidates in line in terms of the constant calendar jumping. The way that the party dealt with rogue states and candidates in the rules for 2008 was to strike at the interests of those entities. Go earlier than is required by the party rules? Lose half (then all, then half, then none of) your delegation. Campaign in a rogue state? Lose your delegates from that state at the convention.

Did Florida and Michigan defy those rules? You betcha. But the party meted out a penalty that was in effect until it was clear that 1) it would not have changed the outcome at the convention and 2) it was serving an injurious purpose to the party and its nominee by angering convention activists in two typically competitive states.

On the other end, did the penalty work on the candidates? Yes, it did. No one campaigned in Florida until after the primary -- when the rules allowed a resumption -- and no one campaigned in Michigan after it was clear in the late summer of 2007 that Michigan was, in fact, going rogue.

[It should be noted that the process of deriving and instituting these rules was partially dependent on the the campaigns -- and their surrogates within the DNC -- and the usual band of carve-out state representatives being onboard. The early states were and the would-be campaigns were as well. That was the glue that kept the rule together.]

Is this a roadmap for the RNC regulating presidential primary debates?

Yeah, I think it is one potential course of action. And on the positive side of the ledger, it is not even really something that requires buy-in from the DNC. By and large, there are not a huge number of coordinated primary debates across the parties. I can think of one coordinated, double debate that happened in New Hampshire on the eve of the primary in the Granite state in 2008. But those are the exception rather than rule. Unlike regulating the movement of primary contests -- something that involves getting past bipartisan interests within states -- this debates issue is something that can potentially be handled in-house.

The drawbacks take this conversation back to something FHQ said early on in this post. To make rules like this work, a national party almost has to get it right the first time. If the penalty isn't right (see 50% penalty for violating the RNC timing rules in 2012), then the move could backfire. There is no testing ground for this other than an actual nomination race.

So how does the RNC provide disincentive for state parties and candidates on partnering with or participating in a supposed superfluous debate (...whether on CNN, MSNBC or otherwise)? The obvious answer is by taking away delegates as the DNC did for timing violations and campaigning in 2008.

But how much? Debates are not like primaries. A primary or caucuses in a state are one-off events. They are held and over in one fell swoop. Debates are not like that. There are, for instance, multiple debates in, say, Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina during the ramp up to the actual delegate selection events in those states. Does a national party go straight for the jugular and penalize everything or a sizable amount of delegates for one rogue activity? Alternatively, does the party attempt to mete out a penalty based on the number of violations? Complicating matters, does the RNC also devise a separate penalty for partnering with unsanctioned networks? Before this notion is dismissed out of hand, recall that the RNC had no answer in 2012 for a state that violated the proportionality requirement and the timing rules. There was only one 50% delegate hit a state could receive. Once one rule was violated, the RNC had no further stick to use against multiple violations.

FHQ does not have the answers to these questions. But they are important questions that the RNC Rules subcommittee on primary rules will likely consider if they are serious about regulating these presidential primary phase debates.  If regulation is the end goal, then attacking the existing incentive structure is the only path for the party to take.

...but does that veer off into fighting the last fight or fall under the category of an evolutionary management of the system?

We'll see.

1 And yeah, there was a bit of savvy to the RNC resolution. It served two purposes. First, the move played to the base of the party by going after a familiar whipping boy: the liberal media. But as many have pointed out, it also has the byproduct -- by reducing the number of outlets for debates -- of helping to reduce the number of actual debates that take place in the lead up to and during primary season in 2015 and 2016.

2 Those comments:
Former RNC Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf encouraged Priebus after the election to set early parameters for the number of debates and coordinate with Democrats, who will face similar pressures for tons of debates — especially if Clinton decides not to run.
“My friends at the networks make a carnival atmosphere out of it all,” Fahrenkopf said. “You’ve got to this situation where a candidate was afraid not to participate in a debate, even if they didn’t want to.”

Fahrenkopf, who is co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, points to the certainty in a general election context of always hosting three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate.

