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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.
New York this past week was huge for the front runners in both parties. For both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the results in New York essentially offset everything that has happened over the past several weeks. On the Republican side, the race stands essentially where it stood on April 1 except for 223 more delegates allocated. On the Democratic side, the race stands essentially where it stood on March 14 except for 1197 more delegates allocated. In other words, the New York reset basically gave Trump a glimmer of hope that he can win enough delegates to get the nomination while it put Clinton back in control of the Democratic race. This week’s primaries feature five states that comprise the rest of the Mid-Atlantic (Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania) and the last two New England states (Connecticut and Rhode Island). For both Trump and Clinton, the hope is that this week will be mostly a repeat of New York. For Trump that hope is a necessity because he still is behind where he needs to be on the delegate count and May is a little less friendly than this week. Clinton also faces a potentially weaker performance in May, but she is fast approaching the point where it is mathematically impossible for Sanders to catchup on the pledged delegate count (much less the popular vote count).
Starting with the Republicans, the simplest state is Delaware — 16 delegates — winner-take-all. There has not been much (if any polling) In Delaware. Given the polls in neighboring states, Trump looks like the favorite to win in Delaware unless the supporters of Cruz and Kasich can unite to block him.
Maryland is only a little more complex — a winner-take-most state. Maryland has eight congressional districts and the winner in each of those districts will take three delegates while the state-wide winner will take fourteen delegates. Polling puts Trump near 40% with Cruz and Kasich tied for second. There are potentially some districts that Cruz or Kasich could take. Strategic voting would probably keep Trump from getting 12 or 15 delegates.
For the first time since February, there is only one state holding a primary during a week. It’s also one of the biggest states in the country — New York. It also comes at a surprisingly crucial time during the campaign. By mid-April, the norm is that the race is over. The lack of money for trailing candidates has typically forced them to suspend their campaign and party leaders are pressing for unity behind the likely nominee. This year, the race is different. Bernie Sanders has enough money to keep running through the convention. Republican leaders are definitely not pushing for unity behind Donald Trump.
On the Republican side, we have seen the rules that New York is using in earlier states. Delegates are awarded “proportionately” by congressional district (three in each of the twenty-seven districts or eighty-one total) and statewide (fourteen delegates). As in many states, it takes twenty percent to become eligible for delegates, and a district (or the statewide results) becomes winner-take-all at fifty percent. As in many states, the congressional district is a 2-1 split between first and second place if two or more candidates qualify. At the state level, the party rounds delegates to the nearest whole number. If there are any delegates remaining, they go to the winner. If there are too many delegates allocated, the additional delegates will be taken from the last-placed candidate. (At most, the math should lead to one or two delegates being added or subtracted.)
Heading into the primary, Donald Trump seems to be flirting with fifty percent state-wide. By mathematical necessity, if he gets over fifty percent state-wide, he will get over fifty percent in some districts. Additionally, Ted Cruz has the small problem of having attacked “New York” values while he was running in other states. He can probably convince upstate voters (and how you define upstate depends upon where in the state you live — for New York City, upstate includes Westchester and Rockland County, but for Albany and Syracuse voters, Westchester and Rockland County are part of the New York City area as is Long Island) that he meant New York City, not New York State. But only nine districts are wholly upstate (by the narrow definition). Perhaps, he can convince some New York City Republicans that he meant the values espoused by Democratic politicians, but Cruz is not likely to be competitive in the New York City districts.
As each week passes, it is looking more and more likely that the Republicans are facing the great white whale of politics geeks — the contested convention. While as discussed earlier, it is likely that the campaigns will maneuver to change the rules governing the convention, there are also some games that the candidates can play within the existing rules as set forth in the Rules of the Republican Party.
We have already seen one type of game being played — trying to “steal” pledged delegates. As noted at this site, the national rules of the Republican Party do not give candidates the right to have input into the delegates pledged for that candidate, leaving it to the states to define what role (if any) candidates have in delegate selection. As the folks at 538 have noted, the majority of Republican delegates are selected by party conventions or committees. While each state has slightly different rules, a candidate with a good delegate selection strategy can slip his supporters into slots allocated to other candidates. While these delegates are supposedly bound by state party rules and Rule 16 to vote according to their pledge on the first ballot, those state rules only bind the delegates for a certain number of ballots (mostly only the first ballot). If nobody gets a majority on the first ballot, these stolen delegates could decide who wins on the second or third ballot.
The other games involve interpretation of the rules and the use of uncommitted delegates.
As discussed in the previous three parts (particularly part one and part three) of this series, the rules for the two conventions are currently simply a first draft set forth in the Rules of the Republican Party (on the Republican Side) and the Call for the Convention (on the Democratic side). When the rules committees of the two conventions meet this summer before the conventions, they will need to decide what needs to be fixed for this convention and what can wait until after the convention.
