Delegate Math Updates

All kinds of stuff starting to happen at the state level over the weekend, as we’re moving in to the part of the calendar when the early states begin holding their country and state conventions to choose the actual human beings who will attend the national convention to choose their party’s candidate for the general election. While we await the guidance of the people of Wisconsin in today’s contest, some notes:

Republican Party

  • Let’s start with the Republican National Committee, the formal organization that is the actual party at the national level. If you’re one of those people still doubting that we’ll have a contested convention, this might help change your mind: RNC officials have been holding a series of meetings to plan for a contested convention.
  • North Dakota and Tennessee selected their delegates this weekend at their state conventions. Trump’s people declared victory in ND, which is really odd given that all of the available evidence suggests that Cruz won, filling 18 of the state’s 25 delegates with people loyal to him. But this seems to be pretty standard procedure for Trump and his people, who apparently have no idea how to deal with the state delegate selection process. If Bloomberg is correct, Trump’s people have settled on a strategy that “involves utilizing his massive social-media presence to pressure state party officials from tilting the favor toward any one candidate while sending top surrogates like Carson to speak on his behalf at state conventions.” For a bunch of reasons, this is not likely to work. Not at all. As I’ve said over and over, the delegates are people who have spent a considerable part of their lives working for the party at the local, state, and national level. The idea that either pressure from Twitter and Facebook posts or speeches from surrogates sent in from other states will convince these loyalists to change their minds about Trump is as clear an indication as you’ll get that they really do not understand the mechanics of democracy. 
  • Speaking of which, the Trump camp is rapidly slipping into chaos. So many nuggets in this Politico story, but I’ll choose just one: ““Presidential campaigns are a team sport, and he doesn’t have that mentality,” one high-level GOP operative said. “That’s why they’re missing a lot of these opportunities that are passing them by. [Trump] might be a great quarterback, but every quarterback still needs a strong offensive line.” Fantastic metaphor. As I always say, institutions matter, and the better you understand them and the people that inhabit them, the more likely you are to be successful. Trump’s people just don’t understand them. Despite the fact that none of the deleagates have actually been selected, they’re been laying off staff in the states that have already voted. That’s just totally bonkers.
  • Nate Silver takes a deep dive into the mechanics of the convention and reaches the same conclusion I have: “If Trump doesn’t win on the first ballot, he’s probably screwed.” I think he’s still downplaying the likelihood that delegates will be flipped prior to the convention, but he does offer a pretty comprehensive look at the subject, so take some time to work your way thought that. Trump, meanwhile, seems to recognize this: “I don’t want to go in there looking at the second ballot because probably with the way the thing is — it’s crooked as hell.”
  • Trump and many of his supporters seem to think that he’s going to alter the electoral map in the general election. Let’s leave aside the political science research that calls that into question and go straight to the polling: no way, no how. Things look so bad for Trump right now that he might even flip deep-red Utah to the Democrats.
  • Kasich has apparently settled on his convention strategy. He’s hired two veterans of the 1976 convention delegate fight between Gov. Reagan and Pres. Ford, and their plan is to have Kasich make personal contact with as many of the delegates as he possibly can between now and the convention, using an electability argument to try and win them over. He knows full well that he wont win on either the first or the second ballot, so he’s clearly aiming to be consensus candidate in the style of the conventions in the early 20th century.
  • And lest you think this is a completely crazy strategy, check out this post from Jeet Heer over at TNR. In two sentences he perfectly captures the dilemma Cruz has created for himself at the convention: “Cruz’s path to victory means combining two completely opposed constituencies. And they just happen to be constituencies that he’s worked hard to set in opposition against each other.”

Democratic Party

  • Bernie Sanders is beginning to make good on his promise to fight for every delegate. Nevada just held their county conventions, and it looks like he flipped two delegates from Clinton to him. But remember, this is provisional, since this is only the county convention. We wont know the actual delegate count out of Nevada until the party holds its state convention next month.
  • Bernie might win Wisconsin tonight, it’s true! It’s also probably irrelevant unless he wins big. Which isn’t to say that Bernie shouldn’t keep fighting all the way up and through the convention, which he apparently plans to do.
  • Meawhile, Hillary’s people have started in with this “will of the people” nonsense. Please just stop. The rules are the rules are the rules, and the “will of the people” will be honored if those rules are followed, because THE PEOPLE MADE THE RULES, and if they decide they don’t like them, they can always change them before the next game starts. Democracy!

Up next: Wisconsin. I’ll be on the train down to NYC for my first Yankees game of the year, so I should have time to do an update for y’all tomorrow

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