Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Romney Takes Puerto Rico; Delegate Projection Math

In Election Analysis, Presidential campaign, Republican Primary Race on March 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Mitt Romney steamrolled to victory in Puerto Rico’s primary last night, getting just over 83 percent of the vote. Turnout was on a pace to break 135,000 voters. Four years ago the Puerto Rico Republicans held a closed caucus, so there is nothing to compare the 2012 participation result. The win will likely net Romney 20 delegates. According to our PRIsm Information Network delegate tracking project, last night’s addition puts Romney seven delegate votes ahead of the minimum post-Super Tuesday commitments he needs to secure the nomination.

Tracking Republican presidential nomination delegates is no easy task. Great misconceptions abound as to whether or not Romney can secure the 1,144 delegates necessary to clinching the party nomination before the Republican National Convention begins in late August.

Simplistic delegate projection analyses, such as that of political pundit Dick Morris in his March 14 article on Dick Morris.com, are incorrect. Morris argues that Romney will clinch the nomination in early June because he will win the winner-take-all states of Puerto Rico (23 delegates), District of Columbia (19), Maryland (37), Connecticut (28), Delaware (17), Rhode Island (19), Oregon (28), California (172), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40). Morris goes onto say that Romney is also best positioned to claim the following “winner-take-all” states: Wisconsin (42), Indiana (46), West Virginia (31), Nebraska (35), and South Dakota (28). He then argues that Romney’s share of the remaining proportional states would give him a total of 1,298 delegates, or 154 more than the minimum target figure of 1,144.

The flaw in Morris’ calculations is that most of the states he cites as “winner-take-all” have rather stringent conditions to meet before a candidate is awarded all the entity’s delegates. In certain places becoming winner-take-all means a candidate must capture a majority of the votes cast (Connecticut, Puerto Rico), while others organize as winner-take-all statewide and then in congressional districts.

In the latter grouping – Maryland, Wisconsin and California on Morris’ list – a candidate is awarded a certain number of delegates for winning the statewide vote, usually 10, and an additional three for each congressional district carried. Thus, for a contender to win all of the state’s delegates in these places, he would have to win the statewide vote and every congressional district.

While it is mathematically possible to achieve this difficult victory scenario, in 2012 it has been rare when a candidate breaks the 50 percent mark. In fact, only nine times has a candidate received a majority vote and in two of those a full complement of candidates failed to qualify for the ballot. Romney scored majorities in Nevada, Idaho, Massachusetts, Virginia (only he and Ron Paul were on the ballot), Guam (only candidate on ballot), Puerto Rico and the Marianas Islands. Rick Santorum recorded majority wins in Kansas and Missouri (a “beauty contest vote” not determinative of delegate selection).

Of those states Morris previously mentioned, only Delaware (17 delegates), the District of Columbia (19), Montana (26), New Jersey (50), and Utah (40) are true Winner-Take-All states. Thus, the projection that Mr. Romney will secure the nomination after the mega California primary on June 5 is more than likely inaccurate.

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