Nel's New Day

January 2, 2012

GOP Primary Rules Crazy

The first day of every Leap Year starts the frantic voting/caucusing for presidential candidates. This year the media has whipped its audience into frenzy over the Republican nominee; thus far only President Obama is on the Democratic side. The selection process has become even  more laughable this year than previously.

The first source of comedy comes tomorrow at the Iowa caucus. It’s not even a legal voting process—no ballots, no filing, no signatures, no fee: people just gather together to write down their choice on a blank sheet of paper or raise their hands for the chosen one. Despite the Republican push to force people to produce government-issued photo IDs before voting, the caucuses have no such requirement. Perhaps Republicans believe that only Democrats might perpetrate voter fraud.

Before the selection, candidates or their surrogates may give a last-minute pitch. Any Iowa resident who chooses to register as Republican by tomorrow night is allowed to participate. Seventeen-year-olds are allowed to take part as long as they turn 18 by November 6, 2012. So tomorrow night people will gather in 1,774 precincts in schools, churches, community centers, homes, etc. throughout the 99 counties to follow the infamous practice of  “first in the nation.”

Many people think that Iowa caucuses are vital because of the state’s large number of delegates. Not so! Their 25 delegates are about 1 percent of the total making the decision, and fewer than 10 percent of Iowa voters, at best 150,000 “deciders,” determine this nonbinding agreement. Thus the first decision in the nation for Republican presidential nominee involves 0.01% of Republicans, a number approximating the population of Eugene, Oregon.

New Hampshire disagrees with Iowa’s “first” claim. One week after Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire has a real primary with real ballots. From there on, the new Republican rules go crazy.

The Republican Party mandates that all states holding nominating contests before April award delegates proportionally. Sounds like a fair deal? States, however, may define “proportionally” any way that they wish. For example, in each of Ohio’s 16 congressional districts, the candidate who gets the most votes receives three delegates. The remaining 15 delegates in the district are then awarded “proportionally,” based on statewide results. Candidates have to get at least 20 percent of the statewide vote to get these delegates. My head’s spinning by now, trying to figure out how this works!

The Republican National Convention scheduled for August in Tampa (FL) should include 2,286 delegates with 1,144 required to get the nomination. According to the GOP Committee, it’s impossible for any candidate to get the necessary 1,144 before April. We just wait to see who drops out by then to thin the field.

The process gets crazier. States that scheduled primaries earlier than the Party allows have lost half their delegates. That includes Arizona and Michigan (2/28), South Carolina (1/21), and Florida (1/31). But the Party declared that South Carolina and Florida may award all their delegates to the majority candidate—forget the “proportional.” At least Floridawas okay with no “proportional” until December 31st when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus wrote that Florida’s delegates might have to be “proportional” because of protesters.

Michigan is following the Ohio “proportional” system but uses a slightly different approach. Reduced to 30 candidates from 59 per the GOP penalties for an early primary, Michigan plans to keep the 59 delegates (56 based on the primary and 3 the state’s RNC members) with each one of the 56 having one-half voting power at the convention. Because half of 56 is 28, not 30, fractions cause more difficulties. If a candidate gets 25 half-delegates, do they get 12 or 13 votes?  “We’ll work that out once we get closer to choosing the delegates who will go,” said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party. The delegate system is as crazy as the candidates are!

Nate Silver, the man who puts together all the polls and then estimates the election results pretty closely, has this to say about tomorrow’s Iowa results:

“Our forecast model, which combines the Public Policy Polling survey with other recent polls of the state, also shows an effective three-way tie, although it has Mr. Romney ahead by the slimmest of margins. The model projects Mr. Romney to receive 21.0 percent of the vote, followed by Mr. Paul at 20.6 percent and Mr. Santorum — whose numbers have been on the rise — at 19.3 percent.”

Of course, almost half the caucus-goers haven’t made up their mind yet! Who knows in what direction the delegate selection will head.

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