For a couple more weeks, the primaries are still in the one or two states per week mode. With one or two states, it is possible to do a detailed discussion of the rules for delegate allocation and to clarify the “math” of winning delegates. Once March 1 hits, with double digit contests on both sides, the battle for delegates will become a multi-front war in which even the campaigns will be trying to figure out where the battlegrounds are.
As with Iowa, the Republicans will use proportional allocation of their twenty delegates, with two changes. First, in Iowa, there was no threshold. In New Hampshire, to qualify for delegates, a candidate must get 10% of the vote. So a candidate with 9.9% of the vote gets no delegates (compared to the 2 delegates that a candidate would have gotten if there were no threshold).
Second, and most significant, delegate allocation for New Hampshire Republicans is a little like the system that Turkey uses for their parliament elections. Delegates are initially allocated based on the raw vote totals. The candidates who finish above the threshold win their delegates. The candidates who finish below the threshold do not get the delates that they would have won in a no threshold system, and those delegates go to the candidate who finished first.
To use the current Real Clear Polling average as an example, the initial allocation would give Trump 6 delegates (30% of the vote), Rubio 3 delegates (16% of the vote), and Cruz and Kasich 2 each (12% of the vote). The initial allocation would also give Bush 2 delegates (9% of the vote), and Christie, Fiorina, and Carson 1 each with 2 delegates up in the air (representing the 8% who are undecided). However, assuming that none of these candidates reach 10%, they would get 0 delegates and Trump would end up with 13 delegates.
As with Iowa, the Democratic allocation process is more complex — 2 congressional districts, state-wide party leader delegates, and state-wide at-large, all of which have to be calculated separately. More significantly, these numbers are calculated based on adjusted percentages. There are 28 candidates on the ballot. Twenty-six of these candidates are unlikely to get to the 15% of the raw vote total that is the threshold for qualifying for delegates. In allocating delegates, the raw votes for these candidates (almost certainly less than 5% total) are set to the side and the following percentages are based only on the votes for the candidates who qualify for delegates.
The easiest to calculate is the state-wide party leader delegates. New Hampshire has three PLEO delegates. Assuming that the second placed candidate gets 15%, the winner will get two delegates, and the runner-up will get one delegate.
For at-large, there are five delegates. The key percentage here is 70-30. If the state-wide winner does better than 70-30, the split will be four delegates to the winner and one to the runner-up. On the other hand, if the race is closer than 70-30, the state-wide winner will only get three delegates.
Looking at state-wide polling, it seems almost certain that the state-wide delegates will be split 5-3. That leaves the congressional district delegates. Both of New Hampshire’s congressional district has 8 delegates each. That creates the following math- 15% = 1 delegate; 18.75% = 2 delegates; 31.25% = 3 delegates; 43.75% = 4 delegates; 56.25% = 5 delegates; 68.75% = 6 delegates; 81.25% = 7 delegates; 85% = 8 delegates. There are some slight differences between the two districts — the 1st (a 50-50 district) covers the southeastern quarter of the state with the 2nd (leans Democrat) covers the rest of the state. If the state-wide results come in at 55-60 to 40-45, there is a chance that one district will be 5-3 and the other will be 4-4. Similarly, if the state-wide results come in in the 65-70 to 30-35 range, one district might be 6-2 while the other is 5-3. Right now, the most likely split is 5-3 in both districts, but different polls show enough of a difference that 6-2 and 4-4 splits are also possible.
One caution about polling in New Hampshire. A very large percentage of New Hampshire voters are independents who can vote in either party’s primary. In 2000, the split was 238,000 in the Republican primary compared to 154,000 in the Democratic primary. In 2008, the split was 239,000 in the Republican primary compared to 287,000 in the Democratic primary. Pollsters have to guess who is likely to vote in which primary — one of the reasons why post-Iowa New Hampshire polls are about as far apart as they can be and still (barely) have an overlap within their respective margins of error.
As the results come in Tuesday night, the big questions for the Republicans are going to be: 1) whether Governor Kasich and Governor Bush can get over 10% to get delegates or will their delegates go to the state-wide winner; 2) where is Senator Cruz going to finish (and will he get delegates); and 3) who will win — Donald Trump or Senator Rubio. On the Democratic side, the big question is going to be the delegate count. If Secretary Clinton can get it close enough to keep the delegate split down to 13-11 in favor of Senator Sanders, that may be enough to claim a draw going forward. If Senator Sanders can get a 16-8 split, the race could get interesting.