Delegate Math — Week of February 15

This week is a weird week in the presidential primary process.  For almost all primary states, both parties hold their primaries on the same date because the date is set by the state legislature.  Even in caucus states, there is a tendency that both parties will choose the same date.  In South Carolina, however, the parties choose the primary date for their party.  So this week, the Republicans have their primary in South Carolina, and the Democrats have their caucus in Nevada.  Next week, the two parties will flip with the Republicans going in Nevada, and the Democrats going in South Carolina.

On the Republican side, the four states in the pre-March 1 window are exempt from the proportionality rule.  South Carolina has chosen to go with a winner-take-most system.  The candidate who finishes first in each of the seven congressional district will win the three delegates for that district.  The candidate who finishes first state-wide gets the twenty-six at-large delegates and the three automatic delegates.   At least according to the polls, Trump seems to be safely in the lead for the twenty-nine state-wide candidates.  If one of the establishment candidates has a chance at winning one of the congressional districts, it is most likely to be the 1st district or the 6th district.  Ted Cruz’s best chance of winning a congressional district will be the 3rd, 4th, and 5th districts.

On the Democratic side, Nevada has some weird rules.  State law designates how many delegates each precinct gets to the county convention and how many delegates each county gets to the congressional and state district conventions.  The counties get one delegate to the state convention for each 150 registered democrats in the county.  The formula for the precinct is more complicated.  In counties with fewer than 400 democrats, each precinct gets 1 delegate to the county convention for each 5 registered democrats.  This ratio gradually changes so that in the largest counties (those with more than 4,000 democrats), each precinct gets 1 delegate to the county convention for each 50 registered democrats.    Because this formula simply makes the county conventions larger and does not alter representation at the conventions that actually choose delegates, it should not have an actual impact on who gets Nevada’s delegates to the national convention.  While Nevada will report raw vote totals, the key in Nevada (as in Iowa and other caucus states) is figuring out how many delegates each campaign will have at each of the county conventions and what that means for delegates at the state convention where delegates will actually be allocated.

At the state convention (in May), the delegates will first meet by congressional district to allocate the congressional district delegates.  Three of the four district will have six delegates to the national convention.  For those three districts, it will take 58.4% of the vote to get four delegates, otherwise it will be a 3-3 split.  The remaining district (the 1st — Las Vegas) has five delegates.  Whomever wins that district will probably get three delegates to two delegates for the runner up (it would take 70% of the vote to get to four delegates).    The convention as a whole will also allocate five pledged party leaders (thus the same formula as for the 1st district) and seven at-large delegates (a four-three split unless the winning candidate gets to 65%).    In short, winning the 1st and state-wide will probably result in a 19-16 delegate advantage.   The only recent polls — from an unknown Republican pollster — suggests a close race.


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