Friday, June 19, 2015

March 19 a Possibility for Virginia Republican Presidential Nominating Convention

FHQ dealt with the primary or convention question in Virginia a week ago, but Adam Wollner at the National Journal has incrementally advanced Travis Fain's Daily Press story with some interesting additions. Namely this:
But [conservative activist Russ] Moulton said his allies on the state central committee are eyeing March 19 as a possible date for the convention, which he argued could actually give the state even more influence because it could award all of the delegates to the winner, instead of dividing them up among several of the top finishers.
Most of the primary states are pretty much locked into position on the presidential primary calendar at this point because the bulk of state legislatures have adjourned for the year.1 This possible primary to convention switch in Virginia makes the Old Dominion something of a wildcard in all of that. And if Virginia Republicans 1) settle on a presidential nominating convention and 2) schedule it for March 19, then the party would have the option of reestablishing the winner-take-all allocation rules the party utilized before the 2012 cycle.

It has been hypothesized that caucus/convention states would benefit the Rand Paul campaign in 2016 like they did his father in 2012 (and to a lesser degree 2008). That may be true. But this is dependent upon two factors. First, when is the caucuses or convention scheduled? But also, what allocation rules does the state party adopt?

If a state party opts for precinct caucuses (with a presidential preference vote) before March 15, then the resulting allocation of delegates to the national convention will have to be proportionate to the vote shares received by the candidates in that original vote. Again, the RNC has eliminated non-binding caucuses for the 2016 cycle. Delegates, then, will be bound to candidates based on the results of those early votes. In 2012, the majority of Republican caucus states held caucuses before March 15. Only Missouri held first round caucuses after that point, and only Montana and Nebraska held consequential state conventions after mid-March.

But if there is a break from that pattern in 2016 and caucus states opt for slightly later dates on the calendar, then there could be a number of winner-take-all caucus states. On the surface, that seemingly creates an alternate caucus strategy for the Paul campaign. Virginia is one of those wildcard states. Senator Paul's home state of Kentucky is another. But how many other states could fit into that post-March 14 space on the calendar is an open question. The answer to that question, though depends on state level rules and how much control Paul-aligned forces have within state Republican parties in those caucus states.

Iowa and Nevada are locked into early calendar spots, but are exempt from the proportionality requirement. Nevada Republicans have already voted to proportionally allocated their national convention delegates. Iowa is still a question mark. Next in line are Colorado and Minnesota; caucus states where state law controls the date. Both are locked into positions before March 15 at this point. That means proportional allocation.

Outside of Kentucky and Virginia, that leaves Alaska, Kansas, Maine, North Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and the territories. How well the Paul campaign can affect decision-making in those states depends on the extent to which Paul-aligned folks are involved in those state parties. Given the events of 2012, Maine is probably tops on that list.

But digging too deeply into this does ignore one rather large point: Even if all of those states are scheduled after March 14 and all are winner-take-all, they still only cumulatively comprise 228 delegates. Add Kentucky and Virginia and that's 322 delegates. Add those late conventions in Montana and Nebraska and that total rises to 376. That is still only about a quarter of the delegates necessary to clinch the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Sure, one can also add to that any delegates proportionally won in other states, but all of that is a plan built on a lot of ifs.

Still, it is fun trip into the rules weeds.

1 This list includes Virginia. Wollner mentions in his National Journal piece that the Virginia presidential primary would "likely" be on March 1. If Virginia holds a presidential primary during the 2016 cycle, it will be on March 1. For the primary to fall on a date other than March 1, the law would have to be changed, and the legislature adjourned for 2015 at the end of February. There currently are no plans to convene a special session.

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