The new requirement has been adopted in a number of different ways across the states. Some have moved to a conditional system where winner-take-all allocation is dependent upon one candidate receiving 50% or more of the vote and others have responded by making just the usually small sliver of a state's delegate apportionment from the national party -- at-large delegates -- proportional as mandated by the party. Those are just two examples. There are other variations in between that also allow state parties to comply with the rules. FHQ has long argued that the effect of this change would be to lengthen the process. However, the extent of the changes from four years ago is not as great as has been interpreted and points to the spacing of the 2012 primary calendar -- and how that interacts with the ongoing campaign -- being a much larger factor in the accumulation of delegates (Again, especially relative to the 2008 calendar).
For links to the other states' plans see the Republican Delegate Selection Plans by State section in the left sidebar under the calendar.
With Maine Republicans kicking off their 2012 caucusing this afternoon, it may be appropriate for FHQ to step in and offer a glimpse at the delegate selection rules in the Pine Tree state.
In terms of scheduling, the Maine Republican Party provided municipalities with a window of time -- February 4-11 -- in which to hold municipal-level caucuses. A majority of the 97 municipalities were able to comply, but 22 caucuses will fall outside of that window. Eighteen of those 22 will fall between January 28 and February 3 while the remaining four will occur after the February 11 when the presidential straw poll results from the February 11 or before caucuses will be made public. As FHQ detailed a day ago, those four post-window caucus sites have opted not to participate in the straw poll. Maine Republican Party Executive Director Mike Quatrano informed FHQ that the party felt as if the 93 caucuses on or before February 11 would accurately reflect the opinions of Republican caucusgoers across the state. That is probably true. In any event, those first 93 caucuses will be the only ones with votes tabulated as part of the state party's results release on February 11.
In light of local caucus times, what impact will that municipal-level caucusing have on the allocation of the 24 Maine delegates? As was the case in Iowa, a presidential preference straw poll vote will be taken and delegates will be selected to move on to the net step of the caucus process -- the May 5-6 state convention. Also like the January 3 Iowa caucuses, the 24 delegates chosen at the May convention will go to the Republican National Convention in Tampa unbound. In other words, neither the municipal caucuses nor the state convention will have any direct impact on the preferences of the delegates representing the state at the national convention. Now, as FHQ has argued, it is naive to think that there is no transference of presidential preference from one step of the caucus process to the next. That is why it is incumbent on the campaigns to be organized in caucus states; to ensure that caucusgoers sympathetic to your campaign progress through the process. From a campaign perspective, the goal, then, is to maximize the number of those 24 delegates that are yours.
For those tracking the delegate count in this Republican nomination race, February 11 will mean very little. Well, the May state convention will mean very little, too, in that the results will in no way impact the binding of delegates. Each delegate will head to Tampa free to choose whomever they please.
[Note to news organizations: Do not attempt to allocate the Maine delegates proportionally based on the results released on February 11. That would be both inaccurate and misleading. The straw poll will be an indicator of support for a candidate or candidates and will be a feather in their caps, but will not add to anyone's delegate total.]
Thus far, FHQ has compared the Maine process with the process witnessed in Iowa a few weeks ago. One noteworthy difference between the two contests is that in Maine the caucuses are semi-closed to any person outside of the Republican Party.2 Potential caucusgoers, if challenged, have to take an oath that they are Republicans. It is not clear how frequently challenges are issued, but there is a mechanism whereby registration is verified.
This process is no different than the one utilized four years ago by the Maine Republican Party.
For more see the Maine Republican Party caucus information page.
UPDATE: Of the 24 delegates Maine was apportioned by the RNC...
- ...15 delegates are at-large and chosen (ultimately uncommitted) at the state convention on the weekend of May 5-6.
- ...6 delegates are congressional district delegates chosen at congressional district caucuses held in conjunction with the May state convention.
- ...3 delegates are automatic, but two of those have already endorsed Mitt Romney.
1 FHQ would say 50 part, but that doesn't count the territories and Washington, DC.
2 Both unregistered and unenrolled voters can participate in the caucuses. Unregistered and unenrolled voters can both register to vote in the caucuses and enroll with the Republican Party. An unenrolled but registered voter may opt to enroll with the Republican Party and participate immediately. One can change enrollment -- from Democrat to Republican or vice versa -- but there is a 15 day waiting period before being able to participate (see Maine Code Title 21-A, Section 144).
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