Why Delegate Allocation Might Be Decisive

Political parties are not intended to be democratic institutions, and their nominees are not supposed to be chosen to represent the "will of the people."  Political parties are supposed to be voices for particular values and policies.  Although obscured by news pressure of the next primary or caucus, this quite properly undemocratic aspect of party selection shows up in an interesting background story to the two contested party nominations. 

Republican and Democrat conventions are not based upon "one man, one vote" or the anything like that at all.  Both political parties give delegates to those states based upon how each state has supported the party in recent elections.  This means that "red" states get a lot more Republican delegates than "blue" states of the same size and that "blue" states get a lot more Democrat delegates that "red" states of the same size. 

The two parties have different formulae – Republicans, for example, give more emphasis to state legislative chambers – but the goal is still the same: those states that support our party and its principles will be rewarded with more influence at the national convention. 

How this plays out during the nominating process is interesting.  New York is a big state, but it is much bigger for Democrats than Republicans.  New York will choose 5.3% of the Democrat delegates this year but only 3.8% of the Republican delegates.  The last big primary state is California, which will provide 10% of all the Democrat delegates but only 7% of the Republican delegates. 

Not only does this give Republicans in New York and California an incentive to win elections and deliver electoral votes to gain future delegates, but it also means that Republican contenders from those states have an incentive to help their party win.  Donald Trump, for example, may lose the nomination because he and other New Yorkers have been such failures in persuading their fellow New Yorkers to vote Republican.

Consider this grim math for Trump.  New York will send 95 delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland, which sounds like a lot, but New York will have fewer delegates than Nebraska (36), Idaho (32), and Wyoming (29) – three small states that will send 97 delegates to Cleveland.  In stark contrast, New York has the potential to be a kingmaker in the Democrat convention, as it will send 247 delegates there, while those three small red states of Nebraska (25), Idaho (23), and Wyoming (14) collectively will send only 52.

Texas will send 6.3% of the delegates to the Republican Convention but only 4.7% of the delegates to the Democrat Convention.  North Carolina and Georgia, two other large states that are strongly Republican, provide a much larger percentage of the delegates to the Republican convention than the Democrat convention. 

This has already had a big influence on the Republican race because Trump was able to persuade conservative Republicans in the South to overwhelmingly support him, while the states that will doubtless give him big wins in the Northeast have proportionately many fewer delegates in Cleveland.  If Trump ends up losing the nomination, it will be because Republican delegates in the South leave him on the second or third ballot, probably because they have come to see him as not truly conservative. 

This also means that Bernie Sanders has a real shot still, because the remaining states that have not voted are largely big blue states like New York, California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, which have a much higher percentage of the delegates in Philadelphia than those states will have in Cleveland.    

So if Hillary wins the nomination, it will not be because she, like Trump, has done better than her rival in the South – that region sends a much smaller percentage of delegates to the Democrat convention than to the Republican convention – but rather because Sanders has not trounced her convincingly enough in those upcoming states, which send more delegates to the Democrat convention than their population and which have not yet voted and which vote Democrat in elections.

If Hillary and Bill had been able to persuade Southerners in 2012 and 2014 to vote Democrat, then Hillary would be in a much stronger position now.  If Trump had spent more time and money helping Republicans defeat Democrats in New York, he might be on the verge of locking up the nomination with that state's primary.

It has been a long time since this mattered – nominations have all been locked up by April in recent elections – but it sure matters this time around.

Political parties are not intended to be democratic institutions, and their nominees are not supposed to be chosen to represent the "will of the people."  Political parties are supposed to be voices for particular values and policies.  Although obscured by news pressure of the next primary or caucus, this quite properly undemocratic aspect of party selection shows up in an interesting background story to the two contested party nominations. 

Republican and Democrat conventions are not based upon "one man, one vote" or the anything like that at all.  Both political parties give delegates to those states based upon how each state has supported the party in recent elections.  This means that "red" states get a lot more Republican delegates than "blue" states of the same size and that "blue" states get a lot more Democrat delegates that "red" states of the same size. 

The two parties have different formulae – Republicans, for example, give more emphasis to state legislative chambers – but the goal is still the same: those states that support our party and its principles will be rewarded with more influence at the national convention. 

How this plays out during the nominating process is interesting.  New York is a big state, but it is much bigger for Democrats than Republicans.  New York will choose 5.3% of the Democrat delegates this year but only 3.8% of the Republican delegates.  The last big primary state is California, which will provide 10% of all the Democrat delegates but only 7% of the Republican delegates. 

Not only does this give Republicans in New York and California an incentive to win elections and deliver electoral votes to gain future delegates, but it also means that Republican contenders from those states have an incentive to help their party win.  Donald Trump, for example, may lose the nomination because he and other New Yorkers have been such failures in persuading their fellow New Yorkers to vote Republican.

Consider this grim math for Trump.  New York will send 95 delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland, which sounds like a lot, but New York will have fewer delegates than Nebraska (36), Idaho (32), and Wyoming (29) – three small states that will send 97 delegates to Cleveland.  In stark contrast, New York has the potential to be a kingmaker in the Democrat convention, as it will send 247 delegates there, while those three small red states of Nebraska (25), Idaho (23), and Wyoming (14) collectively will send only 52.

Texas will send 6.3% of the delegates to the Republican Convention but only 4.7% of the delegates to the Democrat Convention.  North Carolina and Georgia, two other large states that are strongly Republican, provide a much larger percentage of the delegates to the Republican convention than the Democrat convention. 

This has already had a big influence on the Republican race because Trump was able to persuade conservative Republicans in the South to overwhelmingly support him, while the states that will doubtless give him big wins in the Northeast have proportionately many fewer delegates in Cleveland.  If Trump ends up losing the nomination, it will be because Republican delegates in the South leave him on the second or third ballot, probably because they have come to see him as not truly conservative. 

This also means that Bernie Sanders has a real shot still, because the remaining states that have not voted are largely big blue states like New York, California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, which have a much higher percentage of the delegates in Philadelphia than those states will have in Cleveland.    

So if Hillary wins the nomination, it will not be because she, like Trump, has done better than her rival in the South – that region sends a much smaller percentage of delegates to the Democrat convention than to the Republican convention – but rather because Sanders has not trounced her convincingly enough in those upcoming states, which send more delegates to the Democrat convention than their population and which have not yet voted and which vote Democrat in elections.

If Hillary and Bill had been able to persuade Southerners in 2012 and 2014 to vote Democrat, then Hillary would be in a much stronger position now.  If Trump had spent more time and money helping Republicans defeat Democrats in New York, he might be on the verge of locking up the nomination with that state's primary.

It has been a long time since this mattered – nominations have all been locked up by April in recent elections – but it sure matters this time around.