The Romance of Delegate Math
If you’re like me you find yourself looking at polling data and calculating delegate counts in your head. If Mitt takes so many delegates in DC, Maryland and Wisconsin, that puts him at a new total of X, extending his lead over Santorum by Y, and making Rick need Z percent of the future delegates to win…. Okay, maybe you’re not like me.
It may sound boring to the uninitiated, but it’s the math behind propelling the most qualified candidate in the race to his party’s nomination, step one in replacing Barack Obama.
What’s at Stake Tuesday: Long View
What Obamacare teaches us. In case you don’t think replacing Barack Obama is a big deal, reflect back on the biggest political story of this week. Okay, not the open mic incident. I’m referring to our hearing our president’s Solicitor General argue to the Supreme Court why Obamacare’s Federal mandate is constitutional. The traditionally conservative justices asked for a rationale that could possibly limit Congress’ power under the commerce clause should they accept his argument. Meanwhile, the traditionally liberal justices tried their best to supply that rationale. Based on the impressions of those reporting, the decision appears headed for a familiar 5-4 vote against the law, with the four traditional conservatives on one side, the four traditional liberals on the other, and middle-of-the-road Justice Kennedy likely voting with the conservatives. But time will tell.
Shape of the Court to come. As someone concerned about finding real limits to Congress’ power (history proving we need limits to preserve our freedom), and knowing the general police power was intended to be reserved to the states (making the difference between Federal Obamacare and state Romneycare night and day), I thank my lucky stars we had presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush to appoint the four conservative justices currently on the court. The liberal justices? Two from Clinton, two from Obama. By way of preview, the next president may have a chance to replace not only the lead conservative on the court in Scalia (currently 76 years old) and a staunch liberal on the court in Ginsburg (79), but iconic swing justice Kennedy, who has made the difference in many 5-4 decisions (currently 75 years old). In other words, who the president is matters, a lot, not just in signing and vetoing laws, but in appointing justices to the court who can protect the Constitution for a generation to come (a combined half-century now for Scalia and Kennedy).
MORE REGARDING THE SUPREME COURT AND AN ESTIMATE OF DELEGATES AWARDED TUESDAY BELOW!
On the one hand, if Mitt is elected, the current 4-4-1 balance could move to a solid 6-3 conservative majority that could last another 25 years. On the other hand, if President Obama is re-elected, the balance on the court could move to a solid 6-3 liberal majority, again for a quarter century. OUCH. And this says nothing of the many lower level Federal judges whose word becomes law as a practical matter due to limits on the Supreme Court’s time, all appointed by the president. This is one of the principal reasons I vote for the presidents I do: the Supreme Court in some ways wields more power than the executive or legislative branches. On some questions it is the last bastion of freedom, and once decided, they rarely overturn their decisions. So keeping strict constructionists on the bench is one of my top priorities. Think I’m overreacting? Nancy Pelosi and many constitutional scholars seemed to ask “are you kidding me” when the constitutionality of Obamacare was initially challenged. I, too, wondered if the Court would have the will to put limits on the commerce clause, something that has been stretched by past decisions to accommodate all kinds of acts of Congress. Now the once confident Obamacare fans are scared there may in fact be limits to Congressional power under the commerce clause. Thank goodness for Reagan and Bush appointees on the Supreme Court.
If you want a quick laugh at the expense of Obamacare, this may tickle your fancy:
So where were we…
What’s at Stake Tuesday: Short View
I’ve heard it said a long journey begins with the first step outside. So, too, the path to electing POTUS 45. Tuesday brings us three GOP nominating contests, namely the District of Columbia, Maryland and Wisconsin. A total of 98 delegates are up for grabs (well, really 95, see below). Solely for your reading pleasure, here’s a breakdown by jurisdiction, based on the most recent polling data I could find and making a few somewhat educated guesses as to likely outcomes. Delegate math is particularly tricky, given each state’s own particular rules, and I’ll try to do my best, so here goes. If you think I got it wrong, tell me why in a comment and I’ll revise this post via an update as necessary so we can all have fun guesstimating until Tuesday. I base my understanding of how each jurisdiction awards delegates from the Green Papers website, a great resource for delegate-counting wonks. Note the polls used below don’t take into account the effect of endorsements made on or since March 28, like Marco Rubio and George H.W. Bush, and a growing sense I get that the GOP is ready for this thing to be over:
District of Columbia
You may have heard that DC is one of the jurisdictions in which Rick Santorum didn’t make the ballot. It has 19 delegates, but three spots are reserved for local party leaders as “unbound,” meaning 16 bound delegates will be awarded Tuesday on a winner take all basis. A quote in the Washington Post tells the story of what to expect:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is overwhelmingly favored among the 30,000 registered Republicans in the district.
At a D.C. GOP fundraising dinner this week, Romney won a straw poll with 72 percent of the vote. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich came in second, with 8.2 percent.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum isn’t on the ballot, having failed to even contact the D.C. Board of Elections.
