Election 2012: January 2012 Archives

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interactive graphic, with stair-steps showing how allocated Republican delegates accumulate over time in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. It's striking to see how far to the right everything has moved this year. The massive step up on Tsunami Tuesday (February 3, 2008) has moved a month to the right for 2012 and is not nearly as tall. (It's even shorter now that Texas's primary has been moved from Super Tuesday to April, delayed by a redistricting lawsuit.)

What's especially striking is how flat February is. From February 1 to February 27, only 119 delegates will be allocated, according to the WSJ's graphic. But they're including, incorrectly, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Nevada in that total. Those states hold precinct caucuses to elect delegates to county or state legislative district conventions. A presidential straw poll will be held, but, as in Iowa, it won't be binding.


The Green Papers uncharacteristically gets one wrong, stating that Nevada's delegates will be bound, proportionally by the results of the presidential preference poll. (That appears to be based on this Republican National Committee summary of all allocation rules, which also gets Nevada wrong.) But the FAQ page on the official Nevada GOP caucus website makes it clear that the final result is contingent on the multi-stage process of electing delegates to the county, district, and state conventions:

All Delegates and alternate delegates elected at the precinct caucus will meet in March at their county conventions. The county convention will then elect delegates to represent them at the State Convention on May 5-6th. And it's at the State Convention where the delegates and alternates get elected to the Republican National Convention on August 27-30th.

Since delegates generally vote for other delegates who support the same candidate as they do, it's advantageous for a candidate to elect as many people as possible as delegates at the precinct caucuses. The more delegates a candidate has after the precinct caucuses in February, the greater the chance they will have the most delegates from Nevada to the National Convention on August 27-30th.

(UPDATE 2012/01/23: In the comments, Nevada blogger Michael P. Chamberlain mentions that he spoke to a state party official about the allocation rule:

I received confirmation today from the [Nevada Republican Party]'s Caucus Director that Nevada's delegates to the National Convention will be allocated (and bound for the first ballot) by the state-wide results of the Presidential Preference Poll that is part of the caucus on February 4.

I've asked Michael to see if he can get some additional details: The text of the basis (rule, resolution) that defines how delegates will be allocated, whether there will be a threshold, and how rounding is handled.)

So where does that leave the race?

Romney still has a poll lead in Florida, and money matters because of the ten media markets that a candidate must cover, so let's figure that he wins. Given that, what will the pledged delegate count be on February 28, going into Arizona and Michigan?

Romney 59
Gingrich 23
Paul 3
Huntsman 2

In this scenario, Romney will have only 59 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Remember that Iowa's delegates are not pledged. New Hampshire's were allocated proportionally. It appears that Romney won a single South Carolina congressional district, and with it, two delegates.

On to February 28:

Michigan's 30 delegates would have been allocated by congressional district (3 each, winner take all) and statewide (proportionally with a 15% threshhold), but it has lost half of its delegates for jumping the gun, and it's unclear how that will affect allocation. Arizona, in the same boat, opted to shift to Winner-Take-All statewide. Romney's father George was governor of Michigan and an auto executive, so he's likely to win nearly all the delegates either way.

I've already seen a couple of tweets suggesting that Santorum may as well get out of the race now. That would be silly. As former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted on Saturday night:

Santorum's thought bubble: I can win this because Newt will blow up Romney, & Newt will also blow up Newt. That leaves me.

Were I in Rick Santorum's inner circle, I'd suggest he spend most of February raising money and focused on winning Arizona and preparing for a few Super Tuesday states (like Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). A good showing in some of the February non-binding caucuses would be a good thing, too.

Santorum has an entire month to promote his recent endorsements by evangelical leaders. They came too late to affect the Stop-Romney tactical move to Gingrich in South Carolina, and they haven't yet arrived in a way that connects with the targeted voters. An email in a homeschooling mom's inbox about an endorsement by a particular leader she admires, forwarded by another mom in the homeschool co-op, will have far more impact than the 10-second generic mention of "evangelical leaders" on CNN a week earlier.

