Monday, April 18, 2016

Making themselves (almost) irrelevant

Not since 1972 and the credentials maneuvering at the Democratic National Convention (where young pol Gary Hart cleaned Boss Daley's clock) have the party rules meant as much as they look to do for 2016's Republicans. Nate Silver has a detailed look at them.

However, setting aside the way they are playing out tomorrow, I was struck by how remarkably foolish the New York party selection rules are; any year, not just this one.

The Democratic rules are uncomplicated and in almost any scenario will give the candidate with the larger statewide vote more delegates. There is one way in which that doesn't work.

Most delegates are awarded tree per congressional district, winner take all. Several states, including California, have similar rules. If Sanders, say, piles up huge margins upstate and, contrary to expectations, loses but by small numbers around New York City, then he could win the state popular vote but get fewer delegates than Clinton. But generally, each candidate should end up with delegates in close proportion to his vote totals.

Not so with the Republicans, who have a system that seems designed to keep New York from having much influence on the choice, in those uncommon years when the choice is sill unsettled this late.

In a two-candidate contest, the Republican rules work like the Democratic rules. But with three or more candidates, unless it's a runaway for one everywhere, the Republican rules are designed to cancel out advantages for  anyone.

In each district where there is no name with an absolute majority, the top finisher gets 2 delegates, and the second place name gets 1. So, if the two strong candidates are stronger in one region than another, for every advantage Trump gets by leading in a New York City district, he loses it to Cruz in upstate districts.

In a close contest, its seems probable that whoever gets the most delegates will end up with just a few more than the second-place man. It is not out of the question that the net impact of the millions of New York Republican votes could have less meaning at the Cleveland convention than the 130 Republican votes in the Virgin Islands.

Unlike at Cleveland, the delegates in the Vigin Islands were packing heat, but -- contrary to what Wayne LaPierre says -- that did not make their society polite. Far from it.

There is an additional complication in New York. In any district where third (or lower) candidates don't get 10%, those votes are thrown out, and it then becomes a winner-take-all district with the top finisher getting all three delegates.

Aside from the fact that throwing out votes sounds undemocratic (and unDemocratic), this makes predicting the delegate hauls tomorrow difficult.  Kasich has often shown himself unable to get to 10%, so I can (just barely) imagine Trump getting every district delegate. (There are an insignificant few statewide delegates.)

Or, I can imagine Cruz getting some threes upstate while Trump gets a majority of the delegates but not nearly the 60% the polls say he can expect in statewide votes.

I still think Trump wraps it up before the convention. The punditry expects him to do less well in the West, but he has not been a regional candidate like Wallace or Goldwater. Silver expects him to be around 75 delegates short of a first-vote majority.

I made a lot of money in the prediction markets in 2012, in part because I accepted Silver's analysis of the general election. But I don't think his poll-of-polls approach works so well, either for low turnout primaries or for Trump and his Trumpeters.

I do agree with Silver than Sanders has no chance and my expectation is that Clinton will get in the neighborhood of 160 delegates to Sanders's 131 tomorrow. But he won't drop out because he's ego-tripping. Has been since the start.

Also, if he was so smart, he should have become a Democrat a while back if he wanted the nomination of the Democratic Party. But I don't think he is so smart.


You cannot make things simple enough for some people.

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