Delegate Updates (with Updates!)

A bunch more updates. Bullet points incoming!

Republican Race

  • People spend a lot of time talking about the Super Delegates on the Democratic side, but they tend to overlook the importance of the more than 200 unbound delegates on the Republican side. They’re unbound by rule, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have loyalties, and Ted Cruz is working his ass off to make sure that their loyalties are to him. So sure, Trump can wine and dine them at his cheesy house in Florida if he wants to, but do you really think that the kind of human being that’s loyal to Ted Cruz is going to be swayed by a trip to Florida or a box of Trump wine and steaks? I’ve got my doubts about that…
  • Colorado is one of the state’s with unbound delegates, and that state is holding its conventions this weekend. To say that it’s Cruz in a rout doesn’t even begin to describe the disfunction that is the Trump campaign. In one instance Trump’s delegates weren’t on the ballot due to the campaign’s inability to complete paperwork in a timely fashion, in part (but only part!) because the Trump campaign fired their point person in Colorado the week before the convention. In another instance, the Trump team handed out flyers with instructions for supporters to vote for candidates who weren’t on the ballot at all. Tell me again how Trump is a business genius who has lead complex organizations to glory? [UPDATE: Cruz has won all of the state’s delegates. And Trump’s team is really just totally inept – in one instance they told their supporters to vote for a Cruz delegate!]
  • Washington State is just as bad. Team Trump seems to have made something of a better effort here, but only marginally so. Two days after the filing deadline for delegates, the campaign sent out emails to its supporters encouraging them to register. Even worse, it appears that the campaign sent the email both to people in the state and to people living in Washington, DC. Well done Team Trump!
  • And then there’s Indiana. State party leaders are working like crazy to make sure that the delegates the state sends are as hostile to Trump as possible. Just check out this fantastic quote from Craig Dunn, a local party official from Indiana’s 4th District: “If Satan had the lead on him and was one delegate away from being nominated as our candidate, and Donald Trump was the alternative, I might vote for Donald Trump. I’ve always wanted to own a casino, but he couldn’t give me a casino and have me vote for him.” If this Politico story is to be believed, this isn’t an instance of Cruz out-working Trump at the state level; this is simply the party people in Indiana despising Trump and working on their own to box him out. His people have tried to make some inroads in the state, but when the state party leaders are opposed to you, there’s really nothing you can do.
  • As all this has been happening, Trump has ordered a major shakeup inside his campaign. As I mentioned in my last bullet-pointed update, Trump has named Paul Manafort to lead his hunt for the delegates, and perhaps to head his entire campaign. But this guy’s been out of the electoral game for a long time, and his first major interview with the Washington Post is a bit of a train wreck. But hey…let’s cut the guy some slack and wait to see how the next few weeks play out. Maybe he really will be able to turn this entire thing around?
  • Oh who am I kidding. He’s not going to be able to do THAT. Check out this epic take on the three-ring circus that is the Trump campaign. I’ve been wondering why Trump has been so silent the last few days, and I suspect this article fills in the gaps that explain why. Everyone hates everyone else, no one is sure who is in charge, some people have quit and others have been laid off, and they don’t even have a campaign manager for the state of California. California, a winner-take-most state with more than 172 of the remaining 769 delegates up for grabs! Even if everything breaks right for Trump between now and California, he’s still going to need to do well there on Election Day AND then keep hold of his delegates as they work they way up to the state convention, and I wouldn’t be willing to bet money on either of those outcomes.  
  • Once last thing: Trump has taken to Twitter to complain about having to campaign for delegates. He’s amazing. He clearly has no idea at all how party politics works! We live in a republican, not a democracy, and that isn’t just something people like me say to annoy you. It has very real consequences for just about everything that happens in our government! I’m not precisely sure when people stopped understanding this, but it’s becoming increasingly clear to me during this election that the do not. More on that later…
  • UPDATE: Cruz is also out-maneuvering Trump in Virginia and Iowa. Amazingly, however, Trump and Kasich appear to have secured some spots on the Rules Committee from Michigan. I love the Trump’s people in that state say it’s a “big win” for them to have secured all the delegates they “won” on Election Day. Well done guys, you did what you were supposed to do. It’s a head-spinning win! (Source)

