Delegate Math — Week of February 22

This week, the pace of the primary campaign begins to pick up.  The Republican caucuses in Nevada will take place on Tuesday, giving voters very little time to digest the impact of yesterday’s results in South Carolina.  (Does Marco Rubio narrowly taking second place over Ted Cruz give Senator Rubio much of a bump or cause much Damage to Senator Cruz?  Where do the Jeb Bush supporters go?)  Democrats in South Carolina — voting on Saturday — have a little bit more time to consider the not-yet-final results from Nevada.

By taking all 50 delegates in South Carolina, Donald Trump — for now — has won over 50% of the delegates at stake in the first three contests.  However, Nevada returns the Republicans to the same system used in Iowa and New Hampshire — proportional allocation by state-wide vote.  The win in South Carolina assures that entering Super Tuesday, Trump will be in the lead and will exit Nevada with more than half of the delegates at stake in February.  (Currently, Trump is at 67 delegates out of 103 delegates in the first three states.  Nevada has 30 delegates.  Thus even if Trump got 0 delegates, he would still have 67 delegates out of 133, enough for a slight majority).

The rules of the Nevada Republican Party provide that, for the most part, fractional delegates are awarded based on the highest remainders.  With 30 delegates at stake, a whole delegate equals 3.3333__% of the vote.  However, to get any delegates, a candidate must get at least one whole delegate (3.33333__% of the vote).  Based on the current Real Clear Politics average (which should be taken with a grain of salt, given the difficulty of modeling the Nevada caucus vote and the question of where Jeb Bush’s vote and the undecided vote will go).  Donald Trump would get 13.40 delegates (which would translate to 14 delegates); Ted Cruz would get 6.38 delegates (which would translate to 6 delegates); Marco Rubio would get 6.06 delegates (which would translate to 6 delegates); John Kasich would get 2.23 delegates (which would translate to 2 delegates).  and Ben Carson would get 1.91 delegates (which would translate to 2 delegates).

South Carolina will be the largest state to date to vote on the Democratic side.   As the states get bigger, the state-wide result becomes more significant.  In smaller states, like the three that have voted so far — even the at-large part of the delegation is roughly the same size as the delegates awarded from a single district.   As the number of congressional districts in the state increases, the at-large and pledged party leader portions of the delegation starts to get  large enough for candidates to start picking up additional state-wide delegates.  In the three states to vote to date, none of the state-wide margins were large enough for either of the candidates to pick up additional state-wide delegates.  (Bernie Sanders did pick up two additional district-level delegates in New Hampshire; and Hillary Clinton appears to have picked up an additional district-level delegate in Nevada.)

At the state-wide level, there are 11 at-large delegates.  A narrow win gives 6 delegates, 59.2% translates to 7 delegates, 68.4% translates to 8 delegates; 77.6% translates to 9 delegates.  There are 7 pledged PLEOs.  A slim majority translates to 4 delegates, but it takes 64.3% to get 5 delegates and 78.6% to get 6 delegates.  Based on current polls, Secretary Clinton should get 6 or 7 at-large delegates and 4 or 5 PLEOs.  Figure, a 10-6 splits with two up in the air.

For the seven congressional districts, District 1 (the southern two-thirds of the coast), District 2 (the south central part of the state), District 5 (the north central part of the state), and District 7 (the northeast part of the state) have 5 delegates each.  The winner in each of these districts will get 3 delegates, but it would take 70% to get to 4 delegates.  Secretary Clinton should be favored in each of these districts, but the most likely result will be a 12-8 split.

District 3 (the southwest part of the state including Clemson University) has 3 delegates.  The presence of Clemson University gives Senator Sanders a good shot at winning this district.  However, he would need to get 85% of the delegates to get the additional delegates.  Both candidates will get at least 1 delegate from this district, with a toss-up for who wins the district to get the edge in a 2-1 split.

District 4 (the northwest part of the state) has 4 delegates.  It would take 62.6% to get 3 delegates.  The most likely result is Secretary Clinton getting 2 delegates, Senator Sanders 1 delegate with 1 delegate up in the air.

District 6( the central part of the state including the capitol and the University of South Carolina) has 8 delegates.  This district will be the battleground of the state.  A solid African-American turnout will favor Secretary Clinton.  A solid turnout at the University of South Carolina will favor Senator Sanders.  With 8 delegates, it will take 31.3% to get 3 delegates, 43.8% to get 4 delegates, 56.3% to get 5 delegates, and 68.8% to get 6 delegates.  Most likely, each candidate will get at least 3 delegates with 2 delegates up in the air.

Looking at the state as a whole, Secretary Clinton should get at least 28 delegates, Senator Sanders should get at least 19 delegates, with 6 delegates being up in the air.  What happens with those 6 delegates may go a long way to determining how long the Democratic Primary fight goes.  South Carolina was a bad state for Secretary Clinton in 2008 (with her finishing 21 delegates behind the combined total for President Obama and Senator Edwards).  As noted yesterday, a significant question is whether Secretary Clinton can improve her numbers in states that favored President Obama in 2008.  If Secretary Clinton could get 34 delegates, she will have a 36 delegate swing in her favor from the 2008 totals.  When combined with the results-to-date, that would put her 61 delegates to the positive on 2008.  Similar results the following Tuesday would put her solidly on pace to win a majority of the pledged delegates.

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