Delegate Math Week of June 6 — Part 2 (California)

As discussed in part 1, the math in both parties has been relentless.  After last night’s results in the U. S. Virgin Islands, the Greenpapers has Clinton only 85 votes short of clinching the nomination in its “soft” count.  Barring a large number of superdelegates endorsing Clinton over the next forty-eight hours, today’s primary in Puerto Rico does not have enough delegates at stake (60 total) to put Clinton over the top, but the states discussed in Part 1 (New Jersey, South Dakota, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Montana) have more than enough delegates to put Clinton over the top.  Sanders is urging the media to remember that superdelegates can change their minds and depart from past practice by not declaring Clinton the nominee unless she wins enough pledged delegates to put her over the top (almost impossible).

With so few contests left, it is all but certain that Clinton will win the pledged delegate count.   Even the attempt to win additional delegates in the later stages of caucus states is not going well.  While the Washington Democratic Party has only posted the names of the delegates elected by the Congressional Districts (not the candidates that they are supporting), they have announced the allocation for the state-wide delegates (which is based on the breakdown of the Congressional District delegates).  Based on that allocation, Clinton won between 17 and 19 delegates at the Congressional District level (post-precinct caucus estimates had her winning 18).    In the other states that have already held first-tier caucuses, there are only 48 delegates still at stake (with Sanders having a 28-20 advantage).    (6-2 in Idaho, 7-8 in Iowa, and 15-10 in Nebraska).  Gaining more than five delegates from these states is unlikely, and adding it to the potential gain of 1 in Washington, Clinton would still have a 261 delegate lead heading into Puerto Rico.  Since for reasons discussed previously, Sanders is probably going to have a net loss of delegates between Puerto Rico and the other states on Tuesday, Sander’s outside hope of significantly closing that gap come down to California.

As noted in part one, the Republican race is only about Trump accumulating enough delegates to prevent any revolt at the national convention.  California does winner-take-all by congressional districts (3 each for 159 delegates) with 13 delegates for the state-wide winner.  Instead of the district-by-district battle that looked likely in early April, Trump will almost certainly take all 172 delegates.   There is still the potential for battles over the rules and platform (and maybe even the vice-presidential nomination), but these delegates will give Trump additional leverage in those discussions.

On the Democratic side, the congressional districts have between four and nine delegates each (317 total).  One district (21st) has four delegates.  Seventeen districts (8th, 10th, 16th, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 29th, 31st, 34th, 35th, 36th, 40th, 41st, 42nd, 46th, 50th, and 51st) have five delegates.  Twenty-two districts (1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 24th, 26th,  27th, 32nd, 38th, 39th, 43rd, 44th, 45th, 47th, 48th, 49th, and 52nd) have six delegates.  Nine districts (5th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 28th, 30th, 33rd, 37th, and 53rd) have seven delegates.  Three districts (2nd, 13th, and 18th) have eight delegates.  One district (12th) has nine delegates.  With four delegates, a 2-2 split is most likely with it taking 62.5% to get a 3-1 split.  With five delegates, a 3-2 split is most likely with it taking 70% to get a 4-1 split.  With six delegates, it will take 58.34% to get a 4-2 split (probably will occur in some districts, but many will end up at 3-3).  With seven delegates, the winner will get a 4-3 split with it taking 64.3% to get to 5-2.  With eight delegates, it takes 56.25% to get a 5-3 split (and 68.75% to get a 6-2 split).  With nine delegates, the winner will get a 5-4 split with it taking 61.2% to get a 6-3 split and 71.3% to get a 7-2 split.  (It is hard to project what may happen in the 12th (Nancy Pelosi’s district) as it is one of the few districts in the country in which the Asian vote (33% of the district population) will be significant.

Putting aside the district level maneuverings, the size of California means that small changes in the state-wide vote will impact a large number of delegates.  California has 53 pledged party leader delegates and 105 at-large delegates.  For the pledged party leader delegates, winning the state gives a 27-26 advantage, but the winning candidate will get an additional delegate for each additional 1.9% of the two-candidate vote (unless one of the other candidates on the ballot somehow gets to 15%).  For the at-large delegates, winning the state gives a 53-52 advantage, but the winning candidate will get an additional delegate for each 0.95% of the two-candidate vote.

Every poll taken in California has Clinton winning.  The polls taken since the last primaries, however, show vastly different margins — some show Clinton with a narrow lead (within the margin of error), but others show Clinton with a two-digit lead.  Since it is expected that Clinton will win New Jersey, the results in California are potentially significant.  Over the past two months, Sanders has repeatedly claimed that he has a shot at winning a large state and has fallen short.  To date, the only large primary state that Sanders won (by a very narrow margin) was Michigan.  He has won some mid-size state primaries (Wisconsin and Indiana), but the lack of a big win in a big state does undermine his argument for taking the race to the convention.  While Sanders (as does any other candidate) has the right to continue until the convention, the convention will not truly be a contested convention if he loses big in California and New Jersey.  Such a result would push Clinton near to a lead of 400 pledged delegates.

California will also be significant on Tuesday because it is not just a presidential primary, but also a primary for other offices.  California is one of a handful of states that use a top two primary.  While incumbents are likely to make the top-two in any race, this format can lead to weird results for open seats due to the number of candidates running.  A close split among the top three in either party opens the door for the top two in the other party to finish first and second and shut the other party out of the general (even if he district leans in favor of the party with three strong candidates).  In some districts, there is a chance for a third party candidate to finish in the top two.   Based on the most recent polling, it looks likely that two Democrats will make the general election for the open U.S. Senate seat (replacing Barbara Boxer).

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