But Romney has sent staff to D.C. to help with get-out-the-vote, and there are robocalls out for Gingrich.
It’s tough to put too much faith in straw polls (remember Michele Bachmann’s Iowa victory?) But with Rick Santorum not on the ballot, Newt moving to a new “Tampa Only” strategy, and Ron Paul unlikely to break through in socially moderate DC, I’d give Mitt a near certainty of success in DC.
Result: Mitt takes all 16 delegates.
Maryland has 37 delegates, all of which will be awarded Tuesday. 24 are chosen in Maryland’s 8 Congressional districts on a winner-take-all basis, three per district, and the remaining 13 are bound to the overall statewide winner. Not having Ari Fleischer’s deep insight into how each Congressional district may vote, or Karl Rove’s whiteboard, I have to make an educated guess and go by overall polling in making an estimate. The only polling I could find (Rasmussen) shows Mitt with a 17 point lead as of March 28, 45% to 28%, +/-4%. If that lead were distributed statewide, Mitt would win the whole thing and walk away with 37 more delegates, but that’s a best case scenario for Mitt. What we’ve seen, however, is that Mitt does better in higher-educated, more affluent and urban areas, while Santorum tends to do better in less affluent rural areas. Assuming there are some of each, and that Santorum will win some number of districts, and without knowing their demographic breakdown, I come up with the following guesstimate: Santorum takes three Congressional districts (around 37%). In that scenario he’d take 9 delegates, Gingrich 3 and Paul 0. Mitt would take the other 12 of the 24 granted by district, plus the 13 statewide delegates, giving Mitt 25 of 37 delegates.
Result: Mitt’s running total for the day would be 41 new delegates, extending his lead over Santorum by 32 (with one more contest pending).
Ahh, Wisconsin, Tuesday’s biggest prize, and possibly the last stand for Rick Santorum before his home state of Pennsylvania (in which his lead is down to 2 points per latest polling). The home state of the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers has 42 delegates. Interestingly, Wisconsin and Illinois have both voted for the same GOP nominee over the last 11 cycles, and often by very similar margins. That may be due to the fact that until this cycle both were on the back end of the nomination process, when front-runners were more set in stone. But it’s a good omen for Mitt, who dominated Santorum in Illinois. Current polling in this more competitive state is more varied, but with the same general message: Mitt’s leading. And with today’s endorsement by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt may do a little better than even the most recent polling would indicate. Rasmussen shows Mitt up 10 points, 44% to 34%, over Santorum, with Newt and Paul taking 7%. An NBC/Marist poll shows Mitt up 7 points, 40% to 33%, and a St. Norbert College / Wisconsin Public Radio poll shows a 37% to 32% lead. Two prior polls had Mitt up 8 or 13 points. The bottom line is that it looks like Mitt is leading by anywhere from 5-13 points. Wisconsin awards its delegates in a very similar way to Maryland, three for each of eight Congressional districts, given on a winner-take-all basis in the district. The remaining 18 are awarded to the statewide winner. Again a best case scenario would have Mitt walking away with all 42, but being more realistic, I’ll again assume Rick gets 3 districts for 9 delegates. This time Newt and Paul are both shut out. Mitt takes the remaining 5 Congressional districts for 15 delegates. Mitt gets the 18 statewide delegates to take 33 overall, extending his lead by Santorum by another 24.
Grand total for Tuesday for Mitt: 74 delegates gained. Santorum takes 18, Gingrich 3, Paul 0. Mitt extends his delegate lead by a net 56.
Of course my dreaming wouldn’t be complete without a forecast of Santorum’s new magic number and what percent of remaining delegates would be required for him to win. Taking as gospel the delegate count as reported by RealClearPolitics (and there are reasons not to), only 20 contests would remain, Mitt would have 639 delegates and Santorum 274, with 1,053 delegates left to be won. By this count (and again your mileage may vary) Mitt would be well over half way to the required 1,144 and Santorum would have to win almost 83% of the remaining delegates to take the nomination. Not going to happen.
Bottom line: Santorum’s only hope is a brokered convention, something most in the party want to avoid. By these same numbers, Mitt would need to win only 48% of remaining delegates to win the nomination outright, after having taken 57% of delegates awarded to date. So with all the Mitt-mentum, his performance would have to drop significantly to not win the nomination outright.
What to Do From Here
If you’re at home, are also feeling like you just want to help the GOP move on to taking on Barack Obama and wonder “what can I do to help Mitt,” the answer is easy. Get on Mitt’s main website’s “action page” and look at what it suggests you can do. It’s easy (and free) to make calls to primary states from your own home. Not everyone you’ll talk to will be a Mitt fan, but enough are that it’s encouraging work. And sorely needed. Mitt turned around the Olympics due in part to getting help from volunteers. That means us; that means you. Please do what you can to help, from a small donation to planting signs. We’ll need to all be involved to get the result we want in the general election.
I look forward to your feedback!