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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rules of the Game

Our chapter on political parties deals with the presidential nomination process. In a paper at the 2009 annual meeting of Midwest Political Science Association, Caitlyn Dwyer confirms the crucial role of the rules. Specifically, she finds that Obama won under proportional representation, Clinton would have been leading in delegates under a winner-take-all system. On the Republican side, conversely, Romney would have been leading in delegates if the Republican Party had used proportional representation.

The rules have changed, and Romney is planning accordingly.

Associated Press reports:
In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy.

This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party's 2012 nominee.

On his first trip this year to Nevada, the former Massachusetts governor toured a neighborhood north of Las Vegas Friday that has been very hard hit by foreclosures and talked throughout his trip of economic worries that top voters' lists of concerns.
The strategy calls for big showings in New Hampshire and Nevada to boost momentum. After that comes strong fights in enough other states so Romney enters the party convention in Tampa, Fla., next fall with more delegates pledged to him than any other Republican.

Romney seeks to seize on a change in how the GOP chooses its nominee.

Candidates who won a state used to get all delegates in a winner-take-all system. Republicans now will award delegates proportionally, meaning finishing second or third in a state is worth it. That could benefit a wealthy candidate such as Romney. In 2008, he spent $110 million, $45 million of his own money.
Any state (other than the four states allowed to conduct their processes in February) conducting its process prior to April 1, 2012 must allocate its delegates proportionally, but the definition of “proportional allocation” is left to each state’s individual discretion, subject to a final determination in accordance with the Rules. The determination to leave the definition to a state’s discretion is in recognition of the Republican Party’s established practice of allowing each state to determine its delegate selection process. The RNC desires to avoid encroaching upon each state’s authority as much as possible, while at the same time balancing the needs of both promoting order within the process and allowing more states to be involved in the selection of the Republican presidential nominee. As a result, the amended Rule No. 15(b) reflects a compromise of requiring “proportional allocation” in some form for states conducting their process earlier in the schedule, while leaving the definition to the discretion of each state and giving states that want to award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis the freedom to do so as long as they wait until at
least April 1st.

The Committee thoroughly discussed the definition of “proportional allocation” and adopted some language during its May 5, 2010 meeting to help provide guidelines associated with the new provision that the Committee determined would allow a state to comply with the proportionality requirement. These guidelines were provided to the full RNC in advance of the RNC’s vote approving the rule change and constitute important legislative history that the RNC recommends states take into account in crafting proportional allocation rules:
“‘Proportional allocation basis’ shall mean that delegates are allocated in
proportion to the voting results, in accordance with the following criteria:
i. Proportional allocation of total delegates based upon the number of statewide
votes cast in proportion to the number of statewide votes received by each
candidate shall be the default formula for calculating delegate allocation, if
no specific language is otherwise provided by a state.
ii. If total delegate allocation is split between delegates at-large and delegates
by congressional district, delegates at-large must be proportionally allocated
based upon the total statewide results.
iii. If total delegate allocation is split between delegates at-large and delegates
by congressional district, delegates by congressional district may be allocated
as designated by the state based upon the total congressional district results.
iv. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received
by a candidate that must be reached below which a candidate may receive no
delegates, provided such threshold is no higher than 20%.
v. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received
by a candidate that must be reached above which the candidate may receive
all the delegates, provided such threshold is no lower than 50%.
vi. Proportional allocation is not required if the delegates either are elected
independently on a primary ballot not in accordance with a primary
presidential candidate’s slate or are not bound at any time to vote for a
particular candidate.”
These parameters are included here to provide important guidance. Each state’s
“proportional allocation” system is left to the state’s discretion, but substantial departure from these guidelines carries significant risk that not all delegates will be seated.