Why Romney's Done and Obama's Just Getting Started

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A conservative reader writes Kathryn Jean Lopez:

I notice on RealClearPolitics that the Republican race is closer than the Democratic race, both in delegates and in the national poll. Is anyone writing off Obama?

It's true, the polls in the GOP race are a little closer than the polls in the Democratic race. But the GOP race is rigged for the frontrunner, and the Democratic race isn't.

Here's how it works. There are no Democratic states where the winner will take all the delegates. This is why Barack Obama is running ads in New York, even though Hillary Clinton could re-enact Goya's Saturn and still get more overall votes in the state. Two hundred and thirty-two delegates will be awarded on election day, and 81 of them will be split up proportionately: If Clinton wins around 60 percent of the vote she'll get 49 of them and Obama will get 32 of them. The rest of the delegates are awarded, proportionately, by congressional district, and each of them has five or six delegates. If Obama narrowly lost every single district he'd gain 67 delegates. Of course, he'll probably lose big in some districts and win big in some districts, but at the end of a good night he could come out of Hillary Clinton's home state with around 110 delegates. And every single Democratic state awards its delegates proportionately.

By contrast eight of the Republican states have winner-take-all contests: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, and Utah. If Mitt Romney battles John McCain to a standstill in New York and loses by one vote, it doesn't matter: McCain wins all 87 New York delegates. And most of the rest of the Republican states have weird rules that rig the contests for frontrunners: For example, Arkansas has three delegates for every congressional district, and every one of them goes to the candidate who wins the district. Same with Georgia.

So, that's why Romney has to hope that McCain collapses, while Obama can beat Hillary around the edges. It's also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you'd expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.


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  1. I didn’t realize Connecticut was a winner-take-all state. Crap. Since I want to vote for Ron Paul, yesterday I went and registered as a member of the party where you’re allowed to vote for Ron Paul in the primary. (I can’t bring myself to say it.) And I’ll bet my sacrifice turns out to be in vain.

    I’m switching back to “Independent” as soon as I leave the voting booth next Tuesday.

  2. I didn’t realize there were NO winner-take-all states for the Democrats.

    Great post, Dave.

  3. People from other countries must be confused by the US primary/caucus/smokey room process. Hell, I’m 52 years old and I’m befuddled by the process.

    There has got to be a better way, at least for the two major parties.

  4. I have a feeling most states will be like 60-40 or 55-45 etc.

    It’s entirely possible that the nomination may hinge on the recount in one state or district.

  5. J sub D-

    If we could somehow kick Iowa and New Hampshire out of the Union, a better way would be developed very quickly.

  6. I mean WTH is a “super delagate”? Do they wear tights and capes? Who are they beholden to? This is not exactly textbook representative democracy. And the rules will be substantially different in 2012.

  7. Personally I blame Reason’s massive negative coverage of McCain and the near zero coverage of Romney for McCain’s lead.

    Seriously if i got all my political news from Reason (and i do) the only thing i would know about Romney is that he wears underwear very different then what i wear.

  8. BTW, somebody broke the internet in Asia. Really.

  9. Drink! Weigel posted…

  10. Drink! Weigel posted…

    Were these rules ever spelled out in one handy centralized place?

  11. I wish there were a more proportional way to assign delegates. The current system gives a huge advantage to the “establishment” candidates. Even in California, which is not listed above as “winner take all”, it’s still winner-take-all by district. So Ron Paul (as an example) could come in second place in every district, yet still get zero delegates.

  12. Mr Welch,

    I found this and this.

    Now, excuse me, [hic] I have to go [hic] pick up my [hic] son at daycare.
    Damn, it’s still snowing? Those streets are a [hic] wreck.

  13. Proportional awarding of delegates is more fair, but is less likely to pick a clear nominee early on. This year aside, the Republicans have long prided themselves on picking a horse early and coming together, while the Democrats have traditionally had longer and more contentious primaries.

  14. Mike Gravel’s ALTERNATIVE DEBATE tonight

    See all the Democratic Candidates. Don’t let CNN filter for you.

    Mike’s going to put the CNN feed on a screen, stand in front with a pause button, and interject his answers and commentary. He’ll catch up during the commercials. Alternative debate live stream 8PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific.

  15. I went and registered as a member of the party where you’re allowed to vote for Ron Paul in the primary. (I can’t bring myself to say it.)

    Thanks for the laugh!

  16. Another version of the rules for the drinkin’ game.

  17. I didn’t realize Connecticut was a winner-take-all state. Crap. Since I want to vote for Ron Paul, yesterday I went and registered as a member of the party where you’re allowed to vote for Ron Paul in the primary. (I can’t bring myself to say it.) And I’ll bet my sacrifice turns out to be in vain.

    Same with Arizona. Now that McCain is still in the race, my early vote for Paul was a complete waste of time (even moreso than voting usually is). That’ll teach me to care about politics.

  18. Proportional awarding of delegates is more fair, but is less likely to pick a clear nominee early on. This year aside, the Republicans have long prided themselves on picking a horse early and coming together, while the Democrats have traditionally had longer and more contentious primaries.

    The Republican version is also better at boosting establishment candidates at the expense of folks like Ron Paul. The joke is always that the ‘maverick’ that wins New Hampshire (Buchanan, McCain) gets immediately stomped on in S.C. and on Super Tuesday. McCain’s breakthrough in S.C. and Fla. is big and shows that his strategy of repositioning himself as part of the establishment has paid off. Will that come back to bite him in November? Good question.