February also gives Santorum plenty of time to position himself as the most electable candidate remaining in the race. Romney doesn't excite the party's core voters. Democrats and Independents already think they know Newt, from the 1990s, and they don't like him. The phrase "First Lady Callista Gingrich" may begin to sink in and worry Republican voters, too.

If Santorum were to win Arizona and Romney win Michigan, Santorum would pass Gingrich for second place in the delegate count going into Super Tuesday:

Romney 89
Santorum 29
Gingrich 23
Paul 3
Huntsman 2

By my count, 420 bound delegates will be allocated on Super Tuesday, March 6, and by GOP rules it has to be done by some proportional method. It would be mathematically impossible for anyone to reach a majority of bound delegates until after the April 24th primaries, and that's only if someone sweeps the board. Since many of the April states also use proportional allocation, that's unlikely.

The good news for those of us not in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or Florida is that we'll still have a meaningful choice to make when it's our turn to vote. If nothing else, we can keep voting to frustrate the front runner of the moment, to ensure no one locks up the nomination before Tampa.

And if it turns out that we're still not happy with our choices in a month's time, there are some interesting scenarios. I haven't checked, but I suspect there are still many late-season primaries for which the filing deadline has not yet passed, meaning someone new could get in, take a bunch of delegates, and be in a strong position to contend for unpledged delegates leading up to the national convention. Many early states will still have dropped-out candidates on the ballot; one of them could revive their campaign, or people could use one of the ex-candidates as a place for none-of-the-above supporters to vote their preferences.

Thanks to Sarah Palin, Not Romney won South Carolina by giving Newt Gingrich a plurality of the vote.

Newt Gingrich's 1st place finish in South Carolina halted Mitt Romney's winning streak of one and deflated the notion that Romney is inevitably going to be the nominee.

Romney's best assets in this race were his inevitability, his money, and his hair. He's still got the last two, but the first one is badly depleted. There's a certain sort of Republican: They're looking for the front-runner, ready to jump aboard his bandwagon. It's important to them to be on the winning team as soon as possible. Some may be hoping for federal appointments, anything from White House intern to federal district judge.

It appears that Romney pushed hard right before and after Iowa to lock in as many endorsers as he could, pointing to his money and organization, already in place in key states. Santorum may have finished first by a few votes, but Santorum had put everything he had into Iowa. Gingrich didn't seem to be thinking beyond the next state. Romney will win South Carolina, the pitch went, by a big margin, and if everyone else but Ron Paul didn't drop out then, they would yield to the inevitable after Florida 10 days later.

What disrupted that momentum was the fact that most conservative Republicans don't trust Romney, and they wanted to stop him. The turning point for South Carolina may have been Tuesday, January 17, 2012, on the Hannity show when Sarah Palin identified how they could do that:

If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I'd vote for Newt, and I would want this to continue, more debates, more vetting of candidates, because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago was having a candidate that was not vetted, to the degree that he should have been so that we knew what his associations and his pals represented and what went into his thinking, the shaping of who our president today is.

(When I first heard this clip, I thought Palin had begun to criticize the process that led to the nomination of her running mate, John McCain, and maybe she was headed there and caught herself. Barack Obama got plenty of vetting -- his nomination battle didn't end until June; McCain had his nomination clinched in March, thanks to winner-take-all primaries in which he won slim pluralities, and buyers' remorse quickly set in.)

You'll recall that in 2008 some national talk show hosts tried to get Republicans to vote strategically on Tsunami Tuesday to stop John McCain. The mistake they made was pushing Romney based on national polling showing him in second, ignoring the individual state polls, which had Huckabee a close second to McCain in Oklahoma and several other states.

