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Tag Archives: Martin O’Malley
Saturday were the county conventions in Iowa. On the Republican side, the national convention delegates were allocated by the preference vote in the precinct delegates; so the county convention is merely about who will go to the state and congressional district conventions to choose the actual delegates (which might matter if the Republicans end up with a deadlocked convention). On the Democratic side, the results of the precinct meetings (as reported to the media) are an estimate of what will happen at the county meeting, and the county meetings can change things. While there appear to have been some changes at the county level, it appears that the bottom line has not changed.
Last week, I looked at the results of the precinct conventions and identified fourteen counties in which (primarily due to O’Malley and uncommitted delegates), the final delegate count was ambiguous. Based on the results posted by the Iowa Democratic Party, in addition to these fourteen counties, there appear to have been nine other counties that gave a reminder on Saturday that delegates are technically free to change their preferences between each round of the process. (By my original estimate, a total of eighteen projected delegates changed hands, but it is possible that my counts of the delegates to the county convention included some mathematical errors.)The most interesting of these nine counties was Mills County.
In Mills County, after the precinct meetings, Clinton had twenty-three delegates to the county convention and Bernie Sanders had twenty-two delegates. With the county convention electing five delegates to the state convention, the projected split was three Clinton delegates to two Sanders delegates. However, after the county convention, Clinton emerged with two delegates, Sanders with one, and Martin O’Malley and uncommitted also got one delegate each. It would be interesting to hear news reports out of Mills County on how this happened. Given that it takes seven delegates to be viable, it is theoretically possible that the Sanders delegates decided to split up 8-7-7 to “steal” a state convention delegate. There is also the possibility that in some of the precincts, O’Malley or uncommitted voters “got” a county convention delegate in exchange for joining one of the other candidates when the O’Malley/uncommitted groups were too small to be viable. and reverted to their original preference (but it is hard seeing that many delegates having secret preferences).
Reporters like a good story. In theory, they like a good story based on facts. When an event happens, they like to be able to say what it means. The rules of the nomination process, however, are inconsistent with the way that reporters normally operate. Particularly in caucus states, the event that reporters want to treat as the election is merely the first step in the process. So the reporters make estimates and report those estimates as if they are fact. In some cases, these estimates are good. In others, the problem is readily apparent up front.
The problem used to be worse. In previous cycles, while Republican caucuses reported a presidential preference poll, that preference poll was just a beauty contest and what really mattered was the unstated preferences of the individuals elected as delegates to the next round of the process. So when the media treated those preference polls as an estimate of the delegates from the state that estimate had nothing to do with reality. The Republicans have changed the rules for this cycle. If a state has a preference poll, that poll binds the delegates (with three major exceptions — Pennsylvania, Illinois, and West Virginia — which elect, at least, congressional district delegates directly). For the three states that directly elect delegates, the reporters are likely to get the story right and look at the pledges of the delegate candidates in Illinois and West Virginia. They might screw up Pennsylvania in which none of the delegates are technically bound to any candidate (but might do the legwork to find out who the delegates actually support). (On the Democrat side, the delegates are bound based on the presidential preference vote.)
Some states, however, are not having a preference poll which will make things harder for reporters. In Colorado (March 1), Wyoming (March 1), Guam (March 12), American Samoa (March 22), North Dakota (April 1), there are no preference polls. In Colorado and Wyoming, if a delegate candidate declares a preference, that delegate is bound by that preference if elected. In American Samoa, the convention will choose whether to bind the delegation by resolution. In North Dakota, the convention can decide on an apportionment formula.
Unlike in some other countries, the United States does not directly elect its head of state. Instead, both for the primary and the general election, the U.S. has an indirect system in which the voter technically elects other people (delegates in the primary and electors for the general election) who actually cast the votes. For the most part, for both parties, the overwhelming majority of delegates are either legally or morally bound to follow the directives of the voters in their respective state or district and the system for choosing electors has mostly resulted in electors following the directives of the voter. Thus, at the end of the day, in figuring out who is leading or who has won a nomination battle, we look to the pledged delegate counts. For the general election, we look to the number of electors won.
For multiple reasons, nomination fights rarely go to the end of the process. Candidates who are hopelessly behind drop out leaving the path clear for the leading candidate to win the nomination. In 2008, however, the Democratic race was so close that it went down to the last primary. Especially as one of the two finalists is running again, that allows us to use the 2008 numbers as a base going forward to measure who is doing what they have to do to win the election.
There are, of course, differences from 2008. First, is that, in 2008, John Edwards did well enough in the first six states to get delegates in four of those states. Additionally, due to Michigan going early, Barack Obama and John Edwards were not on the ballot in Michigan and their supporters had to vote for a slate pledges as uncommitted. So there were 55 “pledged” uncommitted delegates from Michigan and a total of 32 Edwards delegates from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida. For comparison purposes, that leaves two measures for these five states and nationally — President Obama vs. Hillary Clinton (a national net of +17 for President Obama), and the “field” vs. Secretary Clinton (a national gap of 104 delegates). In this year’s race, Martin O’Malley did not pick up any delegates; so it will just be Bernie Sanders vs. Secretary Clinton. Given that both candidates need to win the uncommitted/Edwards delegates, my own opinion is that the “field” comparison is more useful.
While the parties did not have much choice about including Iowa and New Hampshire in the window of early states, the theory behind the early states is that all four are small enough and different enough to help narrow the field. While winning is nice, the real goals of the campaigns are: 1) to seem viable enough that supporters (both voters and donors) don’t go looking elsewhere; and 2) to meet targets for delegates. Candidates who are unable to show signs of life quickly find that their campaigns have no life.
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.
We are coming up on the November debates — the Republicans on Fox Business Channel, the Democrats on CBS. The sheer size of the Republican field (and the impossibility of being fair to all of the candidates) continues to drive everybody mad. Arbitrary criteria lead to candidates being shuffled to the “JV” debate or excluded all together; and the shortness of time leads to candidates being upset about not getting a chance to make their points. On the other hand, with only five candidates originally and three candidates left now, the time issues are not that pressing on the Democratic side.
For the upcoming Republican debates, three candidates have been excluded from the JV debates (Lindsay Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore). Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum will take part in the JV debate. The main event will feature Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, and Rand Paul.
The number of Republicans running creates a potential paradox in the normal money primary. At this point in the campaign, trailing candidates routinely find themselves in a catch-22 — they need more funds to become competitive but they need to become competitive to get more funds. However, putting aside Carson and Trump (as most of the money folks seem to think that both will collapse), several of the candidates can point to a poll showing them within the margin of error of third place in at least one early state. However, it is highly unlikely that 15 candidates will make it to Iowa. I would not be surprised if Senator Graham decides that with Rand Paul not being a serious contender that he no longer is needed to assure that the Republican field takes an aggressive stand on foreign policy. If Gilmore and Pataki were actually running expensive campaigns, I would not be surprised for them to call it a day soon. Since they aren’t, they might just stick around. Santorum, Huckabee, and Jindal are all competing for the same slot — currently occupied by Ben Carson. At some point, the lack of funds will force one or all of them to drop out. The November JV debate may be the last chance for one of these three to become the alternative to Carson.
Unlike the previous three-ring circuses put on by the Republicans, tonight’s debate will only have five candidates. More importantly, with so few candidates, there is little need for the candidates to go after each other at this point of the race. Rather, what each candidate needs to accomplish in this debate has very little to do with the other candidates. With that said, here is my take on what the candidate’s goals need to be heading into the debate.