“It gives the candidates cover from the standpoint of not being compelled to do every single debate because they’ll offend some interests,” he said. “I don’t know whether the right number is 10 or 12 or 8. That’s not for me. But they ought to say there will be [X] sanctioned debates. Then a candidate can say when the Lion’s Club in some small town … calls, ‘We’ve already agreed to the two sanctioned debates in New Hampshire.’”
3 That said, one could certainly see a future where there is some convergence between the parties on the presidential primary debates issue. Regardless of whether any speculative new rules work for the Republican Party in 2016, the Democrats could -- as the Republicans ultimately did on the calendar issues -- come to the same conclusion. Debates are too numerous and detrimental to the nomination process and/or the success of the party's nominee in the general election. That may not happen in 2016 or even 2020, but one could envision a time when the Democrats' are pushed in that direction.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In Response to The Paulite Mess

Jonathan Bernstein had a nice piece up earlier today on the fracas -- if you really want to call it that -- at the Republican Convention on Tuesday. I agree with and am sympathetic to the argument that the Romney/RNC led convention may have committed an unforced error in drawing a line in the sand with  the Ron Paul delegates on the seating of the Maine delegation, the overall 2016 primary rules changes and/or nominating Paul at all. Yet, having followed this story closely all year and being here in Tampa and taking it all in yesterday, I could not help but think that the convention orchestrators would have been damned if they did allow Ron Paul to be nominated and his delegate votes to be tabulated in the roll call and damned if they didn't.

In a lose-lose situation, the majority faction with the power -- in this case, Romney and the RNC -- chose the most convenient loss: squashing the revolt and keeping an already condensed convention on pace to finish sometime before, well, today.

Now, some may ask why I consider that the choice set Romney and the RNC faced contained two losses. Indeed, as Bernstein asks, what's the harm in allowing Paul to be nominated? Well, the best and worst quality of the Ron Paul supporters -- and the designation depends on who in and out of the Republican Party you ask -- is their passion. That applies across the board. What doesn't is what each Paul delegate individually wanted out of the convention. There may have been some that may have been content with Rand Paul as a speaker at the convention. There may have been others who would have been satisfied by a rules compromise. Still others may have gone along quietly following a simple nomination of Ron Paul. But there are some who would not be content unless Ron Paul was installed as the Republican Party standard bearer.

Yes, the roll call would ultimately have put that to rest.


And that's kind of the point. Faced with the unknown of just how many Paul delegates fell into that all or nothing category, the RNC and Romney did what majority factions do in convention settings: they employ their superior numbers and stomp out dissent. To open the door to them in further compromises or allowing the issuance of minority reports or whatever parliamentary procedure the savvy Paul delegates had up their sleeves would have meant delay, irritation and perhaps much greater than necessary tumult at the convention.

Anjeanette Damon's piece on the Paul folks within the Nevada delegation is instructive. The Paul folks used the rules to their advantage until the avenues the rules provided were gone. And then they broke the rules.

Look, this is a counterfactual. We don't know what would have transpired had the convention allowed Paul to be nominated. But we do have plenty of evidence of how far the Paul folks were willing to go -- within the rules -- at state conventions.

...and the RNC and Romney wanted nothing to do with that possibility whatsoever.

So the party -- rightly or wrongly -- ripped the band-aid off quickly and moved on with the evening. After the recess, everyone was ready to move on to "We built this", and here in the building there were only sporadic pro-Paul-themed comments thereafter. It was a fun afternoon of drama, but it was convention business as usual in the evening.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Santorum Has Rule #40 Problems, Too

The folks at NBC News have dug down into the 2008 Rules of the Republican Party -- the rules governing the 2012 presidential nomination process -- and have found that Rule #40 may stand in the way of Newt Gingrich having his named placed into nomination at the convention in Tampa this summer.

Here's the pertinent text of Rule 40.b:
Each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a plurality of the delegates from each of five (5) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.
Read that closely. That isn't -- as the NBC piece emphasizes -- five wins. The rule states that a candidate is required to control pluralities of the delegates in at least five states. By that metric, as of now, Rick Santorum is not really out of the woods yet either. The former Pennsylvania senator has won nine contests -- ten if you count the non-binding Missouri primary -- but only half of those states have actually allocated delegates as of March 21, 2012. Further, Santorum only has clear delegate pluralities in three of those states: Alabama, Kansas and Tennessee. In Mississippi and Oklahoma, both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are within a couple of automatic delegate endorsements of controlling a plurality of the delegation.