Democratic Race

  • As expected, Bernie has won the Wyoming caucuses. But! Hillary did much better than expected, so they are likely to straight split the 14 delegates that come from the state. That means that as of this evening, Bernie is even further from the nomination than he was this morning. Assuming these results hold at the state’s convention, of course, which they might not! Gotta watch those conventions to know what’s going on. We live in a republic, not a democracy, people! [UPDATE: Confirmed: the delegates have been split despite Bernie’s “win.”]
  • Sanders appears to be closing in on her in California, however, so there’s still reason for his supporters to hope. But the truth of it is, unless there’s a major change in the race, he’s going to have to win California by a very big margin to secure the nomination. And since California awards its delegates proportionally, and since he’s currently trailing her in the polls, it’s hard to see how that happens. But you never know, right?

Who Is This “They” You Speak Of?

I’ve got a longer blog post coming with a bunch of delegate updates, but I want to respond to a mistake I keep seeing people make about the way the convention is likely to work. I’m not picking on Washington Monthly or David Atkins for any reason other than that they made this mistake today, so it’s nothing personal. It comes from this post, but here’s the key graf:

So in essence Republican officials might end up infuriating the most dedicated and motivated plurality of their voting base for not that much advantage. Would they really make such a move to protect social conservatism and Reaganomics from even the slightest challenge of Trumpist heresy? It seems increasingly likely, but it would be a shortsighted move.

The mechanics of this are very straightforward, and it doesn’t in any way require the involvement of “Republican officials,” unless by that term you mean the average men and women who serve as delegates at the convention. But I really don’t think that’s what people mean when they talk about how “they” might work to keep Trump from getting the nomination.

Follow me on the mechanics of this. First, let me make clear two of my assumptions:

  1. The convention rules will require the nominee to secure the vote of a majority of the convention delegates. This is standard operating procedure, but it’s in no way required, so the convention could decide to require a different standard. The Rules Committee sets the rules for the nomination, and it could require anything it wants – a plurality, a majority, even a super-majority – but it’s a pretty safe assumption that they will choose to go with a majority for at least the first ballot.
  2. Part of the reason that’s a safe assumption is that unless something dramatic happens, Trump isn’t going to end up with a majority of the delegates. He will probably come close, but close isn’t enough when 50% +1 is required. Of course, if Trump did get to a majority, the Rules Committee could choose to require a super-majority, so these’s assumptions are interlocking.

So under those conditions, here’s how the vote at the convention is likely to work. No one will have a majority on the first ballot, so the convention will be forced to go to the second ballot. On the second ballot, the delegates loyal to Cruz will constitute a majority and he will win the nomination. Nowhere in there is there a need for “elites” or “officials” moving to “protect” well…anything at all. All that’s required is for the individual men and women who serve as delegates to do what they believe is in their own individual self-interests. And since a majority of them are likely to be loyal to Cruz, that will mean Cruz wins the nomination because they support Cruz. It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.

More on why I think Cruz is the most likely nominee in my next bullet-pointed update.

Convention Updates

Is it just me or is this blog becoming the home of the convention-related bullet point?

Republican Party

  • Yet more evidence that the Cruz campaign is outmaneuver in Team Trump in delegate collection, this time from Colorado and Iowa. Also, if I’m reading this correctly, in Arizona too. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Cruz may end up with more votes on the first ballot than Trump. No joke.
  • Trump is finally reacting to all this, however. The now indicted Cory Lewandowski was previously his point man on the delegate hunt, despite the fact that he had no experience with this, but no more. Trump has now named Paul Manafrot the head of his delegate effort. Dude is good at what he does, but he’s also sketchy as hell: “Over a 40-year career as a lobbyist and political consultant, Manafort and his firms have advised, in no particular order, a business group tied to Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines; Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president and ally of Vladimir Putin; and Lynden Pindling, the former Bahamian prime minister who was accused of ties to drug traffickers.”
  • Nate Silver has a great look at how the math doesn’t favor Trump. Here’s the takeaway: “The threshold Trump needs to win states is increasing considerably faster than the share of the vote he’s getting, which isn’t increasing much at all…While there will continue to be some variance from state to state, Trump is now usually going to have to be in the 40s to win. That’s a problem, because…it’s not clear that his performance is improving much at all.” Even more from Nate Cohn over here at NYT.
  • The RNC is making plans to keep the delegates safe at the convention. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to write! And while I’m on the subject, if you’re looking for some light historical reading on contested conventions, check out this great history from Rolling Stone and this one from Vox.com.
  • All this talk about someone other than Trump or Cruz becoming the nominee is just silly. At this point, I’m pretty certain it’s going to be Cruz, and I’m apparently not alone. Of course, this entire election has defied prediction and predictability, so I’ll likely have to revisit that more than once between now and July. The thing is, not matter what happens, it’s likely to be disastrous for the GOP. Josh Marshall walks you through why.