  19. J sub D | January 31, 2008, 5:54pm | #

    People from other countries must be confused by the US primary/caucus/smokey room process. Hell, I’m 52 years old and I’m befuddled by the process.

    Try explaining how a Westminister style Parliamentary Democracy works to an American. It gets really fun when you get to “Non-Confidence Motions.”

  20. I understand that the H& Drinking Game’s? rules are even more convoluted than Team Red or Team Blue’s selection process. What I really don’t understand (I’ve been here for awhile. and still haven’t picked it up) is the origin of the term “Godwin”. I know that a godwin is a fallacious comparison to Nazi Germany, and a Drink! in most versions of the H&R Drinking Game?, but the etymology of it has eluded me.

    Any help would be appreciated and completely unrewarded.

  21. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

  22. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

    I asked for etymology. Was godwin a historically verifiable past poster, a meme handed down from pre-internet days or just made up B/S like scientology? A relevation ala Book of Mormon? What.

  23. Same with Arizona. Now that McCain is still in the race, my early vote for Paul was a complete waste of time (even moreso than voting usually is). That’ll teach me to care about politics.

    Wanna know what’s worse than “wasting” your vote on a candidate that shares the majority of your views? Wasting it by backing a winner who doesn’t. I actually (yes, I’m ashamed to admit this) would have voted for Bush in 2000 had there been no LP candidate.

    Try explaining how a Westminister style Parliamentary Democracy works to an American.

    Do Robert’s Rules apply?

  24. This wiki article sums it up more or less accurately as I recall it. There apparently was a real Godwin.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

  25. Thank you, Jammer. The check is in the mail.

  26. Mike Godwin tells the tasle of the origins at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.10/godwin.if_pr.html

  27. Mr Welch,

    I found this and this.

    I read the rules….

    Any attempt to quantify or qualify or criticize or praise libertarianism and you have to drink.

    What a fucking stupid game.

  28. Not only does the real Godwin exist, he is a contributing editor for reason.

  29. Any attempt to quantify or qualify or criticize or praise libertarianism and you have to drink.

    What a fucking stupid game.

    Um, drink?

    And can this thread be said to have been hitlered?

  30. Would you please stop referring to New York as Hillary’s “home state”? That’s seriously annoying.

  31. “It’s also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you’d expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.”

    Would that at least get him on TV?

    Didn’t think so…

  32. What’s a good historical example of a nation voting for an untested, inexperienced, carismatic New Guy in a desperate attempt to defeat all that is unholy and undead?*

    *The unholy/undead being Hillary and/or McCain. Take yer pick.

  33. JFK over Nixon?

  34. ed-
    kennedy vs nixon?

  35. Andrew-
    u suk

  36. It’s true, the polls in the GOP race are a little closer than the polls in the Democratic race. But the GOP race is rigged for the frontrunner, and the Democratic race isn’t.

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
    You funny. If you believe that, just go downtown and get GULLIBLE tattooed on your forehead.

  37. I see Hillary winning anything close. She has the capability of pulling crony strings in the party to secure the (now disallowed) primary votes from the Michigan and Florida primaries.

    That’s how the rigging game’s being played over there.

  38. “It’s also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you’d expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.”

    So can someone please explain the “under-the-radar” strategy discussed in ronpaul2008.com (1/28 and 1/30)?

  39. “Proportional awarding of delegates is more fair, but is less likely to pick a clear nominee early on. ”

    Sounds like a good thing to me.

    -jcr

  40. I mean WTH is a “super delagate”? Do they wear tights and capes? Who are they beholden to? This is not exactly textbook representative democracy.

    Absolutely anyone they want. After Carter won the nomination even after several prominent Democrats came together to stop him, the party changed the rules to try and keep a dark horse from winning again. They’re made up mostly of Democratic Party aparatchiks (every D in the Congress automatically gets a vote, as do previous Presidents, the chairman and the heads of the State parties and prominent Democrats in the several states) so they function as a brake for the central committee to deploy. They’re assumed to be loyal to Hillary at the moment because she’s seen as the establishment candidate, but that can change at any time between now and the convention.

    There Charlie Brown, now you know the meaning of democracy.

  41. J sub D

    You’re quite welcome. Though at these prices, I would prefer gold.

    /kidding

  42. “It’s also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you’d expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.”

    Who is the “you” in “you’d”? Are there people that expect Paul to win the “winner take all” states?

  43. Pretty sure it’s the indeterminate “you.”

  44. “I mean WTH is a “super delagate”? Do they wear tights and capes? Who are they beholden to? This is not exactly textbook representative democracy. And the rules will be substantially different in 2012.”

    IMHO “Super Delegates” are those members of the party who will collectively overturn the will of the party members pick the “right candidate” if the mere mortal delegates do not toe the party line and select correctly.

  45. “It’s also why Ron Paul might not get as many delegates as you’d expect: If he scores 40 percent of the Montana vote and Romney gets 41 percent, he gets nothing for it.”

    Too many zeroes. I expect Ron Paul to get 4% in Montana.

    At least his campaign will be over next Wednesday. He’s as overdone as the roast coming out of a Ron Popeil Showtime rotisserie.

    Ron Paul: “Set it… and forget it.”

  46. Jammer and J sub D,

    Let me help you out there. Buy this gold, J sub D, and you can send it to Jammer.

    Thanks!
    🙂

  47. joe,

    No democratic states are winner take all because the national democratic party doesnt allow it. They mostly define the rules across the board while the republicans are more federalist in their delegate selection rules.

  48. “”Will that come back to bite him in November? Good question.

    Is it cool to ask a question and then to remark that your question was a good one

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