Now, more than likely one of a couple of scenarios is likely to play out. Either:
  1. Santorum ends up winning the plurality of delegates in Iowa, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota, controls those delegations and has no problems being nominated -- if it comes to that.
  2. The delegate math will have become so impossible and the pressure from within the party will have grown so high that Santorum will exit the race and delegates in those non-binding/unbound caucus states will end up supporting the inevitable nominee (Romney) anyway, seeing that there will not be a contested convention. 
Rules, rules, rules...

Recent Posts:
Race to 1144: Illinois Primary
Why Santorum's Delegate Math Isn't So Bad But the Explanation Is

On the Binding of Missouri Republican Delegates

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Monday, March 23, 2009

2012 Primaries: Democratic Change Commission Named

And here I thought the GOP would be the first to move on the issues attendant to the presidential primary system.
"Today, Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced the 37 member Democratic Change Commission, which will recommend changes to the Democratic Party's rules for the 2012 presidential nominating and delegate selection process. Governor Kaine also announced that he has named Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri as Co-Chairs of the Change Commission."
Now, this is significant news, but first let's look a bit more closely at the intent of the Commission and then I'll give my rapid fire thoughts on the commission's membership.
"The Democratic Change Commission will address three issues: 1) changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held 2) reducing the number of superdelegates and 3) improving the caucus system."
The Intent

No, those don't sound like the sweeping changes that some people would like to see come to the presidential nomination system. [And for the record, I am an impartial observer here. Despite the name of this blog, that is not the system I prefer; only the one I study. But I have a research niche carved out whether change comes or not. And if you've read FHQ at all, you know that we think a national primary is the most likely system to emerge. That doesn't mean another system won't emerge, but because of the barriers that exist, a national primary is the most likely outcome.]

First, changing the window means that the February experiment is over in the minds of some within the party. That's code for, "Let's move the starting point back to March." And there's a lot of talk out there about March being a good starting point. Most of that finds its root in any of the reform regimes that represent the most upheaval to the system (NASS rotating regional primary, Ohio Plan, American Plan, etc.). That, however, would set up quite a few potential showdowns with compliant-turned-rogue states (States that are compliant in February under the current rules, but would be in violation is the window were closed and did not include February.). For example, without some coordination with the Republican Party, the Democratic Party faces the possibility of having quite a few states (those in Republican control) not comply with any such effort to scale back the starting point of the window.

Take my current home state of Georgia. Here's a state that finds both the governor's mansion and the General Assembly in GOP control. Now, are they really going to be inclined to move just because the Democratic Party says so (assuming the GOP holds pat on their own rules)? I doubt it. And Georgia isn't an isolated case here. Of the states holding primaries before March in 2008, Florida, South Carolina (which will likely be exempt anyway) and Tennessee all are in the same position. And Arizona's governor (now Republican after Janet Napolitano vacated to be Homeland Security Secretary) has proclamation power to move the state's contest earlier if the final week in February is not early enough for the Grand Canyon state to be consequential in the process. Add to that the very likely possibility that Oklahoma's next governor will be Republican and you have quite a few potential partisan rogues.

This first point, then, seems like it could be messy.

The second and third points will be talked about, but are more remnants of the unique 2008 primary season than anything. As was the case initially with primary reform in Republican Party during last summer's convention in St. Paul, the winning candidates rarely sanction the change of a system that brought about their nomination. The GOP for the first time created a loophole (allowing for rules to be set outside of the confines of the convention), but Barack Obama is the head of the Democratic Party and these latter two goals of the commission are among the chief reasons he received the Democratic nomination. Now, that isn't to say that some measure of reform in the areas of superdelegates and caucuses won't come to pass, just that it is less likely. Regardless, it is probable that there will be some scaling back of the number of superdelegates and there may be some incentivizing structure discussed to get some caucus states to shift to being primary states. On the latter point, though, the economy will have a large say in whether that happens. Primaries are the much more expensive route. There is a balance, then, that has to be discovered between the inclusiveness of a primary system versus the price tag of (not to mention the control state parties have over) the caucus system.