This time around, only one state was voting, and there was a clear second place candidate, Gingrich, who was close enough to have a chance to pass Romney. If you run your mouse along the RealClearPolitics graph of South Carolina polls, there's an inflection point: Beginning on January 18, the day after Palin's comments aired, Newt's numbers began to rise. Rasmussen had Gingrich at 21% on Monday and at 33% on Wednesday.

The shift to Newt began well before his Thursday evening confrontation with CNN's John King over Mrs. Newt II's comments on ABC. Despite the wishful thinking of the adultery-based community, Newt's win in South Carolina is not a rebuke to his aggrieved second wife. I'm surprised no pollster thought to ask if their support for Newt was mainly a vote to stop Romney.

Clear Lake, Iowa, 2008, IMG_0685

BatesLine photo of a front porch with bunting in Clear Lake, Iowa, September, 2008

Smitty at The Other McCain links to a Buzzfeed story about Ron Paul's strategy to dominate caucus states:

Paul is following the roadmap set by Barack Obama's 2008 strategy: Start early, learn the rules, and use superior organization and devoted young supporters to dominate the arcane but crucial party procedures in states your rivals are ignoring -- states where caucuses and conventions that elect the delegates who will ultimately choose the Republican candidate. The plan begins in places like Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb where Paul has based his state headquarters, and where staffers have already begun running "mock-auses" -- practice runs for Minnesota's February 7 caucuses....

Paul has, says his campaign chairman Jesse Benton, "offices, staff and strong organization" in ten caucus states besides Iowa: Colorado, Washington, Maine, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and North Dakota. (Alaska and Hawaii are also a caucus states and prime Paul territory.)

Those states together will award 419 of the 2,286 delegates who will choose a nominee in Tampa in August. They operate under complex, individual rules that favor the prepared....

In Iowa, Paul's devoted cadres are up against activists supporting other Republicans. In the next ten caucuses, they're virtually all alone.

The article goes on to note that Paul backers have been working within the local party organizations in many of these states, volunteering to work at headquarters, working for candidates in local races, and forming alliances with non-Paul backers. Being personally liked and being viewed as a valuable volunteer, not a monomaniacal Paulbot, would help a Paul backer advance through the levels in a caucus/convention state with the support of non-Paul activists.

Smitty's reaction to the linked Buzzfeed story:

This is really an argument against "Arcane Rules". We all love to hate on professional politicians, but it is truly a full-time job just to understand the basics of how the sausage is made. Complexity favors the insiders....The two things we have to do, going down the road, are: involve more people, and stamp out complexity. Systems need to be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

My response to Smitty is that the rules are only arcane to those who don't bother to read them. Iowa's rules are simple: precinct caucuses elect county convention delegates, county conventions elect state convention delegates, state conventions elect national convention delegates and alternates (three each by the delegates from each congressional district, the remainder by the full convention).

When the mainstream media oversimplifies the process or tries to fit caucus rules into their primary-oriented framework, they make it all look much more confusing than it is.

What confuses the ninnies in the mainstream media -- the guys who trot out words like "arcane" and "complex" -- is that Tuesday night's "vote" is a non-binding straw poll, so there's no correlation between straw poll percentage and the presidential preference of Iowa's delegation to Tampa, which won't be chosen until June. As I explained recently, Ron Paul could easily "win" Iowa but wind up with zero Iowa delegates.

Different rules in each state is a reflection of federalism and the freedom each state Republican Party retains to decide how to apportion its allotted number of delegates. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic National Committee imposes certain rules on all state parties, requiring proportional representation for caucuses as well as primaries.

Every Republican presidential campaign should have at least one supporter in each state with enough state party experience to understand how the system works and what the rules are. If a candidate can't muster a single savvy activist in a state, probably best to skip it.

It should be pointed out that every state has complicated aspects to the process of selecting delegates and binding them (or not) to presidential candidates. Oklahoma awards delegates by congressional district and statewide results in the presidential preference primary, but the people who will serve as delegates are selected by a separate sequence of precinct caucuses and county, district, and state conventions. I won't explain open delegation vs. closed delegation and fractional voting, but they're in our rules for a reason.