On the Democratic side, this debate will be relatively simple. In all likelihood, the candidate with the most pledged delegates will also have the most total delegates and will control the majority of the rules committee. Given the input that candidates have on delegate selection, it is unlikely that the delegates would approve any rules changes that dramatically alter the business of the convention. Additionally, the fact that both of the major candidates will have enough members on each of the committees to write a minority report will put a brake on any major rule changes. While the general purpose of the rules is to manage the business of keeping the convention running smoothly, this balance of power on the Rules Committee tends to discourage attempts to use the rules to silence the trailing candidates at a Democratic Convention. While there are certainly minor changes that people looking at the call might want to do, most of the Democratic debate about the convention involve things like unpledged party leader delegates that are not part of the rules of the convention. The issue about whether to make any changes to the role of these super delegates are an issue for after the convention.
The same can’t be said about the Republicans — particularly if no candidate heads into Cleveland with more than 1,100 delegates. In a contested convention, everything about the Republican rules will be open for discussion in the Rules Committee.
The key contest for both sides during the week of April 4 is the Wisconsin Primary on April 5. Additionally, Colorado Republicans will hold their congressional district conventions on April 8 and their state convention on April 9. Democrats will hold county caucuses in Wyoming on April 9. The Republicans will hold the second part of their delegate selection in Wyoming at the state convention on April 16 in the only contest scheduled for the week of April 11.
Under current Republican rules, March 15 is the first day that a state or territory (other than the first four) can hold a winner-take-all or winner-take-most primary. Four of the five primaries scheduled for this week have some kind of winner-take component (at least for the state-wide delegates). This week also features the home states (and perhaps the last stand) of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Governor John Kasich of Ohio.
As discussed Friday night, Illinois is an unusual state — especially on the Republican side. In all likelihood, the results will resemble a winner-take-most primary with three delegates going to the candidate who finishes first in each of the eighteen congressional districts and fifteen delegates going to the candidate who finishes first state-wide. However, because in the congressional districts delegates are on the ballot and are directly elected, there is a chance that some delegates might be elected even if their presidential candidate loses the district. Such an “upset” is most likely to happen in close districts.
Missouri is a pure winner-take-most state. However, unlike most states, the winner of the congressional districts will get five delegates from each district (rather than the normal three) and the state-wide winner will only get twelve delegates.
When the Republicans re-wrote the rules for 2016, they shortened the proportionality window — from a full month to two weeks. That led to several states with Republican legislatures and Republican governors opting for a March 15 primary date — the first day on which Republican state parties can hold a primary that does not follow the proportionality rules. In particular, the Florida Republican Party (listening to suggestions from the Bush and Rubio campaigns) opted for a winner-take-all primary. What looked great in 2014 and early 2015, now looks quite differently after last night’s results.
As votes are being counted this evening (with each party having one contest scheduled for Sunday), time to look at the week ahead. As with the previous week, all of the contests in both parties use proportional allocation of delegates (except the Republicans in Wyoming). However, for the Republicans, each state gets to pick their own threshold (including potentially setting a threshold for winner-take-all) and decide whether to allocate all of the delegates based on the statewide result or allocate some delegates by congressional district. For the Democrats, the key issue is how many delegates in each pool of delegate (district-by-district, at-large, and pledged party leader). This upcoming week, there will be fewer contests — 4 for the Democrats and five and a half for the Republicans.
As always, Super Tuesday — the first Tuesday after the end of the pre-primary window — has done a lot to at least outline the shape of the race for the White House. Because at this point, the race becomes all about the delegates (and not about exceeding expectations), there are clear tasks for the candidates over the next two weeks.
On the Democratic side, through 16 contests, Hillary Clinton has exceeded her 2008 performance in 11 states. More significantly, in several states — Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia from last night and South Carolina from Saturday, Secretary Clinton has far exceeded her 2008 performance turning losses into big wins. In each of these five states, the swing in favor of Secretary Clinton was in excess of 30 delegates. In the five states that swung away from Secretary Clinton to Bernie Sanders, the biggest swing was 16 votes (in Massachusetts which was much closer this time than in 2008). The overall net change from 2008 so far is a swing of approximately 300 delegates. Considering that Secretary Clinton only lost by 104 delegates in 2008, Senator Sanders needs to find some state to alter these numbers soon.
Over the next two weeks, three states are key to whether Senator Sanders can make it a competitive race or whether he will become a gadfly who stays in the race long after its over. These three states are Michigan (March 8), Illinois (March 15), and Florida (March 15). Michigan and Florida are key because of their size and because of the weird role that they played in 2008 that led to Secretary Clinton winning those states by large margins (18 and 26 delegates respectively). If Senator Sanders is to win the race, needs to gain significant delegates in the large states that went to Secretary Clinton in 2008. If he can’t put a dent in Secretary Clinton’s numbers in these two states, it is hard to figure out where he makes progress. Additionally, at some point, Senator Sanders has to win some of the large states. So far, the largest state that Senator Sanders has won in Minnesota with Secretary Clinton winning the four largest states.