The Membership

My first inclination is to look not at who specifically these 37 commission members are, but to focus on where they are from and what that says about the group collectively. Let's look at it by the numbers:
  • 37 members (2 co-chairs and 35 members)
  • Representing 26 states (plus DC, Puerto Rico and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)
  • 7 members are from 7 red states
  • 24 members from 19 blue states (and four more from DC)
  • Of the 15 states within ten points in the presidential election, 13 are represented on the commission (only Indiana and North Dakota are excluded)
  • All of the January 2008 Democratic contest states are represented (Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida)
Now, what does any of that have to do with the changes this commission may bring about? Well, it has a "take care of your own" feel to it. The membership hails from the Obama coalition of states and of those outside that coalition, most are states that were within ten points last November. These states won't necessarily have privileged positions on the 2012 calendar but they will be represented on the commission. Part of the Obama success story was primary season organizational efforts that paid dividends in the general election. The flip side here is that the membership isn't a reflection of future goals (in terms of states to target), but represent states where those organizational efforts were the strongest/most vital.

Regardless, the ball is rolling now from the parties' perspective and not just at the state government level.

Full Press Release:

WASHINGTON, March 23 -- Today, Governor Tim Kaine, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced the 37 member Democratic Change Commission, which will recommend changes to the Democratic Party's rules for the 2012 presidential nominating and delegate selection process. Governor Kaine also announced that he has named Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri as Co-Chairs of the Change Commission.

"This Commission will focus on reform that improves the presidential nominating process to put voters first and ensure that as many people as possible can participate," said Kaine. "I want to thank all the members of the Commission who have agreed to serve, including Congressman Clyburn and Senator McCaskill who have graciously agreed to serve as co-chairs."

Governor Kaine went on to say that he hopes to work with the Republican National Committee on a common approach that puts voters first.

President Obama first announced his intention to form the Democratic Change Commission in August 2008, during his presidential campaign. Delegates to the Democratic National Convention adopted President Obama's proposal on Monday, August 25, 2008.

The Democratic Change Commission will address three issues: 1) changing the window of time during which primaries and caucuses may be held 2) reducing the number of superdelegates and 3) improving the caucus system. A copy of the convention resolution establishing the Commission is below. The Commission must issue its report and recommendations to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee no later than January 1, 2010.

The Commission is made up of 35 members and two co-chairs and represents a diverse mix of DNC members, elected officials, representatives of State Parties, academics, labor, business, grassroots activists and other Party leaders. A complete list of the Commission's members is below.



Congressman Jim Clyburn

Columbia, South Carolina


Senator Claire McCaskill

St. Louis, Missouri


Commission Members:


Grassroots Activist Jeremy Alters

Miami, Florida


Political Strategist Jeff Berman

Washington, DC


Grassroots Activist Ashley Bliss

Atlanta, Georgia


State Representative Dan Blue

Raleigh, North Carolina


Political Strategist Bill Carrick

Los Angeles, California


Mayor Michael Coleman

Columbus, Ohio


Political Strategist Jeff Forbes

Washington, DC


Grassroots Activist Joan Garry

Montclair, New Jersey


State Chair Larry Gates

Overland Park, Kansas


School Board Member Adelita Grijalva

Tucson, Arizona


Professor Rob Hampshire

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Former State Chair Ned Helms

Concord, New Hampshire


Former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman

McLean, Virginia


Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe


IBT President James Hoffa

Detroit, Michigan


Grassroots Activist Roseanne Hope

Minneapolis, Minnesota


State Senator Steven Horsford

Las Vegas, Nevada


Grassroots Activist Suzie LeVine

Seattle, Washington


UAW CAP Director Dick Long

Detroit, Michigan


Grassroots Activist Andres Lopez

San Juan, Puerto Rico


Former Attorney General Patricia Madrid

Albuquerque, New Mexico


DNC Member Debbie Marquez

Edwards, Colorado


State Senator Iris Martinez

Chicago, Illinois


Delegate Jennifer McClellan

Richmond, Virginia


Secretary of State Linda McCulloch

Helena, Montana


Attorney General Tom Miller

Des Moines, Iowa


DNC Member Minyon Moore

Washington, DC


Grassroots Activist Sunah Park

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Campaign Manager David Plouffe

Washington, DC


Grassroots Activist Rebecca Prozan

San Francisco, California


DNC Member James Roosevelt, Jr

Cambridge, Massachusetts


Congresswoman Linda Sanchez

Lakewood, California


AFT President Randi Weingarten

New York City, New York


State Chair Meredith Wood Smith

Portland, Oregon


Grassroots Activist Martin Yeung

Rapid City, South Dakota


Resolution Establishing the Democratic Change Commission

(This resolution was recommended by the 2008 Convention Rules Committee at its August 23, 2008 meeting and adopted by the 2008 Democratic National Convention on August 25, 2008 in Denver, Colorado)

Section 1. Establishment of Democratic Change Commission.