Idaho was cited in the Buzzfeed story as an example of arcane rules, but from the participant's point of view, it's simple -- you show up and vote for your favorite presidential candidate, and if he's eliminated for lack of support, you vote for your next favorite. What's complex is the counting method, which seems to be designed to help grassroots conservative candidates against the establishment default and well-organized fringe candidates.

Here are the Idaho Republican Party rules for their caucus process, and here are answers to frequently asked questions about the Idaho caucus process.

What's different about Idaho is that the delegates are bound by the caucus presidential preference vote, and the voting process is designed to ensure that the winner of the delegates is acceptable to a majority of caucus participants, not just a bare plurality. Idaho GOP leaders apparently want to avoid giving all the delegates to someone who barely finishes first in a divided field -- the sort of thing that happened in many states in 2008, when "stop McCain" forces were split between Romney, Huckabee, and a few other candidates, and McCain won winner-take-all states with two-thirds of voters preferring some other candidate, and thus quickly rolled up an insurmountable lead in delegates.

At the Idaho county caucus, you'd be free to vote for your favorite in the first round, knowing that if your favorite doesn't have much support, you'll still be able, in the subsequent runoffs, to help one of the candidates you find acceptable get your county's delegates and block the candidates you find unacceptable from winning anything. The system enables mainstream fiscal, social, and foreign policy conservatives to coalesce around one candidate and thwarts hurts the Bob Dole / John McCain / Mitt Romney "It's my turn"-type candidate, and the Ron Paul-small-but-dedicated-following type from using divide-and-conquer to win with a small plurality. I like the approach. It looks like a good plan. It will be interesting to see how it works in practice.

MORE about tonight's Iowa caucuses:

Iowa Caucus Characters

Flickr montage of caricatures of Republican presidential candidates by DonkeyHotey (CreativeCommons attribution)

Stacy McCain talks to 13-year-old Sarah Santorum, who says, "Our prayers are paying off," and remembers her as an 8-year-old in tears at her dad's 2006 concession speech. (Stacy also gives a valuable reporting tip -- "You get the best quotes when you just talk to people, instead of interrogating them in a confrontational manner. Be informal and friendly, put people at ease and listen to what they say.")

For The American Spectator, McCain has a piece on the Santorum surge in terms of voters, donors, and media interest, and Jeffrey Lord looks back at Santorum's defeat for reelection to the U. S. Senate in 2006.

Don Surber looks at the electability argument and says Santorum would bring more electoral votes to the GOP than any other candidate.

Pete Ingemi, DaTechGuy, looks to U. S. Naval History to note that nothing succeeds like success. A surprising finish by Santorum in Iowa will raise the money and volunteer support he needs in later states.

Jeff Dunetz has more from former Ron Paul aide Eric Dondero about Ron Paul's reaction to the 9/11 attacks.

John G. Geer says don't blame attack ads; Newt's history is the reason for Gingrich's slide.

Todd Seavey ponders just plain libertarians, paleo-libertarians and paleo-conservatives, thickness, Catholicism, and political changes that have made a fusionist libertarian like himself, less willing to compromise with conservatives this time around. Also, he posts a photo of Ron Paul in a 1970s Houston Astros uniform (the one with the red and orange color bands and the groovy font).

Shane Vander Hart speculates about attacks launched by groups with untraceable names or misappropriating the names of genuine organizations. These groups tend to go after which ever conservative is rising in the polls

Vander Hart predicts that tonight's winner in Iowa will have under 25% of the vote and thinks Santorum will win narrowly. With a high number of undecideds, Vander Hart says to watch for the effect of neighborly persuasion at caucus meetings:

In the last Des Moines Register poll it indicated that 41% of voters could still change their minds. That's pretty significant. Which leads me to one of the things to watch for tonight - don't underestimate the significance of a neighbor or friend speaking on behalf of their candidate of choice. At each caucus site every candidate will will have the opportunity to have somebody speak on their behalf. You literally have people who are undecided, and you also have those whose support is soft. Hearing a neighbor or a friend speak may be a tipping point for some voters. Who speaks could make a difference - a respected member of the community or a college student who is a first-time caucus goer? It matters.

