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As April begins to turn into May, delegate counts become key. This site has typically used the count at www.thegreenpapers.com as a good count — mostly because the Green Papers shows its work — exactly how it calculates the delegate counts. Actually, the Green Papers has four separate counts. What those different counts mean for the next two months is the main focus of this post. To explain the terminology that the Green Papers uses, the Green Papers distinguishes between hard counts and soft counts. The hard count is the actual number of delegates actually won to date. The soft count has three components — the soft pledged count, the soft unpledged count, and the soft total. These components have slightly different meanings for the two parties given the difference in the rules of the two parties. This post looks in a general sense at what these counts mean — primarily looking at the delegates from the states that have already voted — for the Republicans.
For the Republican Party, because delegates are bound by either the initial presidential preference vote or the delegate’s pledge when they ran for delegate (in certain caucus states, Illinois, and West Virginia), the hard count and the soft pledged count is, for the most part, the same for all of the candidates and differs only for uncommitted. Soft unpledged (for the most part) represents officially uncommitted delegates who have announced their non-binding support for a candidate. Additionally, for Colorado and Wyoming, the Green Papers treats the automatic delegates as “available” but for American Samoa, Guam, North Dakota, and the Virgin Islands, the Green Papers treat these delegates as uncommitted. The actual status appears to be the same for both sets of automatic delegates — because there was no preference vote, these delegates are not bound to support any of the candidates.
For the Republican Party, all that truly matters for now is the hard count. Including the automatic delegates from Colorado and Wyoming and the 54 district-level delegates from Pennsylvania, there will be 124 unbound delegates available on June 8 (128 if the original delegation from the Virgin Islands is seated by the Convention). Of those 124 delegates, 18 will be the party leaders (party chair and RNC members) from the three states and three territories that did not hold a preference vote. The other 106 or 110 will be the individual elected as uncommitted delegates in Colorado (4), American Samoa (6), Guam (6), North Dakota (25), Virgin Islands (2 or 6), Wyoming (1), Louisiana (5), Oklahoma (3), and Pennsylvania (54). In addition to the uncommitted delegates, there are the delegates won by the other candidates. As discussed last month, as best as can be determined, sixty-nine of these delegates are effectively unbound and another 44 could be released by the candidate to whom they are bound. Presumably Ben Carson will release his nine delegates, but the other 35 might be kept bound if the remaining candidates are firmly opposed to Trump. (Given the binding rules, it is hard to see how any candidate other than Trump could win on the first ballot. If it gets to the second ballot, everything is up in the air.) The key for unbound delegates is that tentative pledges by these delegates (including guesses as to which way these delegates are believed to be leaning) are not binding or set in stone. Depending upon how the rest of the campaign goes, they are free to change their mind.
As Matt noted yesterday, Alaska has formally announced the reallocation of its delegates in light of Marco Rubio’s decision to suspend his campaign. However, Alaska is not the only state in which Senator Rubio “won” delegates. Additionally, in several of those states, Senator Rubio is not the only “former” candidate who won delegates. Given that, at least, some elements of the Republican Party leadership are hoping for a contested convention what happens to these delegates could play a key role in how realistic that hope is. As with anything else dealing with delegate selection, the answer is a mixture of current and future rules of the state parties (some established by state law) and the national party.
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).
In the typical presidential campaign cycle, the calendar year before the primaries is spent doing two things — raising money and campaigning in the early states (almost entirely in Iowa and New Hampshire). The reasons for this focus are simple. There is not enough time after Iowa and New Hampshire for a campaign to raise the type of funds needed to “go national.” Additionally, several major states come early in March; so the campaign has to start working in these states even before the first votes are counted. Both parties have a history of candidates with surprisingly good results in Iowa and New Hampshire who did not have the resources on hand to turn those early results into a successful national campaign. On the other hand, as several candidates in this year’s campaign have already shown, failure in Iowa and New Hampshire mean the end of the campaign. For the eight candidates still running, the question after New Hampshire is simply what’s next.
On the Democratic side, with only two candidates, this question is simple. As 2008 showed, in a two-candidate race (especially with proportional representation), candidates need to run everywhere. The last South Carolina polls were in January, before either the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, and the newest Nevada polls are even older. The demographics in South Carolina and Nevada are significantly different than the demographics in Iowa and New Hampshire. In the long run, whether this race will be close will depend upon if Sanders can convince minority voters and poor whites in rural areas to support him. While — in European terms — Sanders is a “pink” at most, his characterization of himself as a “Democratic Socialist” might become an insurmountable barrier to gaining these votes in areas in which he is less known as socialist is a “dirty word” to a lot of voters who do not understand the significant distinctions between various progressive political philosophies. While there are some potentially favorable states on March 1 (Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and maybe Colorado), Sanders needs to keep things close in Nevada, South Carolina, and the remaining March 1 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia).
The Republican side gives candidates more choices on how to play. The New Hampshire results have scrambled the field. If Marco Rubio had been able to follow-up on Iowa with a strong finish in New Hampshire, he would have become the favorite to win the nomination. His weak showing has given both Jeb Bush and John Kasich a degree of hope to become the consensus candidate. At this point, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz need to run everywhere. In the pre-March 15 states, while each state has slightly different rules, a general rule of thumb is that 20% state-wide and top two in each congressional district equals delegates. While Kasich, Bush, and Rubio continue to split the moderately conservative vote, the path is clear for Trump and Cruz to pad their delegate totals — making it harder for the candidate who survives between the other three to get the nomination.
While vote totals are not irrelevant to presidential elections (especially in the primary phase when trailing candidates quickly find that they lack the financial resources to continue), what ultimately matters is not the popular vote, but winning delegates (for the primaries) and electors (for the general). The delegate math heading into the Iowa Caucuses are different for the two parties for two reasons: 1) the stage at which delegates are bound and 2) the two parties do proportional representation differently.
It is that time of year. When folks have way too much leftover turkey and too many leftover visiting in-laws that seems like it will take forever to get rid of. Both of which call to mind the Republican presidential candidates — still fourteen strong with two months to go to Iowa. I have been playing around the last week with the Real Clear Politics tool on the race for delegates on the Republican side. One big caveat on the tool, it is not too good on the states that allocate congressional district delegates by congressional districts. In proportional states that allocate by congressional district (thirteen states), it tends to assume that the statewide allocation of congressional district delegates will mirror state-wide results. It will not. Depending on the state, either the top three candidates will get approximately one-third each (a close enough fourth placed candidate may steal some delegates on a district-by-district basis) or the top candidate will get approximately two-thirds of the delegates with the second-placed candidate getting one-third. In winner-take-most states (six states), the tool assumes that the number of districts won will be proportional to the state-wide results. Again, it will not. The state-wide winner should win most of the congressional districts (unless there is a good reason to think that the state-wide winner will win their districts by a large margin and narrowly lose a lot of districts). Having tried to adjust for the individual state rules, I still came to the conclusion that the Republican outcome will depend on the answer to a series of (not-quite twenty) questions.