BE IT RESOLVED: That no later than 60 days after the date of the next election of the National Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the National Chair shall establish a commission (the "Commission") to review the Delegate Selection Rules in light of developments during the 2008 presidential nominating cycle and to recommend changes to the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, not inconsistent with these resolutions, to improve the nominating process.

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Commission shall be known as the "Democratic Change Commission;" that it shall consist of 35 members and two co-chairs, all with the right to vote on Commission business, appointed by the National Chair of the DNC; that its membership shall be equally divided between men and women and shall be geographically and demographically diverse; that the DNC shall provide the Commission with adequate staff and resources to carry out its mandate in accordance with this Resolution; and that the Commission shall issue its report and recommendations to the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC no later than January 1, 2010.

Section 2. Timing of the Primaries and Caucuses.

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2012 Convention shall provide that no meetings, caucuses, conventions or primaries which constitute the first determining stage in the presidential nomination process (the date of the primary in primary states and the date of the first tier caucus in caucus states) shall be held prior to the first Tuesday in March of the election year, except as otherwise provided in the Delegate Selection Rules and recognizing the valuable role played by the approved pre-Window states in 2008; and provided that no such meeting, caucus, convention or primary shall in any event be held prior to February 1 of the calendar year of the National Convention; and that the Commission also shall review the sequence and scheduling of primaries and caucuses with a view towards reducing the scheduling of such events on the first allowable date that resulted in 22 primaries and caucuses being held on such date in 2008 and toward reducing frontloading within the Window period; and that the Commission shall review the rules for proper enforcement of the primary and caucus timing requirements and delegate allocation matters, particularly with respect to action by the Rules and Bylaws Committee; and that in making its recommendations, the Commission consider any revision of the Rules of the Republican Party of the United States adopted by the 2008 Republican National Convention regarding the scheduling and sequence of presidential nominating events.

Section 3. Delegates.

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Commission shall consider and make appropriate recommendations for revisions to the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2012 Democratic National Convention to provide for a significant reduction of the number of unpledged party leader and elected official (PLEO) delegates in order to enlarge the role and influence of primary and caucus voters in the presidential nominating process. The Commission also shall review the formulas for delegate allocation to assure that delegates are fairly allocated to accurately reflect the will of the voters and that the right of the delegates to reflect the sentiments of those who elected them shall be secured to all delegates.

Section 4. Caucuses.

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Commission shall consider and recommend appropriate revisions to the Delegate Selection Rules for the 2012 Democratic National Convention to provide that:

a. the use of a caucus/convention system for any stage of the delegate selection process by any State Democratic Party shall be approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee in accordance with any new specific criteria to be set out in the Delegate Selection Rules, and which will be designed to ensure that at each stage, any caucus or convention will be adequately planned, organized, and staffed; will take place at such times and in such locations as will meet the requirements of Rule 3 of the Delegate Selection Rules and will otherwise maximize the opportunity for full participation by Democratic voters; will be run using appropriate balloting methods and, as to tiers following the first stage caucus, will utilize accurate lists of participants; and will afford the opportunity for meaningful communication of presidential candidates with their pledged caucus participants reasonably in advance of caucuses and conventions.

b. the use of a caucus/convention system for any stage of the delegate selection process should be organized in a manner that will ensure the maximum ability of Democratic voters to feasibly participate in the first-tier caucuses, including consideration of absentee voting in caucuses to benefit those who cannot attend a scheduled caucus due to military service, work, health conditions, family obligations and other similar reasons that prevent attendance in person.

Section 5. Status of Resolutions

RESOLVED FURTHER: That the Commission may address other matters related to the presidential nominating process and Delegate Selection Rules as may be identified by the National Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and that for the purposes of Article Ten, Section 2 of the Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States, these resolutions shall be deemed to be "otherwise designated."


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