That leads me to this MRC video posted by Pat Dollard -- a radio discussion of how leaders in the Iowa Republican party could block a Ron Paul victory. The discussion makes it sound sinister, but it's natural to think that grassroots conventional conservatives will do their best to prevent dividing their vote among four different candidates so that neither Ron Paul nor Mitt Romney will finish first and claim a win with a tiny minority of the vote. At a conventional election, a voter deciding among similar candidates has to guess about his fellow voters and decided which of the acceptable choices has the best shot at winning. At tonight's caucuses, it will be apparent from signs and stickers which candidate among Bachmann, Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry is closest to the front of the pack. I could imagine county chairmen comparing notes by text message to see if these four candidates each have areas of strength or if one is much stronger than the other three across the state. In the latter case, the smart thing for party leaders to do would be to push the leaners and undecideds to support the potential breakout non-Romney, non-Paul candidate.

RESULTS tonight:

Des Moines Register has an interactive map with a county-by-county break down, raw vote totals, and precincts reporting by county.

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) has a Google map overlay for Iowa caucuses results, so you can see counties with respect to major highways and cities.

WaPo's Chris Cilizza has a scorecard of Romney targets by county, based on the 2008 results, assuming Romney needs a 10% improvement to win.

Here's The Fix's list of six counties to watch tonight.

Stacy McCain arrived in Iowa early last week, wearing out tires and shoe leather in search of underreported stories. (His archive of coverage is tagged "Fear and Loathing in Iowa.") McCain anticipated the Santorum surge, which seems to be peaking at just the right moment for tomorrow night's straw poll.

A Stacy McCain question prompted one of the more interesting candidate answers in recent days, with Santorum calling out Ann Coulter, pointing out that the bill he opposed that included the eVerify system was the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill, which conservatives on immigration opposed.

Stacy McCain is also writing about Iowa for The American Spectator.

As always, RealClearPolitics has the latest poll numbers from Iowa. PPP has Paul at 20, Romney at 19, and Santorum with 18, but Santorum has the "Big Mo":

The momentum in the race is completely on Santorum's side. He's moved up 8 points since a PPP poll earlier in the week, while no one else has seen more than a one point gain in their support. Among voters who say they decided who to vote for in the last seven days he leads Romney 29-17 with Paul and Gingrich both at 13. Santorum's net favorability of 60/30 makes him easily the most popular candidate in the field. No one else's favorability exceeds 52%. He may also have more room to grow in the final 48 hours of the campaign than the other front runners: 14% of voters say he's their second choice to 11% for Romney and only 8% for Paul.

It's not hard to imagine Bachmann supporters shifting to Santorum as they see an opportunity to hand a victory to a fellow social and fiscal conservative. Gingrich and Perry supporters who are more anti-Romney and anti-Paul than pro-their-guy may switch to Santorum as well.

Caffeinated Thoughts has already been on the ground in Iowa. The Iowa-based blog has been covering the candidates and the activists involved in the Iowa caucuses from a local perspective:

Caffeinated Thoughts' Shane Vander Hart points out an interesting factoid from the Des Moines Register's final pre-caucuses poll, quoting this passage from the DMR report::

But the four-day results don't reflect just how quickly momentum is shifting in a race that has remained highly fluid for months. If the final two days of polling are considered separately, Santorum rises to second place, with 21 percent, pushing Paul to third, at 18 percent. Romney remains the same, at 24 percent.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Election 2012 category from January 2012.

Election 2012: December 2011 is the previous archive.

Election 2012: February 2012 is the next archive.

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