Democratic Party

19th Century Politics

This is exactly, precisely how politics used to work, how politics is actually supposed to work: 

The Republican race is about to become granular. The coming battles will be waged in targeted congressional districts where Trump shows weakness regardless of his statewide appeal, in hand-to-hand competition at state party conventions where the delegates are being selected, and ultimately in a battle for the hearts and minds of the men and women who will go to Cleveland, bound or unbound on the first ballot but free agents after that.

Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Two quick reactions to Bernie’s apparently never-ending speech tonight:

First, this idea that there’s such a thing as momentum in electoral politics is really silly. If momentum was real, then Trump would’ve cleared the field weeks ago but he hasn’t, and Hillary Clinton would’ve won the nomination in 2008 but she didn’t. If momentum exists, it is only as an effect and not a cause. You win a bunch of elections and you have momentum; you lose one and all of a sudden you don’t. That’s not momentum. Momentum is the idea that it takes miles to turn a battleship, not. 

Second, some reaction to Bernie’s stump speech that have been adapted and expanded from something I just posted to Facebook: Bernie has a logically consistent and through critique of what’s wrong with American politics. He even seems to understand what’s wrong with our institutions, and I agree with much of what he says. I think he misdiagnoses the role of money in politics, and so by extension overestimates its influence in elections, but that’s a big topic for another time. What I’ve never heard him explain, not once, is how we will use those broken institutions to fix those very same institutions. Because that’s how constitutional governance works – you go to governance with the institutions you have, not the ones you wish you’d had. You don’t just get to wish them away – you actually have to use them to make the changes to them that you want to make. And nowhere in his critique does he ever seem to address this fact. 

And no, I’m leading “a revolution” with “6 million small donors” isn’t an explanation. Talk to me about Congress. Talk to me about its committees. Be specific. And no, “if we don’t get what we want we’ll lead a revolution in the midterms” isn’t an answer either, at least not a good one. If you can’t take the House in the midst of your general election revolution, what precisely makes you think you will be able to do so in the much lower turnout midterm elections? And to be even more specific, what about the stories of 2008 and 2010 makes you think that gridlock will rebound to your benefit in the midterms? You think Republicans will be less interested in destroying Bernie than they were Barack? That they are more likely to cooperate with someone who promises to raise taxes than someone who cut them?

As I say, I agree with a tremendous amount of what Bernie says, and I’d be thrilled if many of the changes he is seeking actually came to be. But without a plan – a real, concerte, specific plan – they will never come to pass. So Bernie, please…we hear you. We understand your critique. Now give us your plan. 

UPDATE: Check out Bernie’s interview with the NY Daily News. What in here makes anyone think he has an actual plan for any of this? This is precisely what worries me about Bernie. Not only does he not have a plan for most of this, in some cases he doesn’t even think he needs to have a plan. There’s a long back and forth over breaking up banks, for example, and Bernie clearly bristles at both the idea that he should explain how he will get new legislation passed and that he needs to explain what a world post-bank-breakup would look like. I hate the power of big banks too, but breaking them up without an understanding of and plan for the world that you are creating is properly bonkers. What if what you do doesn’t work? What will it be like to live through that? And how will it affect the rest of your agenda, both short and long term? Has he even thought through any of this? Judging from this interview, the answer is probably no. And if you actually care about this stuff, if you really want to solve these problems, this should concern you.